Secrets of Saying Sorry: “对不起”’s Correct Use

If you’ve ever learned even a little Chinese, you probably know the phrase “对不起(duì bù qǐ)”. In most textbooks, “对不起(duì bù qǐ)” is translated to mean “sorry,” or “I’m sorry.” Other books might say it means “Excuse me”. I often hear my beginning students use this phrase. However, you may notice that Chinese people don’t say it that often. Are all Chinese people being rude? Of course not! The difference is that “对不起(duì bù qǐ)” is not 100% the same as the English phrase “I’m sorry”. In Chinese, “对不起(duì bù qǐ)” is only used when you did something wrong, and caused trouble. Today, we will look at this simple but often incorrectly used phrase.

It’s common for an English speaker to say “sorry” when he or she feels sorry for someone else’s problem. For example, if I told you that I failed my TOEFL exam, you might expect to be able to reply “对不起(duì bù qǐ)”. However, instead of feeling comforted, most Chinese would feel confused by that reply. As we stated above, this phrase is only used when the person saying it did something wrong. It’s not your fault the person failed the exam! An appropriate response for this bad news could be:

啊?太糟了(a? tài zāo le)。Ah? That’s too bad.
别难过(bié nánguò)。Don’t be sad.
怎么会(zěnme huì)?How come this happened?

The only case you could use “对不起(duì bù qǐ)” in response to bad news is if you mentioned something that made the other person sad or uncomfortable. For example,

A:你的狗怎么样(nǐ de gǒu zěnmeyàng)?How is your dog?

B:我的狗死了(wǒ de gǒu sǐ le)。My dog passed away.

A:对不起(duì bù qǐ)!I’m sorry.

In this case, it’s your “fault” that you mentioned the sad thing, so it would make sense to use “对不起(duì bù qǐ)” to apologize.

One other time it’s appropriate to use “对不起(duì bù qǐ)” is when we might use the English phrase “Excuse me”. Again, if you’re causing someone trouble or inconvenience, then you can use “对不起(duì bù qǐ).” For example,

对不起,这是我的座位(duì bù qǐ, zhè shì wǒ de zuòwèi)。= Excuse me, but this is my seat.
对不起,请让我过去(duì bù qǐ, qǐng ràng wǒ guòqù)。= Excuse me, please let me pass.
对不起,请再说一遍(duì bù qǐ, qǐng zài shuō yíbiàn)。= Pardon me, please say it again.

Aside from “对不起(duì bù qǐ),” there are always other phrases one might hear a lot in Chinese. One of these is “不好意思(bù hǎo yì si),” which also means “sorry,” but is not as emotionally strong as “对不起(duì bù qǐ).” In most cases, “不好意思(bù hǎo yì si)” is equal to “excuse me.” For example, if you accidentally bump into someone, “不好意思(bù hǎo yì si)” is a good choice.

Another often-used phrase is “抱歉(bào qiàn)”. This one is quite formal, but is still used very frequently, especially in Taiwan. “抱歉(bào qiàn)” is often preceeded by “很(hěn),” which intensifies it. For example:

我们没有完成合同,我很抱歉(wǒ men méiyǒu wán chéng hétong, wǒ hěn bàoqiàn)。We didn’t complete the contract. I feel sorry.
我不能参加这次会议,我很抱歉(wǒ bù néng cānjiā zhè cì huìyì, wǒ hěn bàoqiàn)。I can’t attend this meeting. I feel sorry.

Because of how formal this phrase is, it typically doesn’t carry much emotional weight. As a native speaker, I usually won’t use this phrase with my friends.

Now you know the secrets of saying “sorry” in Chinese. So, next time your Chinese friend tells you they failed their exam, don’t say “对不起(duì bù qǐ)!” Unless, of course, you caused it to happen.


