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How to Speak Basic Chinese Phrases

Planning a visit to China? These phrases may come in handy.


  • Step 1: Say hello Say 'Ni hao' when you meet someone — or want to meet them. It means 'Hello.' Add 'ma' at the end — 'Ni hao ma?'—and you’re asking, 'How are you?'
  • Step 2: Introduce yourself Introduce yourself by saying, 'Ni hao, wo jiao…' which means, 'Hello, my name is…' Then ask for their name: 'Ni jiao shenme-mingzi?'
  • Step 3: How are you? If someone asks, 'Chifanle meiyou?' — 'Have you eaten?' — just nod yes and say, 'Xie xie,' which means 'thanks.'
  • TIP: How are you? This question is the equivalent of asking, 'How are you?'
  • Step 4: Be polite Remember your manners! Use 'ging,' 'duibuqi,' and 'bu kuh qi'—'please,' 'excuse me,' and 'you’re welcome.'
  • Step 5: Buy someone a drink Ask 'Wo ke yi qing ni he yi bei ba'—'May I buy you a drink?'
  • TIP: Buy someone a drink 'Pi jiu' means 'beer' and 'hong jiu' means 'wine.'
  • Step 6: Get a price Inquire about a price by saying, 'Duoshao qian?'—or 'How much?'
  • TIP: Spend money The Chinese currency is called renminbi, and the units are yuan, jiao (also known as mao), and fen.
  • Step 7: Find a bathroom Should you need to freshen up, ask, 'Ce suo zai nar?'—'Where can I find a restroom?'
  • Step 8: Express admiration To express your admiration, say, 'Wo xi huan ni'—'I like you.' 'Ni zhen piao liang' means 'You are wonderful.'
  • Step 9: Ask for a kiss Request a kiss with 'Wo xiang wen ni?'
  • : Ask for a kiss Context is everything—the word for kiss, 'wen,' is the same word for smell.
  • Step 10: Get directions to a hospital To find a hospital, ask, 'Yiyuan zai nar?'
  • Step 11: Ask your roommates to quiet down Kindly ask your roommates to quiet down by saying, 'bi zui,' which means 'shut your trap.'
  • Step 12: Find the train or bus When it’s time to depart, find your way to public transportation by asking, 'Huoche zhan zai nar ' — 'Where is the train station?' — or 'Qong qong qiche zai nar ' — 'Where is the bus station?'
  • Step 13: Say goodbye Bid a fond farewell with 'zai jian.' Or you can just say, 'Bye, bye.'
  • FACT: Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, followed by English and Hindi.

You Will Need

  • Language skills
  • A good memory

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