Looking to say hello to a new language? Start here with 42 unique ways to say hello in Chinese that go way beyond Nǐ hǎo.
Maybe you’ve set your sight on mastering Chinese, or maybe you’re just curious about the language. Whatever the case may be, the first thing you’ll want to learn is how to say hello in Chinese!
Though you may think learning how to say hello in a new language is just a matter of learning a word or two, that’s rarely the case. In most languages—including English—there are plenty of ways to say hello depending on the context. Plus, knowing several different greetings is an easy way to add some personality to your everyday conversations!
While knowing multiple greetings is always helpful, learning how to say hi in Chinese in different ways pays off more so than in other languages. That’s because certain situations will require different greetings, and you risk being offensive if you don’t use the right one! Keep reading and we’ll tell you all about it so you don’t make a faux-pas when you’re just trying to say hello in Mandarin Chinese.
This blog will take you through everything you need to know to greet a wide range of people, from your friends to your teacher and even your in-laws! Plus, we’ll even show you how to customize a greeting to any situation you’re in.
Ready to get started?
Why is it important to know how to say hello in Chinese?
Learning how to say hello in every language is important, of course, but it’s especially so in Chinese. Here’s why:
1. You shouldn’t rely on nǐ hǎo.
While this is the most common greeting that you’ll hear in the streets of China, you shouldn’t rely on it forever. This is a sort of textbooky and impersonal greeting, so you want to avoid using it with people you’ve already built some rapport with. You don’t want to nǐ hǎo your way through China!
2. Context matters.
Interpersonal relations are extremely important for virtually every interaction in Chinese. The concept of filial piety is particularly important, as showing respect for your elders is crucial. The quickest way to annoy people is to use greetings that aren’t context-appropriate!
3. Some greetings sound nothing like hello.
As you’ll see when you work your way through our list of Chinese greetings, there are plenty of ways to say hello that sound like anything but a greeting! The good news is that this also means you can also use a wide variety of phrases to greet your friends—you just gotta know what to look out for!
Firstly, how do you actually say “hello” and “hi” in Mandarin Chinese?
Whether you’ve been learning Mandarin for a while or haven’t taken your first class yet, you’ve probably heard nǐ hǎo as a common way to say hello in Chinese. This is the most common way to say hello in Mandarin, but it is not the only way. Let’s break the expression down.
- 你 (nǐ). This translates to the second person singular “you.”
- 好 (hǎo). This translates to “good” or “well.”
Thus, 你好 (nǐ hǎo) literally translates into “you good.” The key takeaway here is that “hello” in Mandarin includes a subject and you’re allowed to change that subject depending on who you’re talking to! For example, if you’re talking to your boss or someone you should be extra respectful too, you can use the formal 您 (nín) instead of 你 (nǐ): 您好 (nín hǎo).
Keep this in mind as you make your way through the rest of the article. While we’ll cover 42 different ways to say hello, there’s really an infinite number of ways to greet people since you can swap out the subject for almost anything you want!
42 other ways to say hi in Mandarin Chinese
You’re probably dying to get into all the different ways to say hello in Chinese by now. Without further ado, let’s get into 42 unique ways to greet your friends, family, teachers, neighbors, strangers, and just about anyone in Chinese!
If you’ve just started learning Mandarin, you may still be working on nailing the pinyin pronunciation. That’s why we’ve included a pronunciation column to help you in the meantime.