What can we learn from Sheldon Cooper on speaking Mandarin? Part I

Although “The Big Bang Theory” was banned in China, it’s still one of the most popular American shows underground. I’ve watched for years. I have to admit Sheldon is very smart in science but when he transferred his interest to Mandarin, he definitely needs a better teacher instead of Howard. I was both surprise (positive) and confused at his Mandarin all the time. But then I think it’s a good idea to analyze his pronunciation and make it as a good example for other learners.

If we watched the video “Sheldon speaks mandarin”, the first thing I noticed is Sheldon used:

1. Hand gesture. It’s still controversial if hand gesture is helpful. But many teachers and learners use that for tones. Some believe hand gestures help learners to pronounce tones correctly. Personally I don’t agree with that. I have seen too many cases that although with a hand gesture, it’s still very hard to pronounce tones correctly. But I do encourage my students to use hand gestures in first couple months. The purpose is to help them to establish the concept of four tones and get a general idea of how tones should be.

2. The finals “ü”. If you ask me which the most difficult final is, for English speaker I will say it’s “ü”. And Sheldon confirmed that. At 0:40, Sheldon said “梅毒驴子(méidú lǘzi)”. To be honest, I had no clue what it was until I heard Howard said “syphilitic donkey”. The problem is instead of making a “ü” sound, Sheldon made a “u” + “i” sound. Besides the “lǘ” was too long, so it sounds like two syllables. When we learn “ü”, it’s right to start from “i” and round your lips like “u”. You can practice in that way but try to make it as short as you can. Don’t do what Sheldon did.

3. The aspirated finals VS the unaspirated initials. At 0:52 Sheldon repeated a sentence he would say to the restaurant owner. “给我干你有的陈皮(gěi wǒ gàn nǐ yǒu de chénpí)”. It’s supposed to be “给我看你用的陈皮(gěi wǒ kàn nǐ yòng de chénpí)”. The verb “看(kàn)” was mispronounced as “干(gàn)”. At 1:35 Sheldon said “猴子最在里都(hóuzi zuì zài lǐdōu)” which supposed to be “好滋味在里头(hǎo zīwèi zài lǐtou)”. If we look at the last word, we will find he mixed “都(dōu)” and “头(tou)”. In both, Sheldon made the same mistake. He pronounced both aspirated finals “k”, “t” unaspirated. If you pronounce “kàn” unaspirated, it sounds exactly as “gàn”. Never make the same mistake Sheldon did. 我去看她=I go and visit her. 我去干她=I go and f**k her.

I won’t blame Sheldon because I know pronunciation is always the hardest part of learning a language, especially when you only have a book or a teacher like Howard. I deadly hope he would have known the app early. If he would, he would never 干陈皮。 It’s not the end. We will continue next time for more typical pronunciation mistakes such as “s” and “x”. If you want to practice your pronunciation and get more tips, just check our free app HelloChinese.


How to use “and” in Chinese

No matter which textbooks you use to learn Chinese, the word “and-和(hé)” is always one of the first few words that you learned. It’s not a difficult word, so even a beginner level learner can use “苹果和香蕉(píngguǒ hé xiāngjiāo)” – “apples and bananas”. But the interesting thing is even an intermediate above level learner will still make mistakes on “和”(hé). So, what makes this simple word tricky? Today, we will explore how it can trick you and how you can avoid it.

When a Chinese teacher teaches “和”(hé), he or she will always mention that “和(hé)” is used to connect two nouns not adjectives or sentences. For example:

Two nouns: 我有苹果和香蕉(wǒ yǒu píngguǒ hé xiāngjiāo)。= I have apples and bananas. √

Two adjectives: 她很高和很漂亮(tā hěn gāo hé hěn piàoliàng)。= She is tall and pretty. ×

Two sentences: 明天我去学校和我去超市。= I will go to school, and I will go to the supermarket tomorrow. ×

It looks simple but why do people keep on making mistakes on it? I think that’s because even if you know “和(hé)”, it can’t be used to connect two adjectives and sentences. Therefore, you still don’t know the correct way. To avoid the mistakes, you need to know how to use “and” to connect two adjectives and nouns.

