A Basic Mandarin Phrase to Say to Busy People

Busy busy busy! It’s so common in our society to face co-workers, friends and even family who are just too slammed to talk or meet-up. It’s Mandarin Chinese learning time. What can you say to those people ?! We are going to learn a basic Mandarin phrase that you can use!

In the below video, we see this very situation between husband and wife. Watch out at the end for a helpful little phrase, which you can use when you’re facing someone who’s too busy to chat…

你先忙吧 / nǐ xiān máng ba


It breaks down as below:

  • 你 / Nǐ = you
  • 先 / xiān = first; prior; to go ahead
  • 忙 / máng = busy; rushed
  • 吧 / ba = suggestive modal particle (i.e. “OK?”)

So literally this means: “Go ahead and be busy”. In English that might come across as sarcastic and snarky, but the meaning that is conveyed is: “Go work, I know you’re busy.”

Try to use this phrase next time you face a busy Chinese speaker. You might just stop them in their tracks and grab their attention, despite how busy they are!

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