You can also check out the following video if you need some extra help getting your pinyin pronunciation down:
|Hello.||你好||Nǐ hǎo||nee hao||Most basic greeting. Casual and somewhat impersonal.|
|Hello. (Formal)||您好||Nín hǎo||neen hao||Formal version of 您好 (nǐ hǎo), should be used when addressing superiors.|
|How are you?||你好吗？||Nǐ hǎo ma||nee hao ma||Question version of 您好 (nǐ hǎo). The 吗 (ma) at the end is similar to an English question mark. However, this expression is rarely used in casual conversation.|
|How are you? (Formal)||您好吗？||Nín hǎo ma||neen hao ma||Formal version of 你好吗 (nǐ hǎo ma). However, this expression is rarely used in casual conversation.|
|Hello. (Second person plural)||你们好||Nǐmen hǎo||nee men hao||Plural version of (nǐ hǎo).|
|Hello all.||大家好||Dàjiā hǎo||da gee-ah hao||Quick way to say hello to three or more people. Not too casual and not too formal.|
|Hello, everyone.||各位好||Gèwèi hǎo||guh-way hao||Quick way to say hello to two or more people. Not too casual and not too formal.|
|Hello, teacher.||老师好||Lǎoshī hǎo||lao shih hao||Polite way to say hello to your teacher (or any teacher).|
|Hello, friends.||朋友们好||Péngyǒumen hǎo||puhng yo men hao||Polite way to say hello to your friends. Usually used when making public speech|
|Good morning.||早安||Zǎoān||zah-oh ahn||Quick way to say hello in the morning.|
|Good morning.||早上好||Zǎoshàng hǎo||zah-oh shang hao||Quick way to say hello in the morning.|
|Morning.||早||Zǎo||zah-oh||Quick way to say hello in the morning.|
|Good afternoon||下午好||Xiàwǔ hǎo||she-ah woo hao||Quick way to say hello in the afternoon.|
|Good evening.||晚上好||Wǎnshàng hǎo||wahn shang hao||Quick way to say hello in the evening.|
|Good night.||晚安||Wǎnān||wahn ahn||Quick way to end the conversation at night.|
|Did you eat already?||吃了吗？||Chīle ma||chih luh ma||Generally, don’t answer earnestly. Just say you’ve ate! This is commonly used around meal times.|
|Have you eaten?||吃过饭吗？||Chīguò fàn ma||chih guo fahn ma||Same as above.|
|Have you eaten yet?||你吃过饭了没有？||Nǐ chīguò fànle méiyǒu||nee chih guo fan luh may yo||Same as above.|
|How are you?||你怎么样？||Nǐ zěnme yàng||nee zuhn muh yang||Casual way to greet someone and ask how they’re doing.|
|How’ve you been lately?||最近你怎么样？||Zuìjìn nǐ zěnme yàng||zoo-ay jean nee zuhn muh yang||Same as above.|
|Have you been okay lately?||最近好吗？||Zuìjìn hǎo ma||zoo-ay jean hao ma||Same as above.|
|Pleased to meet you. (Formal)||幸会||Xìng huì||sing hoo-ay||Formal way to say you’re honored to meet someone.|
|It’s an honor to finally meet you. (Very formal)||久仰||Jiǔyǎng||gee-oh yang||Even more formal way to say you’re honored to meet someone.|
|I’ve long heard your well-known name. (Most formal)||久闻大名||Jiǔ wén dàmíng||gee-oh wehn dah meeng||Most formal way to say you’re honored to meet someone.|
|Hello!(When calling someone or answering the phone)||喂！||Wèi||way||Used to say hello when calling someone or answering a phone call.|
|Hello? (When calling someone or answering the phone)||喂？||Wéi||way||Used to say hello when calling someone or answering a phone call (especially if you don’t know that person).|
|You came too!||你也来了!||Nǐ yě láile!||nee yeh lah-e luh||Casual way to say hello when unexpectedly running into someone you know.|
|How is it that you’re here?||你怎么在这里？||Nǐ zěnme zài zhèlǐ||nee zuhn-muh za-e zhuh-lee||Same as above.|
|Hello. (English loanword)||哈喽||Hā lóu||hallo||English loanword of “hello.”|
|Hello. (English loanword)||哈罗||Hā luō||hallo||Same as above.|
|Hi. (English loanword)||嗨||Hāi||hi||English loanword of “hi”|
|Hey (English loanword)||嘿||Hēi||hey||English loanword of “hey.”|
|Long time, no see.||好久不见||Hǎojiǔ bùjiàn||hao gee-oh boo gee-ahn||Used when you haven’t seen someone in a long time. In fact, the English expression came from this Chinese phrase!|
|You’re off work!||下班了！||Xiàbānle||see-ah bahn luh||Appropriate when running into someone|
|What are you up to?||干嘛呢？||Gàn ma ne||gan ma nuh||Casual way to ask someone what they’re up to.|
|Where are you headed?||去哪儿？||Qù nǎ'er||choo nar||Same as above.|
|What are you going to do?||去做什么?||Qù zuò shénme||choo zoo-oh shun-muh||Same as above.|
|Any news lately?||最近有什么新鲜事吗？||Zuìjìn yǒu shén me xīnxiān shì ma||zoo-ay geen yo shuhn-muh||Same as above.|
|Regards.||祝好||Zhùhǎo||zhoo hao||Just as in English, you can use this to send your regards to someone (used in email or letter).|
|I’m very happy to meet you.||很高兴认识你||Hěn gāoxìng rènshí nǐ||hehn gao-sing rehn-shuh nee||Used to say that you’re happy to meet someone for the first time.|
|Nice to meet you.||很高兴见到你||Hěn gāoxìng jiàn dào nǐ||hehn gao-sing gee-ahn dao nee||Same as above.|
|Nice to see you again.||很高兴再次见到你||Hěn gāoxìng zàicì jiàn dào nǐ||hehn gao-sing za-e zuh gee-ahn dao nee||Generally only used the first few times you see someone.|
How to create your own Chinese greetings
A really cool feature of Chinese is that you can get away with a lot of customization. Grammar and day-to-day use rules aren’t as rigid as in other languages, so you’re usually able to tweak the language to fit your needs and preferences.
