Top Ten Common Chinese Phrases That Every Non-Chinese Speaker Should Know
Whether you are travelling to Mandarin or Chinese speaking countries like China and Taiwan or encountering a Chinese tourist in your home city, it is wise to know a few common Chinese phrases.
Knowing just a few basic words can help you interact with Chinese speakers and open the door to further inter-cultural exchanges.
Here are our top 10 (easy) Common Chinese phrases that you can practice without the hassle of spending hours to learn Mandarin in Singapore.
1. 你好! (nǐ hǎo) – Hi!
A simple but easy first phrase you should know and use, meaning ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ to greet new Chinese friends or shop owners.
2. 你好吗? (nǐ hǎo ma) – How are you?
Following up on your friendly greeting is the next phrase asking, ‘How are you?’
You will often hear the word ‘ma’ at the end of a Chinese speaker’s sentence. In Chinese, depending on the type of question, there are many words used to ask questions at the end of a sentence. However, ‘ma’ is the most commonly used.
3. 你吃了吗? (nǐ chī le ma) – Have you eaten?
Chinese speakers are actually very welcoming. In the spirit of being hospitable, they will also ask whether or not you have eaten.
Friendly Chinese speakers will offer you a handful of fruits, nuts or other interesting foods if you have not eaten. If you have eaten, simply reply ‘吃了’ (chī le).
4. 多少钱? (duō shao qián?) — How much?
A must-know phrase for shoppers buying from a Chinese owned shop. This phrase helps you to ask how much a product cost.
5. 我要 (wǒ yào) – I want
By pointing at something while saying Wǒ yào will communicate your needs and wants effectively. Some Chinese, however, may reply with the following below.
6. 没有 (méi yǒu) – Don’t have
This phrase means that don’t have the products you want. It’s pronounced like Mayo, the salad dressing, so it’s pretty easy to remember.
7. 对 (duì) – Yes / 不对 (bú duì) – No
It’s imperative that you know how to say ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. By using hand gestures and common sense, you can kind of figure out what a Chinese speaker is asking you. But a simple duì or bú duì can go a long way.
Combine these two words to turn them into a question – duì bú duì – Yes or no?
If you’re trying your hardest to let the conversation continue but you’re lost along the way, there are another two phrases you could use to express your confusion, as shown below.
8. 我听不懂 (wǒ tīng bù dǒng) — I do not understand
This phrase indicates that you have difficulty understanding something and will give them an idea to explain things in an easier manner or call for help.
9. 对不起我的中文不好 (duì bu qǐ, wǒ de zhōng wén bù hǎo) — I beg your pardon, my Chinese is not good
This phrase would have a higher possibility to help diffuse any problems with your Chinese conversations as you have already stated that your Chinese language skill is not that good thus you may have difficulties continuing the conversation.
10. 再见! (zài jiàn!) — Goodbye! Or 拜拜! (!) — Bye Bye!
To end and say your goodbyes to your new Chinese friend, you can use the more complex zài jiàn or an easy bài bài which is very similar to the English saying, ‘Bye Bye.’
Now wasn’t that an easy run-through? And here you thought you might have a challenging time. Thank you for reading, 谢谢Xièxiè – Thank you!