Guide on How to Say “No Money” in Cantonese

Learning essential phrases in a foreign language can greatly enhance your travel experiences and interactions with local people. One common phrase that may come in handy is “no money.” In this guide, we will explore various ways to express this phrase in both formal and informal contexts in Cantonese. Whether you’re a traveler or simply interested in the language, we’ll provide you with tips, examples, and regional variations (if necessary) to help you communicate effectively.

Formal Expressions

When interacting in a more formal setting or with someone you have just met, it is respectful to use more polite language. Here are some formal ways to say “no money” in Cantonese:

1. 冇錢 (mou4 cin2)

The expression “冇錢” is a formal way to say “no money” in Cantonese. It is widely understood in Hong Kong and the surrounding regions. This phrase can be useful when discussing financial matters with strangers, in official settings, or during business interactions.

2. 無錢 (mo4 cin2)

Another formal equivalent of “no money” is “無錢.” This expression is similar to “冇錢” and is commonly used in formal situations across Cantonese-speaking regions. It is appropriate to use when conversing with people you are not familiar with or in professional settings.

Informal Expressions

When communicating with friends, relatives, or in casual settings, it is common to use more relaxed, informal expressions. Here are some informal ways to say “no money” in Cantonese:

1. 冇錢 (mou5 cin2)

Although “冇錢” was listed as a formal expression earlier, it is also widely used in informal conversations. When speaking with friends or people you are comfortable with, you can use this phrase to convey a more casual tone. It is primarily used in Hong Kong, Macau, and surrounding regions.

2. 冇錢佬 (mou5 cin2 lou2)

In informal contexts, you can add the term “佬” after “冇錢” to make it more colloquial. “佬” is a Cantonese slang term that roughly translates to “guy” or “person.” By using “冇錢佬,” you are playfully emphasizing your lack of funds. However, keep in mind that this expression should only be used among friends or close acquaintances.

Regional Variations

Cantonese, spoken in different regions, may have slight variations in expressions and vocabulary. Here are a few regional adaptations of how to say “no money” in specific areas:

1. 沒錢 (mut6 cin2)

In mainland China and some parts of Guangdong province, such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the phrase “沒錢” is commonly used to mean “no money.” This expression, while similar to the ones mentioned earlier, is the preferred way of expressing the same idea in these regions.

2. 冇紙 (mou5 zi2)

In certain rural areas of Guangdong province, such as the Chaozhou-Shantou region, local people may use the phrase “冇紙” instead of “冇錢.” The term “紙” literally means “paper,” but in this context, it represents money. It is important to note that this variation is limited to specific areas.

Tips for Usage

When utilizing these phrases, it’s essential to consider the context and your relationship with the person you are speaking to. Follow these tips to effectively communicate your lack of funds in Cantonese:

1. Tone and Body Language

While the words themselves convey the meaning, your tone of voice and body language play a crucial role in communication. Maintain a polite and friendly tone, even when using informal expressions among friends to avoid appearing rude or disrespectful.

2. Appropriateness

Choose the appropriate level of formality based on the situation. Formal expressions should be reserved for professional environments, official interactions, or conversations with strangers. Informal expressions are best suited for casual conversations with friends and family.

Example: If a friend asks you to join them for an expensive activity, you can use the informal expression “冇錢佬” playfully to convey your financial limitations.

3. Non-Verbal Cues

Non-verbal cues, such as a gentle smile or a shrug, can help convey your message effectively. They can also soften the impact of your response, especially if you need to decline an invitation due to a lack of funds.

4. Politeness and Gratitude

When declining an invitation or explaining your financial situation, always maintain a polite and grateful tone. Express appreciation for the offer or invitation while kindly explaining your inability to participate due to budget constraints.

5. Utilize Local Resources and Phrases

While learning these phrases is valuable, it’s also helpful to familiarize yourself with local customs, customs, and gestures related to discussing financial matters. This will allow you to better understand and adapt to each specific situation.


Being able to express “no money” in Cantonese is an essential skill that can help you navigate various situations while traveling or interacting with Cantonese speakers. Remember to use the appropriate level of formality and consider your relationship with the person you are speaking to. By following the tips and examples provided in this guide, you’ll be better equipped to handle conversations about finances politely and effectively. Enjoy your Cantonese learning journey!

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