There are multiple ways to greet someone using Mandarin Chinese. These often differ from what we are used to in English. The reasons are cultural and historical. Let’s look at a few different ways to greet someone using the Chinese language.

Greeting using 你好

This phrase is pronounced like “knee” “how” and means hello. This is a universal greeting in Chinese. You can use it in most situations you would encounter.

你好 can also become 您好, which is pronounced like “kneen” “how”, adding the final “n” sound. The phrase 您好 should be used sparingly, only in situations where showing extra respect is necessary. For instance, 您好 is often used when dealing with customers or clients, people of a higher rank such as a boss, and people of an older generation.

Greeting using 你吃了吗?

This phrase is pronounced like “knee” “chur” “luh” “ma” and means “have you eaten yet?” This is a common greeting often used in casual situations with people you are familiar with. Even though this phrase is a question, it serves as a greeting. The proper way to answer this question is with a statement, such as 我吃了 (“I have eaten”) or 我还没吃 (I have not eaten yet). Food is central to Chinese culture and asking if someone has eaten is a way of showing that you care about this person’s well being.

Greeting using 最近怎么样?

This phrase is pronounced like “zway” “gin” “zen” “muh” “yahng” and means “how’s it been going recently?” This greeting often feels comfortable to English speakers as it fits with a type of communication style prevalent in many cultures. This direct question greeting works in Chinese as well. You will usually get a reply of 好 (“good”),还好 (“ok”),不好 (“not good”),or 不错 (“not bad”). You also might get a explanation of what the person has been up to in the past few weeks or days.

These are a few common greetings that you can use when communicating in Mandarin Chinese. Check out our website for more useful phrases in both Chinese and English.

Let us know if you have any questions and we will discuss them in a further post.