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Respect: 尊敬 vs 尊重


Dear Qing Wen, with all due respect,

I still get confused with the terminology for respect in Chinese.

How do you say “I respect his skill, but I don’t respect the person?”

As I understand it there are different ways to express the different concepts that are covered by the English term “respect”.

The idea that we should respect our elders is different from the idea contained in I respect your need for personal space.

For example, another hard to express saying, for me, is “If you respect your tools, you won’t use a chisel as a screwdriver.” At a funeral we “pay our respects” to the deceased.

Is there any possibility that clearing this up might be worthy of a future episode of “Qingwen”?


A Rice Eater in Taiwan


(n.):(受人)尊敬 尊敬的(各位老师、领导、来宾)



Hi, I’m new to the forums and have just started “learning” Chinese (essentially still at the stage of browsing different resources).

I’ve studied Japanese and those terms also often cause confusion for non-NSJs.

Based on my experience, the left hand term is more akin to admiration such as for a famous person or if someone does something great that inspires you to be more like them (hero worship, etc.), whereas the right hand term is closer to respecting someone’s right to exist (human rights), right to freedom, etc.

I would guess that the concept of “respecting your elders” is closer to the meaning of the left hand word than that of the right and that the concepts of “respecting your tools” and “respecting your personal space” are closer to the meaning of the right-hand word than that of the left.

I’m no linguist, but I feel that “pay your respects” is more of an idiom that refers to expressing compassion for the loss felt by the person.

It is possible to express this in Japanese with “ご愁傷様です” (essentially “I’m sorry for your loss” or “my condolences”). The first and last two characters are only in Japanese, but the other three characters may be understandable and/or have an equivalent in Chinese (I’m pretty sure there is an equivalent in most languages and cultures).

I hope this helps to clarify your understanding of the two terms at question.