Top 11 Everyday Chinese Phrases You Need To Know
If you’d like to learn how to speak Chinese, one of the best ways to begin is to start off with a few simple phrases that every tourist needs while traveling in China.
By mastering 10 or so indispensable sentences, you can literally learn how to speak Chinese in 5 minutes; and you’ll know just enough to not only build up your confidence, but also impress your friends and family.
After all, how many people do you know who can speak Chinese?
Unlock Mandarin Chinese with these 11 everyday Chinese phrases
These 10 phrases are simple, common words and sentences that we use all the time in social conversation; but once you’ve mastered them, you can build your vocabulary by adding more each day. This way, within a short time you can have a firm grasp of elementary Chinese, as well as a feel for the pronunciation used by native Chinese speakers.
1. Hello—你好 and Goodbye—再见
Hello is 你好, which is pronounced as Nǐhǎo (Nee how) or Wèi (Way). Goodbye is 再见 pronounced as zàijiàn (Szai-jeean).
2. Thank you—谢谢 and You’re welcome—不客气
Thank you is 谢谢. Its pinyin is Xièxiè, pronounced as shieh-shieh. So say “You’re Welcome,” it is 不客气, pronounced as you Bù kèqì (Boo kuh-chi).
Note: The Chinese “x” (or “sh”) sound can be difficult for Westerners, because it’s not the way we pronounce it. Rather, it’s akin to a heavy hiss.
3. How are you?—你好吗
As a Chinese greet, you can ask how someone is. Say 你好吗—nǐ hǎo ma, pronounced as nee-hao-mah.
Notice how the first two characters is the same as Hello—你好. Adding the Chinese particle, 吗, makes hello becomes question.
4. I’m sorry—對不起 (对不起)
To apologize for anything, you can simply say 對不起 (对不起)—Duì buqĭ, pronunced as Dwee boo tchi.
If you are wondering whats the difference between 對不起 and 对不起, 對不起 is traditional Chinese and the latter is simplified Chinese. Even without different characters, they are both pronounced the same.
5. Yes—是 and No—不
To say “yes” in Chinese, say 是—shì or sheh. And to say “no” in Chinese it is 不—Bù shì, pronounced as bu-sheh.
6. Nice to meet you—幸会
To say “Nice to meet you” in Chinese, say 幸会—Xìng huì, pronounced as sing hway.
The next three everyday Chinese phrases is essential for you if you’re planning to travel to China.
7. Do you speak English?—你会说英语吗
When traveling in any Chinese speaking country, if you want to ask if anyone knows Chinese, say 你会说英语吗—Nǐ huì shuō yīng yǔ ma? That is pronounced as “Ni hoy show ying yoo ma?”
8. I don’t understand—我听不懂
Its okay if you don’t understand everything. You can say 我听不懂—Wǒ bù dǒng, prounuced as “wuh boo dong.”
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9. Where is the bathroom?—厕所在哪里
Need to find the bathroom? Say 厕所在哪里—Xǐshǒujiān zài nǎlǐ? Pronounced as See-sow-jeean zai na-lee, with a question intonation.
The literal translation of this is “Where is the handwashing room?”
10. Very beautiful—很漂亮
If you are in awe of the beautiful wonders of the places in China, you can say 很漂亮—hĕn piàoliang, pronounced as “hen peow-leeung.”
11. Very delicious—这很好吃
Tasted some good Chinese food? Say 这很好吃—hěn hào chī, pronunced as “hen how chir.” This will be much appreciated by the locals selling Chinese street food, and will go a long way toward making your stay even more enjoyable.
Frequently asked questions
What is the basic Chinese greeting word?
The basic greeting in Chinese is 你好—nĭ hǎo, which is the basic “Hello.” Just know 你好—nĭ hǎo is the formal greeting in Chinese.
What Chinese words should I learn first?
For starters, saying Hello or 你好—Nĭ hǎo is a great start. Afterwards, you can also say My name which 我叫... (wǒ jiào…), sorry—对不起 (duì bù qǐ) and thank you—谢谢 (xiè xiè).
Are you ready to learn Chinese?
Knowing these everyday Chinese phrases when you are out and about will help your way through China and other Chinese speaking countries.
Don’t be too intimidated to correctly pronounce everything correct. Native speakers know Chinese can be difficult to pronounce, especially when you first language is not a tonal one.