Basic Chinese Phrases for Beginners

Learning how to communicate with the locals is an essential task, regardless of whether you’re planning to visit a foreign country or live there altogether.
In China, where language diversity is apparent, it’s vital to learn some basic Mandarin or Cantonese. 
Since Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in China (and the world!), we will be using Mandarin phrases for this article.
Here are some common Chinese words and phrases you can use.

Chinese Phrases for Greetings

While it’s true that a simple “hi” would suffice for most people, Chinese greetings often require certain nuances in intonation and body language.
Chinese is a tonal language, which means you also need to regulate your voice pitch when speaking.
For example, when saying “ni hao ma” or “how are you?” you must start with a neutral tone before going into a lower pitch and ending at a higher one.
It’s also important to remember Chinese social customs and etiquette, such as nodding heads, bowing, waving, and shaking hands (for business dealings).
Here are some of the most important greetings to remember:
  • Good morning – Zǎoshang hǎo (早上好)
  • Morning! (shortened, casual) – Zǎo! (早!)
  • Good night – Wǎn’ān (晚安)
  • Hello/Good day – Nǐhǎo (你好)
  • Hello (on the phone) – Wèi (喂)
  • How are you? – Nǐ hǎo ma (你好吗?)
  • Very good (response to “how are you?”) – Hěn hǎo (很好)
  • Not good (response to “how are you?”) – Bú tài hǎo (不太好)
  • Nice to meet you – Xìng huì (幸会)
  • Good bye – Zàijiàn (再见)
  • See you soon (casual) – Huí tóu jiàn (回头见)
Various Chinese words and phrases for greetings.

Chinese Phrases for Politeness

Politeness and courtesy play vital roles in any conversation with those you aren’t intimately familiar with.
Here are some useful phrases to help you out.
  • Thank you – Xiè xiè (谢谢)
  • Thank you so much! – Fēicháng gǎnxiè! (非常感谢!)
  • You’re welcome – Bú kèqi (不客气)
  • Please – Qǐng (请)
  • Sorry – Duìbùqǐ (对不起)
  • Sorry to bother you – Mǎfan nǐ le (麻烦你了)
  • Okay – Hǎo (好)
  • Yes – Shì (是)
  • No – Bù (不)
  • Excuse me – Bù hǎo yìsi (不好意思)
  • May I ask… – Qǐng wèn… (请问…)
  • No problem – Méi wèntí (没问题)
  • It doesn’t matter (responding to apologies) – Méi guānxi (没关系)
Various words and phrases Chinese people use to be polite.

Chinese Phrases for Conversations

Small talk is a great way to build connections and make friends with Chinese locals.
These are some of the best phrases you can use:
  • What’s your name? – Nǐ jiào shénme míngzì? (你叫什么名字?)
  • My name is … – Wǒ jiào… (我叫…)
  • Have you eaten? – Chī le ma? (吃了吗?)
  • Where are you from? – Nǐ shì nǎlǐ rén? (你是哪里人?)
  • I’m from… – Wǒ shì … rén (我是…人)
  • How old are you? – Nǐ duōdà?  (你多大?)

Chinese Phrases for Special Occasions

Chinese locals love their celebrations! 
When you find yourself at a fun event with a Chinese friend or boss, you can use these phrases to impress:
  • Happy birthday – Shēngrì kuàilè (生日快乐)
  • Congratulations – Gōngxǐ gōngxǐ (恭喜恭喜)
  • May you be prosperous (usually for Chinese New Year celebrations) – Gōngxǐ fācái (恭喜发财)
  • Good luck! – Zhù nǐ hǎo yùn! (祝你好运!)

Other Chinese Phrases to Remember

If you really want to sound like a local, it may be a great idea to brush up on some slang. 
Here are a few phrases to spice up your daily conversations:
  • Let’s go – Wǒmen zǒu ba (我们走吧)
  • Awesome/Cool! – Bàng jí le! (棒极了!)
  • Really? (surprised) – Zhēn de ma? (真的吗?)
  • Oh my God! (literal: “Oh sky!” or “Oh heaven!”) – Tiān na! (天哪!)
  • No way! – Bú huì ba! (不会吧!)
  • Hold on/wait a minute – Děng yíxià (等一下)
  • Long time no see – Hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn! (好久不见!)
Other Chinese phrases you can use.

Trusted Chinese Language Translator

Chinese can be a tough language to learn, but it’s not impossible to master it with enough practice.
Of course, the best way to learn is by having conversations with people who know it best—the locals.
Be sure to remember language and etiquette fundamentals, and if you want to take it to the next level, sign up for a Chinese language course.
That said, your important travel documents must be translated at an expert level from the get-go.
Elite Translations can promise a high level of expertise when it comes to Chinese translations. We have an extensive Chinese translator network, and our experts have bilingual fluency and subject-matter expertise in most industries.
Most of all, we handle all documents with care and strictly adhere to comprehensive data security and data privacy standards.
Contact us now to get a FREE quote, and let’s get to it!