For two adjectives:

1. 又(yòu)……又(yòu) for adjectives. It is a common pattern to connect two adjectives. When use this pattern, you shouldn’t use “很”(hěn). For example,

她又高又漂亮(tā yòu gāo yòu piàoliàng)。= She is tall and pretty.

这件衣服又贵又难看(zhè jiàn yīfu yòu guì yòu nánkàn)。= This clothing is expensive and ugly.

Notice that the two adjectives you use in this pattern should be either positive or both negative. It doesn’t work if you use one positive adjective and one negative adjective.

这件衣服又贵又漂亮(zhè jiàn yīfu yòu guì yòu piàoliàng)。= This clothing is expensive and pretty. ×

2. A comma is another options. A comma can be used to connect two adjectives too. Simply place it between the two adjective phrases. For example,
她很高,很漂亮(tā hěn gāo ,hěn piàoliàng)。= She is tall and pretty.

这件衣服很贵,很难看(zhè jiàn yīfu hěn guì, hěn nánkàn)。= This clothing is expensive and ugly.

我有一件很贵,很漂亮的衣服(wǒ yǒu yí jiàn hěn guì, hěn piàoliàng de yīfu)。= I have a piece of expensive and pretty clothing.

For two sentences:

a. A period is most commonly used. Compare to English, Chinese prefer a short sentence. That means Chinese would rather use two sentences than use “和”(hé) to connect them. For example,

他觉得不舒服(tā juéde bù shūfu)。他决定回家(tā juédìng huí jiā)。= He felt sick and decided to go back home. 

In many cases, if the subjects of these sentences are same, a comma also works.

他觉得不舒服,他决定回家(tā juéde bù shūfu, tā juédìng huí jiā)。

An English speaker might feel weird to use two consequent sentences without any conjunction. But that’s the most common way how Chinese say it.

b. Other conjunctions.
If you just feel too ackward to use two sentences with no conjunction, then try some other conjunctions. A good one for two consequent sentences is “然后(ránhóu)-then”.

他看了电影,然后睡觉了(tā kàn le diànyǐng, ránhòu shuìjiào le)。= He watched a movie and went to bed.

他吃了饭,然后回家了(tā chī le fàn, ránhòu huí jiā le)。= He had the meal and went back home.

Sometimes “and” could mean “but”, in that case “可是(kěshì)-but” is also a good choice.

他想去中国,可是他不能(tā xiǎng qù zhōng guò, kěshì tā bù néng)。= He wants to go to China and can’t do it.

So one simple tip is if you want to use “and” but it’s not to connect two nouns, the easiest way is just OMIT “and”. You don’t need anything here! Now you mastered the way to express “and” in different situations. Please don`t write a “她很高和很漂亮(tā hěn gāo hé hěn piàoliàng)” any more.

Leave me a comment if you have any question. See you next time!


Specific Guide of Ordering Subway or Jianbing in Chinese

I remember the first time I ordered Subway in America because I was so lost and embarrassed. I never learnt all these words in my English class and didn’t know how to order a sandwich. This experience makes me think about what if my student is in China. If he or she would like to order a Subway, could he or she find the right words in the textbook? I don’t think so, but today let’s have a lesson on Subway and other foods.

Step 1: Order flavor.

Like most place in the world, Subway in China has it common options for type of sandwich, which you can select. Here are the Chinese words and pinyin for you to look to learn and use when you are ordering your sandwich.
意大利经典(yì dà lì jīng diǎn) Italian B.M.T

意大利香肠(yì dà lì xiāng cháng) Italian Sausage

香烤鸡排(xiāng kǎo jī pái) Roasted Chicken

火鸡胸(huǒ jī xiōng) Turkey Breast

日式照烧鸡(rì shì zhào shāo jī) Chicken Teriyaki

金枪鱼(jīn qiāng yú) Tuna

香热骑士(xiāng rè qí shì) Subway Melt

香烤牛肉(xiāng kǎo niú ròu) Roast Beef

奇士牛排(qí shì niú pái) Steak & Cheese

百味俱乐部(bǎi wèi jù lè bù) Subway Club

火腿(huǒ tuǐ) Ham

I personally like Turkey Breast because it’s low fat. Somehow though, I just feel the turkey breast is not as good as it tastes in America. Maybe it’s because turkey breast is not that common in China, it may not be as flavorful.

