How much do I owe you?

viajero_canjeado

Senior Member
English - Southeastern USA
Howdy 大家,

So if somebody brings you something, like a meal or small trinket, and you don't wish to assume it's a gift and consequently offer to pay them back, what's a natural-sounding way to say this?

我欠你多少? 我可以回付你嗎? How much do I owe you? May I pay you back?
 
  • JJchang

    Senior Member
    NZ - English, Chinese
    if you just say 多少錢? that will be extremely rude.
    我該給你多少錢? how much should I give you?
    我該付你多少錢? how much should I pay you?

    我欠你多少? means you know for sure you owe that person money. 欠 is a quite strong word.
    我可以回付你嗎? is a bit strange, it sounds almost like "can I pay you back (the money...a favour)?"
     

    Jerry Chan

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hokkien
    I second 多少錢? or 這個要多少錢?, following a big THANK.
    It's not rude at all.

    I'd definitely avoid using "should" (該)
    It's not supposed to be a gift, so you ask how much it is and pay straight.
    Whether the person accepts your money is another matter.
     

    JJchang

    Senior Member
    NZ - English, Chinese
    no, 多少錢? means "how much?", that doesn't mean you are going to pay, that only means "how much is that".
    If you don't want to assume it's a gift but it may be a gift, you should say 我該付你多少錢? "how much should I pay you for this?" to show your intention to pay. The rudeness of just replying "how much?" will make sure you have to pay the full amount and there will be no more meals or small trinkets in the future.
     

    JJchang

    Senior Member
    NZ - English, Chinese
    Could you perhaps suggest a better translation, then? :)
    That sentence sounds perfectly fine to me in English.
    I suppose I could make it more clear. Think in the Godfather's way. "How could I pay you back?" that question pretty much opens all the possibilities. The reply can be money, or "I suppose you can teach me English." "You can introduce your friend to me", or something even worse...
     

    BODYholic

    Senior Member
    Chinese Cantonese
    Howdy 大家,

    So if somebody brings you something, like a meal or small trinket, and you don't wish to assume it's a gift and consequently offer to pay them back, what's a natural-sounding way to say this?

    我欠你多少? 我可以回付你嗎? How much do I owe you? May I pay you back?
    Given the context, I may say "我該付你多少錢?". To be more polite, I would say, '请告诉我多少錢,我想(把钱)还给你。'.

    To say only "多少錢" is very coarse and unrefined. You would probably say this to someone you know very well. Examples, a close friend, a buddy, sibling of your age & etc. I would never say this to my parents or my superiors.

    "這個要多少錢?" - In Singapore, this is interpreted as 'How much does this cost?'. This is used mainly for enquiry. It does not carry the tone of wanting to pay the person back. Example, my colleague came to the office this morning and flashed his iPhone 4 in front of me. Out of curiosity, I may asked ask, "這個要多少錢?". Of course, I am speaking in a capacity of where I am.

    回付- I have never heard of 回付but these words, when they are written, can be easily interpreted as 'pay back' in English. The problem is, they are not common words and they sound identical to "回复" (to reply) which is a lot more common. So when you say "我可以回付你嗎?", it may sound like 'Can I reply you?'. This causes confusion and it should be avoided when spoken.
     
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    Jerry Chan

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hokkien
    "這個要多少錢?" - In Singapore, this is interpreted as 'How much does this cost?'. This is used mainly for enquiry. It does not carry the tone of wanting to pay the person back. Example, my colleague came to the office this morning and flashed his iPhone 4 in front of me. Out of curiosity, I may asked ask, "這個要多少錢?". Of course, I am speaking in a capacity of where I am.
    I exactly don't want to carry a tone of whether I should pay him back or not.
    I know I HAVE TO pay. So I just ask how much and pay.

    This is how I'd react. But of course everyone has their own way.
     

    Jerry Chan

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hokkien
    I suppose I could make it more clear. Think in the Godfather's way. "How could I pay you back?" that question pretty much opens all the possibilities. The reply can be money, or "I suppose you can teach me English." "You can introduce your friend to me", or something even worse...
    I see what you mean. Yes, if you want something happen between you and the giver, it's probably what you'll ask.
     

    JJchang

    Senior Member
    NZ - English, Chinese
    I exactly don't want to carry a tone of whether I should pay him back or not.
    I know I HAVE TO pay. So I just ask how much and pay.

    This is how I'd react. But of course everyone has their own way.
    Perhaps you should read the question first before answering, that might help. Again, like BODYholic said, saying 多少錢? is coarse, but well, feel free to use that. We can only say what is rude and what is refined, and if people opt to be coarse, it's really not my job to stop that.
     

