Common Phrases in Chinese

Posted by Iris Liu on Nov 25, 2015

 basic Chinese phrases

When we learn a new language, it is good to start with some common and basic phrases which can be used in almost everyday conversations. "Well begun is half done!" So, let's begin our journey to daily Chinese!

1. Basic Courtesies

Being polite is important anywhere you go, here or abroad, because it shows respect for the person and the culture. The following words and phrases cover most of the pleasantries required for polite conversation in Chinese:

Nĭ hăo ma ? (How are you?)

Also commonly shorten to Nĭ hăo.

This is likely to be the first Chinese phrase that you will to learn. It is useful as a greeting or an ice-breaker and is suitable for use with all ages and professions. Remember to use the Chinese phrase, "Ni hao!" whenever you meet a Chinese friend or neighbor.

Hĕn hăo (Very Good.)

This is a standard reply to anyone who asks, "Nĭ hao ma?" It also is useful when giving praise for a job or task well done.

Xièxie. (Thank You)

Another polite term that is easy to remember and use.

-Nĭ hăo ma? (How are you?)

-Hĕn hăo (Very Good), xièxie.

Bù hăo (Not Good.)

You can also reply to," Ni hao ma?" by saying that you are not feeling so good. But it may not be so useful, because the person may show concern and ask why. If you do not know enough Chinese, then you probably won't be able to explain! This is also a useful phrase when there is a need to comment on a shoddy or incomplete job or task.

-Nĭ hăo ma? (How are you?).

-Bù hăo (Not Good.)


In Chinese, you would rarely use qĭng (please) by itself. It is usually used as part of a question or request.

-Qĭngwèn (Excuse me).

-Qĭngwèn, dào bĕijīng fàndiàn zĕnme zŏu? (Excuse me, how to get to the Beijing Hotel?).

2. Personal Pronouns

A common way to refer to people is using personal pronouns. In Chinese, the pronoun you is complicated by formality and you'll use slightly different variations of the word depending on who you are referring to.

The personal pronouns in Chinese are:

( I ).

(he/ she/ it)

wŏmen (we)

tāmen (they)

nĭmen (you [plural])

nĭ/nín (you [informal/formal])

3. Phrases for Travelers

Now that you've learned the basics of polite conversation, it's time to learn some other useful words. There are some phrases that are particularly helpful to international travelers. Below are several phrases that might come in handy during your stay in a Chinese-speaking country.

Duōshǎo qián?. (How much?)

Hĕn guì (Very expensive.)

When bargaining at the shops, this is the best term to use when driving a hard bargain.

Hĕn piào liang. (This is beautiful.)

Use this phrase to praise something that is nice or beautiful. It may also be used when meeting a pretty girl too!

Dī shì (Taxi)

Dī shì is the correct term, but you should be understood even if you use the English word for Taxi. They sound alike anyway.

Zài jiàn (Good bye or see you.)

This is another term that will be easily understood even if the English word is used.

Zài nă'r ? (Where is ...../thing?)

This is a good phrase to know for asking where a place is. It is especially helpful if the direction can be pointed out, such as bus or train station or hotel, rather than an oral description of where to find something.

Fā piào (Receipt)

Always ask for the receipt or fā piào at the shops or from a taxi. This may be useful if you need to complain about a fraud or shoddy product. It is also useful if you leave behind your bag or camera in the taxi.

Wŏ bú yào.(I don't want.)

Useful when refusing a tout or when offered a drink too many at the dinner table.

We hope these will be useful to you. So try to memorize them and use them in your daily conversation to help in your Chinese learning process.

About The Author

Iris Liu

Iris Liu is a Chinese Learning teacher at Hanbridge Mandarin. Iris holds a MTCSOL degree from Jilin University. Iris has the skills and drive to make learning Chinese both fun and fruitful for her students.

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