On New Practical Chinese Reader 4, workbook, page 7, there's a story about Scott and a Chinese person discussing about manners. The Chinese person says 客气 and 礼貌 are different, and that he/she feels weird when Scott says 谢谢, 对不起 and such all the time, since they're close friends.

I know Chinese don't "thank" and "please" relatives as often as Westerners, but I never could tell that 客气 and 礼貌 had any difference.


What's the difference between 客气 and 礼貌?

EDIT: After some thinking and analysis I think that 礼貌 is politeness related to one's personality, while 客气 is politeness related to the ways one shows it. Any thoughts?

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    Sep 12, 2018 at 9:24

7 Answers 7


As a complement to other answers:

客气 means 'being polite unnecessarily'. It's often used between close friends, family members, who generally don't have to be that polite to each other.

礼貌 as an adjective simply means '(being) polite'.

  • 客气 is a verb phrase for " be modest' or 'be formal'(as a guest would);


这笔钱是你应得的, 不要客气 - This money is rightfully yours, don't be modest (like a guest)

我们就像家人一样, 不要客气 - We are like family, don't be formal ( like a guest)

客气 can also be an adjective for 'courteous' or 'polite'

Example: 那个人很客气 - that person is very courteous / polite


礼貌 is simply a noun for 'politeness'.

Example: 礼貌非常重要 - politeness is very important


有礼貌/ 有礼貌的 is adjective phrase for "polite" or "courteous"


那个人很有礼貌 - that person is very polite

有礼貌的人 - a polite man


客气 is used to describe when someone offers you something or say something good for you as a way of showing his kindness, welcoming or politeness. Let's say when you go to your friend's home and your friend offers you a cup of coffee, and you could say: "你太客气了!", meaning you are so kind to provide that offer. The interpretation can be various based on the context. For example, A: 谢谢你! // Thank you!, B: 不客气! // You are welcome!

礼貌 is generally just manners, courtesy or polite(ness). For example, 他不礼貌: he is not polite.

Basically, they seem close in meaning, but in fact they denote different aspects.


客气 means being unfamiliar, not close, in those cases, you will act formally and politely.

客气话(equal to 客套话) a bunch of nonsense phrases for social protocol.

People say 不要客气, means they want you relax, treat them as close friends, but this phrase is a 客气话 itself. So don't take it seriously.


“客气” is the simplest language exchange between people. When he says "thank you", you will say "you're welcome". The purpose of this is to give each other a sense of psychological balance, so that each other will have a certain impression. “礼貌” is the minimum moral code that human beings need to observe in order to maintain the normal life of society. It is the gradual formation of people in long-term co-living and mutual communication, and is fixed by customs, habits and traditions.


客气 = dont be shy (when they want you to get things)

礼貌 = manners, when you took something without asking (and someone don't like that)


礼貌 = manners (as a noun), polite (as adj.)

客气 =

1,distant and aloof.

2, you are welcome, my pleasure. (Example: ——thank you (谢谢)), ——(您)客气.

3, hesitate to do something out of fearing others might get annoyed. (often used in negative sentences.)

example: If you want to borrow some money from, please don't hesitate to ask. (如果你想向我借钱,请无须客气。)

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