    JJchang

    Senior Member
    NZ - English, Chinese
    I see what you mean. Yes, if you want something happen between you and the giver, it's probably what you'll ask.
    That's in response to Viajero's question about what's wrong with 我可以回付你嗎, again, if you had read the question then you would have understood.
     

    Jerry Chan

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hokkien
    Perhaps you should read the question first before answering, that might help. Again, like BODYholic said, saying 多少錢? is coarse, but well, feel free to use that. We can only say what is rude and what is refined, and if people opt to be coarse, it's really not my job to stop that.
    What's rude or not rude depends on your tone, your expression, your relationship with the giver, a lot of things.
    I really don't see why "多少錢?" can't be asked in a polite way.

    If I really wanna pay, I won't ask "how much SHOULD I pay you" because that might give an impression that I don't want to pay at all. I just ask how much and pay.

    After a meal, if I want to pay, I go straight to the cashier and not ask who should pay.

    Of coarse I free feel use it.
    I do it my way even if others consider it rude.
     

    JJchang

    Senior Member
    NZ - English, Chinese
    mate, it's not about you you you all the time, it's about answering question Viajero asked.
     

    NitaHK

    New Member
    Cantonese
    If the person brought me something I asked for (eg. takeaway), or some basic necessities like groceries, I'd say:
    幾錢呀?(~多少錢? How much is it?) or
    買左幾錢呀? (~買了多少錢? How much did you pay?)
    The standard answer is 唔駛啦! (~不用了! No need.)
    or the price.

    If it's something that's a surprise and a bit more fancy and more of a "gift" nature, eg. a jacket or a novel, lanolin cream from Oz or cosmetics from Japan, I'd say:
    我俾番錢你丫!(~I'll pay you back! Let me pay you back!) or
    買左幾錢呀? (~買了多少錢? How much did you pay?)
    The standard answer is 唔駛啦! (~不用了! No need.)
    or the price.

    Everything'd be the same whether it's my best friend or the President I'm talking to. I'm not rude to my friend so I can't be any more polite when I talk to the President. And if I were the President, those questions would still sound perfectly fine to me.

    Seems I'm in the same part of the world as Ghabi and Jerry Chan are.
     

    samanthalee

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    It does seem like people in HK do things differently.
    Indeed it is a regional difference. I also simply assume I should be paying, just Jerry Chan suggests. I'd say "多少钱?" and I'll be pulling out my wallet as I say it. I don't think it rude at all. :)
     

    JJchang

    Senior Member
    NZ - English, Chinese
    If I am offering a gift and someone only replies 多少錢 immediately, I would find the person very ill-mannered. I suppose being rude or not should depend on the view point of the person you are talking to and not on your own view point, but that's my opinion and perhaps the regional difference is making it different.
     

    indigoduck

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    If I am offering a gift and someone only replies 多少錢 immediately, I would find the person very ill-mannered. I suppose being rude or not should depend on the view point of the person you are talking to and not on your own view point, but that's my opinion and perhaps the regional difference is making it different.
    Actually, it's not a regional difference. This truly is the traditional chinese way of doing things. It's not ill-mannered. Chinese are very humble people and don't like to "owe" anything to anybody or seen from a different perspective, "take advantage" of someone else.

    I used to see "多少錢" as being ill-mannered as well because you are not taking the offering as "friendly" offering and you're thinking they're dealing with you in a business relationship and if offended, i can understand it.

    It's not so, it is just a custom and it might take some time to get used to or you might not get used to it at all, but accept it or not, it's there.

    On the contrary these days, if the person doesn't ask this "多少錢" and keeps taking things from me then i'll have an uneasy feeling about the other person, haha.

    ~~~

    I surveyed some dudes ... and they're responses were similar... they all started with:

    "多少錢" followed by:

    a)我要環錢你
    b)我要付錢你
    c)我要把錢給你

    so, the choice is yours:

    多少錢,我要環錢你 (how much? i'm going to return the money to you)
    多少錢,我要付錢你 (how much? i'm going to pay you)
    多少錢,我要把錢給你 (how much? i'm going to give the money to you)

    My 2 cents.
     
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    viajero_canjeado

    Senior Member
    English - Southeastern USA
    Indigoduckie, that's a blazin' stellar answer! Thanks for taking the time to survey; that's precisely the kind of responses I was looking for.
     

    JJchang

    Senior Member
    NZ - English, Chinese
    Actually, it's not a regional difference. This truly is the traditional chinese way of doing things. It's not ill-mannered. Chinese are very humble people and don't like to "owe" anything to anybody or seen from a different perspective, "take advantage" of someone else.

    I used to see "多少錢" as being ill-mannered as well because you are not taking the offering as "friendly" offering and you're thinking they're dealing with you in a business relationship and if offended, i can understand it.