Step 2: Order your bread.

The second thing to do is to pick your bread. Unlike in America, Subway in China offers four kinds of bread:
意大利白面包(yì dà lì bái miàn bāo)(Italian)

全麦面包 (quán mài miàn bāo)(Wheat)

香奶酪面包 (xiāng nǎi lào miàn bāo)(Parmesan Oregano)

蜂蜜燕麦面包 (fēng mì yàn mài miàn bāo)(Honey Oat)

Sorry folks, there is no flatbread available for you to order. Personally, I would recommend the wheat because it tastes the best to me.

Step 3: Choose a size

Same as Subway in other places, there are two sizes, but there are not your American size portions, as Chinese people may not want so much. Here in China, they serve:

6寸(cùn) = 6 inch or 9 寸(cùn) = 9 inch

Step 4: Choose a cheese

This part won’t bother you at all in China because there is only one kind of cheese at Subway in China. The only thing you need to learn is if you need extra cheese, just say双份芝士(shuāng fèn zhī shì). The Chinese have never been a big fan of cheese. After you choose the cheese, the staff may ask you a question: 要加热吗(yào jiā rè ma)? Literally it means “Do you want to heat it?” 要(yào) is the answer for ‘yes’ and 不要(bú yào) is for “no”.

Step 5: Veggies

After toasting or not toasting your bread, you then get to select your vegetables you would like on your sandwich. The veggies at Subway in China are always same as that in America.

生菜(shēng cài) Lettuce

西红柿(xī hóng shì) Tomatoes

黄瓜(huáng guā) Cucumbers

酸黄瓜(suān huáng guā) Pickles

青椒(qīng jiāo) Green Bell Peppers

橄榄(gǎn lǎn) Olives

墨西哥辣椒(mò xī gē là jiāo) Jalapenos

洋葱(yáng cōng) Red Onions

我喜欢蔬菜,但是我不喜欢橄榄(wǒ xǐ huān shū cài, dàn shì wǒ bú xǐ huān gǎn lǎn)。

I like most of the veggies, but I don’t like olives.

Step 6: Choose your sauce

Lastly, you get to select your sauce to give your sandwich an interesting flavor. These options are similar to the American Subway but it may not taste the same.

黄芥末酱(huáng jiè mò jiàng) mustard

甜洋葱酱(tián yáng cōng jiàng) sweet onion

蜜汁芥末酱(mì zhī jiè mò jiàng) honey mustard

西南酱(xī nán jiàng) southwest

蛋黄酱(dàn huáng jiàng) mayonnaise

烧烤酱(shāo kǎo jiàng) BBQ

番茄酱(fān qié jiàng) ketchup

辣椒酱(là jiāo jiàng) chili

千岛酱(qiān dǎo jiàng) thousand island

I am surprised there is no ranch sauce at Subway in China because it is my personally favorite. I guess maybe because the ranch is similar as mayonnaise.

Finally we are done. It’s not easy to get a Subway in a foreign country, right? One suggestion is you don’t need to memorize all of these words. Just choose one or two as you wish. Four or five words in Chinese are enough for you to get your food.

