It's basically translated to


My Chinese colleague has a difficult task, and maybe have to work overtime. When I consoled him,

我不羡慕你 (I don’t envy you)。

He asked back,


I realized it's not a proper expression in Chinese.

  • 1
    You could seriously use the fits-all phrase -- 加油 !!!! Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 7:51
  • While I am still a learner of the culture, I would say the appropriate thing is really to say jia you like @WayneCheah proposed. I think the idea behind 'i don't envy you' does not work well (although I cannot pinpoint it). Same as 'work harder!' wont fly in a western culture. If it is a good friend and not a colleague probably you could also say 'you must be tired', but not 100% about the social dynamics here.
    – lalala
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 9:57
  • 1
    @lalala -- "Same as 'work harder!' wont fly in a western culture" It too won't work in a Chinese environment if all it means is just 'work harder!', because 加油 contains more than just 'work harder!', It incorporates, (besides working harder where appropriate), elements of encouragement, support, concern and sympathy for a person who is facing some difficulties / problems where a greater amount of effort, physical or spiritual, is needed to surmount them. Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 11:38

5 Answers 5


Maybe forget "envy":

Luckily, I am not you.


Rather you than me! (Not very consoling though!)


羡慕 do not in all circumstances share the specific Western notion of "envy" because it has elements of positivity in Chinese as it includes elements of "admiration / look up to", unlike the Western notion of negativity associated with "envy", it being one of the "Seven Deadly Sins", (pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth)

不羡慕 somehow sounds weird as it implies "I don't admire you", hence the confusing inquiry "为什么要羡慕我?" because when you say "I don't envy / admire you", it implies that you could under certain circumstances "admire / look up to" him.

Therefore when he asked "为什么要羡慕我?", he meant "Why do you want to admire me?"

Hence there is not just a linguistic problem here but a socio-cultural one because of the innate cultural differences when it comes to expressing specific terms with regards to human interactions.

Thus terms like "envy", pity", "grudge", are perfectly palatable in certain circumstances and social interactions within a certain socio-cultural group, but if haphazardly used as direct translations into another language with different cultural, (even religious) outlook, the received meanings would be colored in unexpected ways.

In the present case lets say you use "我真的同情你", "You really do have my sympathy"; (without a smile of course), or, "你好可怜啊", "You are so pitiful", (with a melancholic shake of the head), could work.

But if directly translated into English those expressions may sound "affected", "condescending", "sarcastic" even, just as to not, 羡慕, "envy / admire" someone's misfortune sounds strange in Chinese.

  • Pedroski's "幸亏我不是你。Luckily, I am not you" works well within the limits of certain societies with a cultural ready acceptance of "non-malicious playfulness" with regards to some misfortunes encountered by others. But, if the listener is brought up with strict codes of social etiquette, in words and deeds, it may not sound so "playful" I am not saying you could not use it; just that it ought to be used with caution. Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 5:40
  • I disagree that it is not a language issue. It is definitely not a socio-cultural one, because "envy" can never mean "admire" whereas "羡慕" can.
    – user21820
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 14:53

I think envy has the underlined meaning here:

enter image description here

I can't find a concise expression in Chinese for the same sense. But is just opposite of @Pedroski 's answer. "I don't envy you." means:


Or in English:

I am not glad for that I am not you so don't need to work overtime.

  • 我没有庆幸我不是你 = 我庆幸我是你? Shouldn't it be 我庆幸我不是你?
    – joehua
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 1:43
  • No, they are different.
    – Spin Lee
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 3:38

Wayne Cheah's answer pointed out why the direct translation doesn't work in Chinese.

I suggest a common phrase "(做)你也不容易啊。" (being you is not easy). It expresses a sense of' sympathy' similar to "I don't envy you" in English.

Both "嗯,(做)你也不容易啊。" and "I don't envy you" imply "I don't want to be in your shoes" and "it must be hard for you"


這也難為你了 (this must be hard for you) also works

  • Tang Ho's suggestions point out another common "Chinese" socio-cultural characteristics which is to say things in an "indirect" way which seems more polite. This does not mean of course you could compliment a lady by saying "You are not ugly" Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 6:24

C: 我不羡慕你。

A: 为什么要羡慕我?

The answer seems improper but rather quite common in daily conversations. It is a technique of using reverse questioning (反問) to - 1) terminate the conservation, either he was under a bad mood or too busy, the tune of speaking won't be too friendly (沒好氣), and was hinting "shut-up, leave me alone". 2) extend the conservation if you have a more than just co-worker relationship with him, and the response can be considered a 俏皮話 in order to receive further talk-backs (反擊).

Note that "我不羡慕你。" has the implication of "幸災樂禍" - "Glad to see you are in a situation I've no envy of, ha ha!" So don't say it to coworkers with who you don't have a close/working relationship with.

In such circumstance, "又加班吶? 真不幸!" should be acceptable to all.

  • Obviously it is not a consolation. and what the asker said is a consolation.
    – Spin Lee
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 4:25
  • @SpinLee The seemly odd response indicated the responder was not concerning what was said to him, or the intention of it, but "who said", and how he values the relationship between them.
    – r13
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 5:39
  • I just talked on the question itself, and did not make any judgement on you , as everyone can see.
    – Spin Lee
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 8:04
  • @SpinLee You left a comment under my answer, thus I feel obligate to respond and explain any ambiguity. I didn't feel the comment was personal or been judged.
    – r13
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 16:21
  • Maybe I misunderstood you. Could you expain it more clearly ? Why the colleague's response is odd ? It's a question(疑问), not a 反问. I am a native Chinese speaker so I know this.
    – Spin Lee
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 3:47

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