    It's not so, it is just a custom and it might take some time to get used to or you might not get used to it at all, but accept it or not, it's there.

    On the contrary these days, if the person doesn't ask this "多少錢" and keeps taking things from me then i'll have an uneasy feeling about the other person, haha.

    ~~~

    I surveyed some dudes ... and they're responses were similar... they all started with:

    "多少錢" followed by:

    a)我要環錢你
    b)我要付錢你
    c)我要把錢給你

    so, the choice is yours:

    多少錢,我要環錢你 (how much? i'm going to return the money to you)
    多少錢,我要付錢你 (how much? i'm going to pay you)
    多少錢,我要把錢給你 (how much? i'm going to give the money to you)

    My 2 cents.
    Mate, I think I really don't need you to say what "truly is the traditional Chinese way of doing things". I can't tell whether you are a native Chinese or not, your Chinese shows you are not but judging from your English you are...

    Your (a) and (b) are grammatically incorrect, and (a) also has a word wrong. (c) is OK but not refined. Did those dudes you surveyed correct you?
     

    indigoduck

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Mate, I think I really don't need you to say what "truly is the traditional Chinese way of doing things". I can't tell whether you are a native Chinese or not, your Chinese shows you are not but judging from your English you are...

    Your (a) and (b) are grammatically incorrect, and (a) also has a word wrong. (c) is OK but not refined. Did those dudes you surveyed correct you?
    Yikes, i apologize for my sloppiness. It's easy to confuse 環(ring) for 還(return) when using a computer.

    a)我要還錢(給)你 or 我要還給你錢
    b)我要付錢(給)你 or 我要付給你錢
    c)我要把錢(給)你 or 我要給你錢

    I usually omit the 給 when preceded by 多少錢. In general, people will understand.
     

    Razzle Storm

    Senior Member
    English - America
    Yikes, i apologize for my sloppiness. It's easy to confuse 環(ring) for 還(return) when using a computer.

    a)我要還錢(給)你 or 我要還給你錢
    b)我要付錢(給)你 or 我要付給你錢
    c)我要把錢(給)你 or 我要給你錢

    I usually omit the 給 when preceded by 多少錢. In general, people will understand.
    Er, why would you omit such a key word? If you wanted to omit anything, you could omit the 钱 (if for some reason you have a compulsory need to omit things), as long as you had your wallet out and it was clear you were talking about money, but not the 给. The only time you could omit the 给 is when you have the verb directly modifying 你 (我要还你钱,我要付你钱), and even then, the grammar is a bit shaky. With 把, 给 cannot be ommitted, regardless of the cirumstance. Chinese needs verbs (regardless of whether or not they are passive). I think you might have misunderstood the people you were surveying?

    As for the OP, I personally would say 我要给你多少钱? or 我该给你多少钱? (literally "How much am I going to give you?" and "How much should I give you?" respectively) IF we were ignoring all forms of manners or anything. Even then, it's not that offensive, especially if you already know the person. This might be the case if it was already pre-arranged and both parties had agreed on them buying something for me. Otherwise, it would be pretty customary to refuse a few times before accepting, and then offer to pay for the next meal if you were seeing them again. Again, this is assuming you care about customs and cultural differences. If you simply want to pay this person back, no questions asked, you've got quite a few options as seen in the rest of the thread.
     
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    JJchang

    Senior Member
    NZ - English, Chinese
    That reminds me the joke of a guy having a poster saying "此處賣西瓜" in front of his watermelon stall in a market. Someone walked by and said "We all know you are selling the melons here, why don't you omit the words 此處 from the poster?", and the guy crossed off the words 此處. Later someone else walked by and asked "you only have watermelon, why don't you just omit the word watermelon?", so that guy crossed off the word watermelon from his poster. Another person walked by and say "If the stall is in the market then these melons are for people to buy, why don't you just omit the word sell?", so the guy crossed off 賣 from his poster. At the end he has nothing on his poster.

    Following the same logic, perhaps you don't need to say any word and just give the person the money.
     

    Jerry Chan

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hokkien
    Following the same logic, perhaps you don't need to say any word and just give the person the money.
    This is very true.
    If we know the price, we'll just pay they money.
    NO QUESTION ASKED.

    Like indigoduck says, this is a custom for many Chinese.
    Not just in Hong Kong, obviously.
     

    JJchang

    Senior Member
    NZ - English, Chinese
    Alas, after several weeks you still haven't read the question from the original post. Indigoduck doesn't even know the function of the word 給, so yeah, I wouldn't treat his information as some sort of expert opinion.

    By the way, have you learnt the term "sarcasm" yet you clever boy?
     
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