Some of you may say, why I order a Subway sandwich in China? I need local food! Ok, besides a Subway, let’s learn some local food and how to order it. If I were to choose a local Chinese food which is close to Subway and popular all over China, I will say it’s 煎饼(jiān bǐng). A typical 煎饼(jiān bǐng) looks like this:

A 煎饼(jiān bǐng) always goes with an egg. You can order extra egg by “两个蛋(liǎng gè dàn) – two eggs”. Then you can add flavor as you wish like 辣椒酱(là jiāo jiàng) chili sauce. If you don’t want it, say “不要辣椒酱”(bú yào là jiāo jiàng). Or you can add葱(cōng) green onion. Same thing is you don’t want it “不要葱”(bú yào cōng). Also, you can select豆瓣酱(dòu bàn jiàng) bean sauce. But I never heard anyone say “不要豆瓣酱”(bú yào dòu bàn jiàng), so I guess you need this for 煎饼(jiān bǐng).

油条(yóu tiáo) which known as Chinese cruller, Chinese oil stick, or Chinese doughnut, which looks like this. It is a breakfast food with soybean milk or a late night snack to have.

脆饼(cuì bǐng) another deep-fried snack, which has black sesame seeds cooked in itself. This picture is what it typically looks like.

Check this link for how 煎饼 is made. I am so hungry and need to find something to eat now after writing about this. When you are Subway, try to use the advice here and if you want something local look for the many饼(bǐng) that I introduced. Enjoy the food and see you next time.


Describe Action with “得(de)”

In English, when you want to describe an action, you can simply use an adverb. For example, I run quickly. I get up early. Unfortunately, though, using this “verb + adverb” structure in Chinese is much more complicated. Today, we will focus on getting the hang of how to describe verbs with an adverb in Chinese.

The key word for this structure is the particle word “得(de)”. Look at the following sentence:
我吃得很慢(wǒ chī de hěn màn)。I eat slowly.
我唱得很好(wǒ chàng de hěn hǎo)。I sing well.
我说得很流利(wǒ shuō de hěn liú lì)。I speak fluently.
我运动得很多(wǒ yùndòng de hěn duō)。I work out often (a lot).

In these situations, it appears quite similar to English. All we have to do is use “得(de)” and “很(hěn) after the verb.

1. Rule one: If there is no object in the sentence, the structure is:
  Subject + verb + 得(de) + 很(hěn) + adjective.

But what if we would like to use object with our verb? After all, I don’t eat slowly all the time – what if I only eat fish slowly? Then, the sentence turns into: 我得很慢(wǒ chī yú chī de hěn màn)。 Let’s take a look at a few more examples,

英语歌得很好(wǒ chàng yīngyǔ gē chàng de hěn hǎo)。I sing English songs well.
汉语得很流利(wǒ shuō hànyǔ shuō de hěn liú lì)。I speak Chinese fluently.
复习汉语复习得很好(wǒ fùxí hànyǔ fùxí de hěn hǎo)。I review Chinese well.

2. Rule two: If there is an object in the sentence, always do this:
  Subject + verb + object + verb(reduplication) + 得(de) + 很 (hěn) + adjective.

So far, so good, right? Congratulations! If you master these two rules you’ll be correct in 70% of situations! But what about the other 30% ? Read on.

我睡觉睡得很好(wǒ shuìjiào shuì de hěn hǎo)。I sleep well. If you look at this sentence, you will find although 睡觉(shuìjiào) is known as one word “to sleep” and there is no object in it, it doesn’t fit the first rule: it’s not 我睡觉得很好(wǒ shuì jiào de hěn hǎo) . This is because we have one final rule to learn:

3. Rule three: For some two-character verbs, the structure is:
  Subject + verb + first character of the verb + 得(de) + 很(hěn) + adjective.

我洗澡洗得很快(wǒ xǐzǎo xǐ de hěn kuài)。 I take a shower quickly.
我跳舞跳得很好(wǒ tiàowǔ tiào de hěn hǎo)。 I dance well.
我开车开得很慢(wǒ kāichē kāi de hěn màn)。 I drive slowly.