A great example of this is how you can use a wide variety of phrases to say hello depending on the situation. For example:
|You run into a coworker after work.||Just finished work?||下班了？||xiàbān le|
|You run into a friend on the street.||What are you going to do?||去干嘛？||qù gànmá|
|You run into a friend during lunchtime or dinnertime.||Did you eat?||吃了吗？||chī le ma|
|You run into a friend at the store.||Going to buy some stuff?||去买东西吗？||qù mǎi dōngxi ma|
|You run into a friend at the basketball court.||Going to play ball?||去打球吗？||qù dǎqiú ma|
The possibilities are truly endless! So, don’t be surprised if someone greets you with a totally unique and super specific question!
FAQs for Chinese greetings
I. What’s the difference between greeting a friend versus a colleague or professional acquaintance in Chinese?
In Chinese, you want to pay close attention to how close you are with whoever you’re greeting. Saying hello in a way that is too formal or not formal enough could be offensive, so you want to make sure you pick one that’s just right.
Here’s a ranking of some common ways to say hello in Mandarin according to how formal they are:
|What are you up to?||干嘛呢？||Gàn ma ne||Most casual|
|Hello. (English loanword)||哈喽||Hā lóu||Casual|
|Hello.||你好||Nǐ hǎo||Neutral / Impersonal|
|Hello. (Formal)||您好||Nín hǎo||Formal|
|Pleased to meet you. (Formal)||幸会||Xìng huì||More formal|
|I’ve long heard your well-known name. (Most formal)||久闻大名||Jiǔ wén dàmíng||Most formal|
II. What are some Chinese greeting faux-pas?
The biggest mistake you can make when greeting someone in Chinese is not being formal enough. In general, you want to make sure you use 您 (nín) and formal greetings when saying hello to:
- The elderly, whether they’re your acquaintance or not
- Older people who you’ve just met and want to be respectful to
- Your teachers and professors
- Your supervisors at work and any high-ranking managers or directors at your company
- Your business partners
When in doubt, always opt for a more formal rather than a more casual greeting. Although being overly polite can be an issue too, it’s usually less severe than not being polite enough!
III. Are you supposed to bow when saying hello in Chinese?
No! Many people get this Japanese custom confused with China. You are not supposed to bow when saying hello in Chinese, as bowing when greeting someone is not a part of modern Chinese culture.
Instead, you’ll most likely see people do a nod or slight bow when apologizing. You may see this when someone says sorry in Chinese, like 抱歉 (bàoqiàn), 不好意思 (bùhǎoyìsi), or 对不起 (duìbuqǐ).
Keep your Mandarin studies going
Now that you know how to say hi in Chinese in over 40 unique ways, don’t stop there! Mandarin Chinese is an incredibly vast and fascinating language, with plenty of unique words, sentences, and grammar structures that are sure to have you wanting to learn even more.
But don’t let the vastness of the Chinese language discourage you! Although it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the thousands of characters you’ll need to learn, it’s important to focus on making slow and steady progress. Start by learning simple things like the animals in Chinese and counting in Chinese before moving on to more advanced stuff. You’ll become conversational before you know it!
If you enjoyed this article, check out our Mandarin Chinese blog for more vocabulary and grammar content that will help you get better and better at Chinese.