For example, in 詩 篇 Psalms:

102:1 〔 困 苦 人 發 昏 的 時 候 、 在 耶 和 華 面 前 吐 露 苦 情 的 禱 告 。 〕 耶 和 華 阿 、 求 你 聽 我 的 禱 告 、 容 我 的 呼 求 達 到 你 面 前 。 102:2 我 在 急 難 的 日 子 、 求 你 向 我 側 耳 、 不 要 向 我 掩 面 . 我 呼 求 的 日 子 、 求 你 快 快 應 允 我 。

I thought 您 is more polite and honorific and thus should be used when address Jehovah. Why was "you" translated as "你" instead of "您"?

  • "Are you saying '你' to that old woman?"
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 20:14
  • 祢 would be considered over 您 anytime in a Christian environment, as the former was literally created for the express purpose of referring to God. The radical of this character is 示, which carries a religious sense. Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 20:59

6 Answers 6

  • "I thought 您 is more polite and honorific and thus should be used when address Jehovah. Why was "you" translated as "你" instead of "您"?"

你 is, in fact, the correct translation, not only linguistically; but theologically as well. Because God is Father, the familiar form of the second person is appropriate.

A little diversion on the English terms, "thou" is the singular form in Early Modern English, and "you" the plural. The plural form came to be used as a polite form of address later, and "thou" the singular and familiar form. Over time, "you" took over and now Modern English uses "you" as both singular and plural and that distinction between formal (polite) and informal (familiar) is lost.

The translation of the Bible into English has maintained the difference between formal and informal; and it is also correct to maintain the same when translating into Chinese, "Thou/ thee" (informal and familiar) as "你" and "thy" as "你的". It is linguistically faithful. Theologically it is also the correct form since we are talking about a father-child relationship, and it is definitely not formal.

  • It is also linguistically faithful in the sense that Ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek do not have formal "you". Regarding "The translation of the Bible into English has maintained the difference between formal and informal": what versions do this? If you want to use "thou" in addition to "you", it would be more helpful to use that distinction to mark singular vs plural "you".
    – mic
    Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 16:04

In my opinion, this question is not specific in Chinese. In fact, many languages use the singular form of the second person to address God.

Here is a quote from Wikipedia's article "thou".

Early English translations of the Bible used the familiar singular form of the second person, which mirrors common usage trends in other languages. The familiar and singular form is used when speaking to God in French (in Protestantism both in past and present, in Catholicism since the post-Vatican II reforms), German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Scottish Gaelic and many others (all of which maintain the use of an "informal" singular form of the second person in modern speech). In addition, the translators of the King James Version of the Bible attempted to maintain the distinction found in Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek between singular and plural second-person pronouns and verb forms, so they used thou, thee, thy, and thine for singular, and ye, you, your, and yours for plural.

  • 1
    "Thou" is the singular second person in English. Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 3:07
  • @chrylis-cautiouslyoptimistic- You're right, I meant to say "thou" in Hebrew (which I ignore how to write it) is translated to "thou" in English and in other languages. I fixed the mistake. Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 15:53

From: Baidu: 您

“您”字并非属于通语字,这字原本为地方方言字-- The character “您” was not a standard character, it was originally a local dialect word


适用范围: -- Scope of application:

最初的方言字随普通话、通用书面传播到全国。-- The original dialect word spread throughout the country with Mandarin became standard writing.


你,第二人称词。(second-person pronoun)

您,第二人称词,敬称。(second-person pronoun, honorific)

南方语言(譬如:客家语、粤语、闽南语等):(Southern dialects (for example: Hakka, Cantonese, Hokkien, etc.):

你,第二人称词。 (second-person pronoun)

From: WiKi: Bible translations into Chinese

The first translations may have been made as early as the 7th century AD, but the first printed translations appeared only in the nineteenth century

The Chinese Union Version is the predominant translation of the Bible into Chinese used by Chinese Protestants, first published in 1919.

From the research above:

您 was not used in Southern dialects before Mandarin education was pushed through the nation.

The Chinese Bible Union Version was published in 1919, predated the national standardization of Mandarin education. Therefore, 你 was still the only second-person pronoun in southern China. Since Christianity reached southern China before spreading to the north, it is reasonable to believe that the early Bible would use the local dialect 你 instead of the Mandarin 您

One more note: I have never seen 您 was used instead of 你 in any Hong Kong publication when I was young.

  • I have no idea how to pronounce 您 in Cantonese, Hakka or Hokkien. We were just told that it is more "formal" or "polite", but not told why. I suspect that when Mandarin, a northern dialect, (yes, just another dialect before its elevation as a "national language" by the political masters in Beijing), held sway over the country, anything "Mandarin" is considered of a higher status or value and 您 got promoted. In fact, mandarin was not the default lingua franca of the royal courts of imperial China. Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 8:08
  • @Wayne Cheah 老豆教落,有音讀音,冇音讀字,唔識「您」字點讀,當佢係「你」字噉讀就得,冇廣東人會話你錯,我幾十歲人一次都冇用過個「您」字
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 8:16
  • Be careful, Becky may complain about conversing in 广东话 around here and "move" us to Chat :) Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 8:32
  • @Wayne Cheah I read the rule. Your first comment added additional information that was not in my answer. My reply to your comment was a clarification that 「您」 was an imported word. This comment here is to inform you the rule of commenting.
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 8:39

您 is polite. However, it doesn't necessarily mean 你 is impolite.

你 is more factual and can be used universally for you.

People use 您 as a compliment, e.g. 麻烦您了.

In the OP's context, I think both are fine. 您 probably shows more respect to that person as indicated by OP.


“您”属于北方方言,在普通话推广前并不通用。 “您” belongs to the northern dialects, it is not used by a lot of areas in China before Mandarin education becomes mandatory. Bible wants to reach the majority of people, thus the more generic “你” is used.

  • 1
    "“您”属于北方方言,在普通话推广前并不通用。", do you have any corroboration to support this statement?
    – dan
    Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 3:42

Because You here is for single not for plural.

  • 你 and 您 are both singular in Chinese (their plurals are 你们 and 您们 [although probably 您们 is improper]).
    – Becky 李蓓
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 9:03

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