The reason why we only duplicate the first character, and not the whole word, is that this kind of verb is composed of two characters; the first character refers to an action, and the second character to the object of that action. For example, in the verb 跳舞(tiàowǔ), 跳(tiào) means “to jump,” and 舞(wǔ) means “a dance (noun)”. So in this case, we only duplicate the “action” character – the first character.

Though this rule is not hard to understand, there’s no shortcut to learn which verbs are in this special type of 2-character verb. My best suggestion is learn them one by one. Here are some common ones:
跳舞(tiào wǔ) to dance
唱歌(chàng gē) to sing
睡觉(shuìjiào) to sleep
开车(kāi chē) to drive
帮忙 (bāng máng) to help
见面(jiàn miàn) to meet (someone)
结婚(jié hūn) to get married
生气(shēng qì) to be angry

One tip: Don’t be upset if you can’t remember them all at first. Even if you just use 我跳舞得很好(wǒ tiàowǔ dé hěn hǎo), most Chinese people will still understand. Be brave, and start practicing describe actions with 得(de). The more you practice, the better you will be!


Basic Verbs that are Different in Chinese and English

When I learned English, I always made some mistakes which known as ‘Chinglish’ where I would use English in a Chinese way. Now as a Chinese teacher, I know the words or grammar points that I struggled with are difficult for my native English-speaking students as well. It’s a huge topic that I don’t think I can talk about it in one sitting. So I decided to start with some very simple and common verbs. Before you start to read, please promise me you won’t tell others that I used these funny English expressions before.

看书(kàn shū)- read a book
The very first thing I remembered I always said was ‘see a book’ instead of ‘read a book’. Since in Chinese, ‘看(kàn)(see)’ is the right verb for book not ‘读(dú)(read)’ because you read a book by looking at it.

喝汤(hē tāng)- eat soup
‘Drink soup’ is another mistake I made. So for you Chinese learners, please remember you don’t ‘吃(chī)(eat)’ soup but ‘喝(hē)(drink)’ it. I didn’t think that it made sense to use ‘eat’ for soup until one day I realized the western soup was quite different from Chinese style. If you can’t remember ‘喝汤(hē tāng)’ I suggest you go to an authentic Chinese restaurant and order a soup.

吃药(chī yào)- take medicine
‘Eat a pill’ used to be my English way for saying ‘take medicine’. I have to say I still think the Chinese verb ‘吃(chī)(eat)’ makes more sense than ‘take’. It’s the same action as you eat your meal, right?

坐车(zuò chē)- take/ride a bus
For a long time, I couldn’t get the verb ‘坐(zuò)(sit)’ out of my brain when I said ‘take/ride a bus/train/plane’. So for Chinese learners, please remember it’s not ‘拿(ná)(take)’, not ‘骑(ride) but ‘坐(zuò)(sit)’+车(chē)(vehicle)/火车(huǒ chē)(train)/飞机(fēi jī)(airplane)’ because you sit within these vessels.

开电脑(kāi diàn nǎo)- turn on a computer
If you hear a Chinese person say, ‘could you please open your computer?’ don’t be surprise. He/she probably means ‘turn on your computer’. In Chinese, ‘turn on’ and ‘open’ are the same word ‘开(kāi)’. ‘开电脑(kāi diàn nǎo)(turn on a computer)’ and ‘开窗(kāi chuāng)(open windows)’ seem like the same type of action to me.

I really like this topic. I think it not only shows the difference of words but also shows the different reflections of this world between two nations. For example, I had a disagreement with one of my students. I thought radish and carrot belonged to same biological species because they were both named as ‘萝卜(luó bo)’ in Chinese. But she couldn’t agree with me at all because she couldn’t see any connection between the two English words. Isn’t that interesting? If you are also interested in this topic, please let me know. I think that’s enough for this time. I hope these tips will help your Chinese and to understand ‘Chinglish’ better. See you next time.


