How to say hello in Mandarin Chinese must be one of the first few things you would like to know about when you begin to learn Chinese. Do we really say “你好 nǐ hǎo” to everyone when saying hi? In this article, we will not only talk about the standard ones that you can always find in textbooks, but also we will introduce you to other common and useful ways to say hi in Chinese.
你好 / 你好 nǐ hǎo Hello
You definitely can find this in all of the Chinese textbooks. Hello in Chinese, 你好 nǐ hǎo. In a real-life setting, we do use this expression to greet people, but usually to someone who is not our close friend or family member. You can use 你好 nǐ hǎo to greet your colleagues, someone you have just met, or whoever does not have a close relationship with you. It would seem a bit odd if you greet your close friend with “你好 nǐ hǎo.” For instance, today is the first day of school and you are a freshman in a high school. Someone comes into the classroom and sits next to you. You would like to introduce yourself.
Nǐ hǎo, wǒ jiào lǐ míng. Nǐ ne?
Hi, my name is Lǐ míng. How about you?
Nǐ hǎo, wǒ de míngzì shì lín zhōng, hěn gāoxìng rènshì nǐ.
Hi, my name is Lín zgōng. Nice to meet you.
您好 / 您好
(Polite and honoring way to say) Hello
This has similar usage with the one above. The difference is “您好 nín hǎo” is a more polite way to greet. You usually greet someone with “您好 nín hǎo” who is older than your generation, or someone that you would respect, regardless of whether they are older or younger than you. We also use this phrase when talking to customers. In our Chinese Expressions post, we talked about the cultural difference regarding why you should use “您 nín.” Let’s see a couple of examples here:
(In a restaurant)
Nín hǎo, qǐngwèn jǐ wèi?
Hi, may I ask how many people?
(A student is writing an email to his teacher to ask what the assignment is)
Lǐ lǎoshī nín hǎo, yīnwèi wǒ jīntiān shēngbìngle méi qù xuéxiào, qǐngwèn jīntiān de zhōngwén zuòyè shì shénme? Xièxiè nín!
Hi Ms. Li,
I did not go to school today because I was sick. May I ask what today’s Chinese assignment is?
早上好 / 早上好
There are another two similar ways to greet, “早 zǎo” and “早安 zǎoān.” They can all be translated to good morning or morning. So, when greeting people in the morning, you can use one of the expressions above. For instance:
(You see your colleague in the parking lot in the morning… )
Wáng péng: Lǐ míng, zǎo!
Morning, Lǐ míng!
Lǐ míng: Zǎoshang hǎo!
晚上好 / 晚上好
The usage of this expression is similar to the one above. When saying hi to others in Chinese in the evening, this is the phrase you should use.
各位先生女士，晚上好。Gèwèi xiānshēng nǚshì, wǎnshàng hǎo.
Good evening, Ladies and gentlemen!
nǐ chī le ma
Did you eat yet?
This may sound irrelevant when saying hello or hi in Chinese. But we do really say this as a greeting! Of course, not to a stranger in the street. We usually say this to someone we know. For instance, you go to a fresh market in the morning to get some cooking ingredients for the day. You bump into a senior, who is also your neighbor.
Zǎo, nǐ chīle ma?
Good morning, did you eat yet?
Zǎo a! Chīle! Nín ne?
Good morning! Yes, I did! How about you?
Keep this in mind that when you hear people greet you with this phrase, they ARE NOT implying the meaning that if you haven’t eaten, you are welcome to their house to have some food. We say this just like a normal greeting. My students used to ask me why Chinese greet people with something related to eating? Well, it reminds me of a Chinese idiom, it says 民以食为天 Mín yǐ shí wéi tiān, which literally means “Food is the God of the people.” It means “People view food as the primary need.” Food first and everything else is secondary. For some reason, we have this concept in our culture.
qù nǎ er
Where are you going?
This one seems interesting too. It’s a similar idea to the one above. When we are out and about and see a friend or someone we know, like our neighbor, you may hear a conversation like this:
Zǎo ān, yào qù nǎ’er?
Good morning, where are you going?
Zǎo! Yào qù mǎi zǎocān ne!
Morning! I am going to buy breakfast.
In some cultures, people may think “well, this is not your business.” But as I always tell my students, do not think something is weird just because it’s not what you normally do. It is just DIFFERENT. When people ask those questions, they simply just want to say hi, they don’t really want to know where are you heading.
Actually, “吃了吗? chī le ma?” and “去哪儿？qù nǎ er” are not the only two that may sound interesting as a greeting. We also ask some “obvious” questions as greetings. For instance,
If a Chinese person sees his neighbor heading out, he may say:
Yào chūqù a?
If a Chinese person bumps into his friend around lunchtime, and he sees his friend holding a Burger King bag and on the way back to his office. He may say:
Qù mǎi zhōngcān ya?
Went to get lunch?
These are pretty obvious actions and it may seem odd to mention someone’s action as a way to greet. But this is how we greet each other sometimes.
