Teochew: How Do You Say “Sorry”

by | Apr 4, 2019 | Teochew, Teochew - How Do you Say

Listen to Podcast | Teochew: How Do You Say “Sorry”

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New Words

EnglishTeochewFormal RomanizationOur Romanization
Dui m zuDui mm zu
Embarrassed / Shy / Excuse me孬意思
Mo i seMor yi seir

Podcast Transcript | Teochew: How Do You Say “Sorry”

Hi there! My name is Eugene and welcome to our Teochew – How Do You Say Podcast on In your daily conversations, how often do you have to apologize? For me, I apologize all the time as I am rather clumsy, often knocking things over. As such, knowing how to say sorry is rather important for me.

In Teochew, we express sorry as 对唔住. For example, 对唔住, 我无买你要食个鱼圆面, which translates into “Sorry, I did not buy the fishball noodles that you wanted”. I would say 对唔住 generally represents a more serious manner of apology. If the situation is not too serious, you can use 孬意思 to express your apology. For example, 孬意思,我无Facebook. By saying 孬意思, you convey a sense of embarrassment or shyness too.

However, younger generation Teochews in Singapore seldom use 孬意思 but will instead borrow a widely-used phrase 歹势 from the Hokkiens. In fact, even the pronunciation is followed closely. Hokkiens pronounce it as “paiseh” while Teochews pronounce it as “paisare”. As such, to admit that I’m wrong, I would say 歹势, 我 salah了. “Salah” is also a loan word from Malay that Teochews often use to represent being wrong.

Last but not least, you can also use the exact English word “Sorry” to express your apology, but with a slight tweak in pronunciation. Local Teochews in Singapore have adapted the usage of “Sorry” and pronounce it as “Sor-li” so you can say “Sor-li, 我无买你要食个鱼圆面”.

Did you notice that the multi-cultural aspect of Singapore makes learning Teochew easier, as we can borrow words from other languages? Once again, apologies are expressed by Teochew people via:



歹势 and


Hope you find the varying degrees and ways of apologizing in Teochew useful. Feel free to share with us your thoughts by leaving us a comment. I’m Eugene from and see you the next week!

Love what you are reading? We’ve got lots more to share during our Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese express workshops. Join us to pick up words and phrases for everyday use in Singapore. More importantly, you can help to keep these languages alive!

Our Philosophy for Learning Teochew in Singapore

While we include formal romanization for Teochew words, we are advocates of easy learning. Hence, we encourage you to form your own phonics so that you make an association with these Teochew words quickly. To illustrate, the formal romanization of “Teochew” is “diê ziu“. However, in our ”Can You Teach Me” podcast transcript, you’ll find that we use “teo chew”, which we think relates to us better. That said, you may use other romanization (e.g “dio chew”, “dio jiu“, etc), as long as it helps you to make sense of what you hear.


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