Taxi phrases not on textbook

When you first see this title you might lose interest in reading this article because you can find related phrases in every textbook. But before you close the page, let me tell you a past experience of mine.
One summer I brought two of my best students to Shanghai for a long field trip. One of the purposes of this trip was to immerse them in Chinese. So they were supposed to complete some language based tasks. One day after a visit at campus, I told them: “Now I’m going to visit my friends, so you should go back by yourselves by taxi.” It was a very simple task for them since they had already been learning for two years and they were trained with survival phrases. All they needed to tell the driver was where they wanted to go. This is how the dialogue would usually go:

Driver你好,你要去哪儿?/ 你去哪里?(Nǐ hǎo, nǐ yào qù nǎr? / Nǐ qù nǎlǐ?)
Hello, where are you going?
Passenger我要去……/ 我去…… (Wǒ yào qù …. / Wǒ qù …)
I’m going to…
I was so confident in their Chinese ability until I got their call 5 minutes later because the driver asked a question that never show up in their textbook.

Driver要走高架吗?( Yào zǒu gāojià ma?)
Do you want to take the elevated highway?
This type of question can be very frustrating for everyone learning Chinese. I realized no matter how much you learn from your textbook, there are some commonly used phrases you miss out on. The textbook is designed to teach the basics, but you need something more specific to the situations. So let’s look at these out of the book phrases that taxi drivers in Shanghai often might ask you.
Q: 你想怎么走?( Nǐ xiǎng zěnme zǒu?)
How would like to go? (Literally the sentence means: “how do you get there?” The driver isn’t lost but asks this question because he wants to make sure he picks up the way you like in case you complain that he takes the long way)
A: If you are an “old China hand”, let him know the way you prefer. If not, 随便 Suíbiàn (up to you) is a good one to imply that you are not just someone who has doesn’t know the way.
Q: 走隧道吗?(zǒu suì dào ma?)
Shall we cross the tunnel?
In Shanghai, Pudong and Puxi are separated by Huangpu River. There are tunnels and bridges that connect two areas, and the driver may ask you which one you prefer. You can answer with either one.
A: 走隧道(zǒu suì dào)。/走大桥(zǒu dà qiáo)。
Go through the tunnel./ Go through the bridge.

Q: 走外环/中环/内环?( zǒu wài huán /zhōng huán /nèi huán?)
Shall we go outer ring/middle ring/inner ring? This is another question about 高架(gāojià). There are three different highways in Shanghai that you can take. Of course, the best answer is still 随便(Suíbiàn).
Q: 卡还是现金?(Kǎ háishì xiànjīn?)
Card or cash? Credit card is not accepted in taxis. The card that they are referring is a ‘transportation card’ 交通卡. If you have one, you can use it however most of the time, just tell them cash.
A: 现金。( Xiànjīn.)
Q: 打表吗?( Dǎ biǎo ma?)
Shall we use the meter? This question is not asked often in town. Technically, it’s illegal to not use the meter. But at the airport or suburb area, sometimes a driver might try to cheat you with the taxi fare. So he might ask and your answer should always be: yes.
A: 请打表。(Qǐng dǎ biǎo.)
Here are some other useful phrases for comfortable taxi ride:
请慢一点(Qǐng màn yīdiǎn)
Please slow down.
I often use this phrase. Sometimes I think taxi drivers drive too fast especially on the way to the airport.

安全带呢?(ān quán dài ne?)
Where is the seatbelt?
Sometimes the seatbelt in back seat is missing. If it is, the driver will tell you that you don’t need a seatbelt. Most of the time, a seatbelt is not required to wear if you are in the back seat.
请轻一点。(qǐng qīng yī diǎn)
Please turn down the radio.
Many drivers like to listen to the radio and there is also a TV on the back of the car. So if you need some peace and quiet, you can use this phrase.
请开一下后备箱。(qǐng kāi yī xià hòu bèi xiāng)
Please open the trunk.
This statement is useful when you have a lot of luggage that you are traveling with that you can’t carry in the back seat with you.
I think now you are ready for a taxi ride in Shanghai. Carry the notes with you and have a safe trip.