大家好 / 大家好
Hello everyone, hi all
The way to say hi to a group of people in Chinese. For instance, when you introduce yourself to a new class. You can say:
Dàjiā hǎo, wǒ jiào zhāng běnshēng.
Hi everyone, my name is zhāng běnshēng.
This phrase can also be used with time-related greeting phrases. You simply replace 好 hǎo with a time-related greeting phrase. See some examples below:
大家早安！Dàjiā zǎo ān!
Good morning, everyone!
大家晚上好！Dàjiā wǎnshàng hǎo!
Good evening, everyone!
哈罗 / 哈囉
嗨 / 嗨
If you pronounce both of these two phrases, you will find one sounds just like “Hello,” and another one sounds like “hi.” Yes, they are transliterations. You can see these two phrases often used in text messages when saying hello in Chinese.
最近怎么样？ / 最近怎麼樣？
zuìjìn zěnme yàng?
How have you been lately?
This phrase is translated as “how have you been lately?” “最近 zuìjìn” means lately, recently. And “怎么样 zěnme yàng” can be translated to “how about…” or “how is/are…” So, when you combine both together, you get the meaning. Another similar greeting expression is 你最近好吗？nǐ zuì jìn hào mǎ? Its literal meaning is “are you good lately?”
People usually use this phrase to greet someone they know and haven’t seen them for a while. It also can be used on the phone if you haven’t seen or talked to your friend for a while and finally get to talk to them. As I am writing this article in mid-April of 2020 we are experiencing the coronavirus pandemic. In the United States, we have a “Shelter in Place” order. We are not able to gather with our friends as freely as usual. When we get a chance to video chat with friends, this phrase comes in handy.
好久不见，你最近怎么样？Hǎojiǔ bùjiàn, nǐ zuìjìn zěnme yàng?
Hey, long time no see! How have you been lately?
Or you can text your friend like this…
Nǐ zuìjìn hǎo ma? Yǒu méiyǒu kǒuzhào dài?
How have you been lately? Do you have a mask to wear?
(This is no joke! Masks have become one of the most popular topics people are talking about in the year 2020.)
喂 / 喂
Hello (on the phone)
This expression is kind of vague since we only use it on the phone. It can be translated to “hello.” When answering the phone in Chinese, we usually say,
喂 wéi, (你好 nǐ hǎo / 您好 nín hǎo), (请问找哪位？qǐngwèn zhǎo nǎ wèi?)
Hello, (how are you?) (Who are you looking for?)
Since everyone is not exact the same when answering the phone, you can simply just say “喂 wéi,” or add a few more words like in the example above.
10 Ways to Say Hello in Mandarin Chinese Infographic
10 Ways to Say Hello in Mandarin Chinese Video
Bonus: Say hi during Chinese New Year!
How do you say hi in Mandarin Chinese during the Chinese New Year?
Here are the 4 phrases that we actually use!
新年好 / 新年好 Xīnnián hǎo Have a good New Year!
新年 means New Year and
好 means good, well
See how we use it:
李美 Lǐ měi is visiting her uncle and aunt’s house on the first day of Chinese New Year.
Lǐ měi: Shūshu, xīnnián hǎo!
Happy New Year, uncle!
新年快乐 / 新年快樂 xīn nián kuài lè Happy Chinese New Year!
This is the same as “新年好 Xīnnián hǎo.”
许天 Xǔ tiān is visiting his grandpa and grandma’s house.
Xǔ tiān: Yéye nǎinai, xīnnián kuàilè!
Grandpa and grandma, Happy Chinese New Year!
恭喜发财 / 恭喜發財 gōng xǐ fā cái May you have a prosperous New Year!
This phrase is used a lot when seeing people during the Chinese New Year. But keep in mind that we only say it to those who are working, meaning that you wish their career or work will do well in the coming New Year. When blessing children, we will greet them with something about their academic performance. When blessing seniors, we usually greet them with something related to their health.
祝您 __ 年行大运 / 祝您 __ 年行大運 zhù nín ＿＿ nián xíng dà yùn
Wishing you huge blessings in the Year of the ____!
Chinese zodiac signs are an important character in Chinese culture. When greeting people during the Chinese New Year, we will sometimes use this expression. Fill in the animal of the New Year in the blank. For your reference, let’s take a look at what are the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac,
鼠 shǔ Rat
牛 niú Ox
虎 hǔ Tiger
兔 tù Rabbit
龙 lóng Dragon
蛇 shé Snake
马 mǎ Horse
羊 yáng Goat
猴 hóu Monkey
鸡 jī Rooster
狗 gǒu Dog
猪 zhū Pig
So, for instance, if the New Year is the year of “RAT,” then you will say:
Zhù nín shǔ nián xíng dà yùn!
Enjoy reading this? We have other posts you may also like them!
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Say You’re Welcome: How to Say You’re Welcome in Chinese
How do you say hello in your culture and language? Share with us!