Beginner Lesson 2.1 – Ask People’s Name

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Question Word What In Chinese | Ask People's Name In Chinese

  • Question Word What in Chinese: 什么
  • Ask people's name in Chinese with last name, first name, full name and nickname


1 pr. you
1 什么 shénme q pr. what
1 shén / /
1 me / /

NOTE: ①② Neither 什 nor 么 is a word. They have to be combined with another character to form a word. You can learn more about Characters vs. Words.


Grammar 1: Question Word What in Chinese 什么 · HSK 1

shénme 什么 what

什么 is the Question Word what in Chinese. But unlike in English, when we use the Question Word 什么, it will not be automatically put at the beginning of the sentence. For example:

  • nǐ xìng shénme
    what is your last name
  • nǐ jiào shénme
    what is your (first) name


Grammar 2: Chinese Sentence Word Order · HSK 1

In Chinese, generally the sentence word order follows this structure:

Subject Verb (Predicate)Object

So the word order is the same whether it is to ask people's name in Chinese or to answer the question in Chinese. Here are the examples:



am called


are called


last name is



last name is


Grammar 3:  Ask People's Name in Chinese with 你叫什么 · HSK 1

nǐ jiào shén me 你叫什么?what are you called

To ask people's name in Chinese, there are multiple ways. We can use 你叫什么 to ask people's (1)full name; (2) first name or nick name that is not one-character. For example:


Ask/answer with first name - when the first name is two-character

Q: nǐ jiào shén me
      what are you called
A: wǒ jiào Dàwèi 
      my name is David


Ask/answer with nickname - when the first name is one-character

Q: nǐ jiào shén me
      what are you called
A: wǒ jiào Lónglong
      my name is Longlong


Ask/answer with full name

Q: nǐ jiào shén me
      what are you called
A: wǒ jiào Chéng Lóng
      my name is Cheng Long


Grammar 4. Ask People's Name in Chinese with 你姓什么 · HSK 1

nǐ xìng shén me 你姓什么?what is your last name

We can use this structure to ask people's last name. This way to ask people's name in Chinese is usually more formal or more polite. It could sound a little distant as well.

Q: nǐ xìng shén me 
what is your last name
A: wǒ xìng Lǐ 
      my last name is Li

Collapse Comments
porPremium Student May 10, 2023 at 12:05 am

你 好。
我 姓 余 宝。
你 姓 什 么?

你 好。
我 叫 余 宝。
你 叫 什 么?

mandarinpadawanPremium Student June 15, 2023 at 2:53 pm

哦叫 mandarinpadawan!

我姓 —padawan
你 姓 什么?


你 好。
我 姓 Kiomone.
你 姓 什 么?

你 好。
我 叫 Wanda.
你 叫 什 么?


How can i write my name in chinese, my first name is ayaz and last name is ansari

Lam Van DinhPremium Student September 29, 2021 at 6:18 am

Hello, In this lesson, we say Nv Jiao Shenme? We don’t need to ask Nv Jiao Shenme mingzi?

Swatantra PandeyPremium Student July 8, 2021 at 12:31 pm

Wo Jiao Shen me

Swatantra PandeyPremium Student July 8, 2021 at 12:31 pm

wo xing shen me

我 姓 Famadewa
我叫 Oluwajomiloju
我是Nigeria 人

Thank you for the videos, they have really been helpful. How can I get a Chinese name.
Thank you while awaiting your reply.

ni hao laoshi….wo xing jhinuk..

mohammadreshteen@gaiml.comStudent January 28, 2024 at 1:50 am


AnviPremium Student July 5, 2020 at 6:43 am

I have a doubt in this chapter. You said the we cannot say wo jiao first name if its only one character. and in example its written that wo jiao David is coorect. now David is also a single character..right? then how this sentence is correct

ChineseFor.UsAcademic Team July 5, 2020 at 2:22 pm

Please refer to this lesson “What Are Chinese Characters?” in our Chinese Character Course.

(You may have already gotten an answer but…) If you see the Chinese spelling of David, it is two characters so it works. David in English is “one” word, but is translated to two characters. 🙂

Pauline ZynnaStudent June 2, 2020 at 10:04 pm

This is my go to online language course this quarantine. This would probably help me to have an advanced lessons about mandarin. But, can I ask is there a difference between Chinese and Mandarin or it’s just the same?

你好! i want to be your student….i love this link. please accept!!

AungMyatTunStudent March 1, 2020 at 7:57 am

Thank for explaining.I interest chinese language.

AungMyatTunStudent March 1, 2020 at 7:56 am

Thanks you lili

UniversalPremium Student December 1, 2019 at 12:26 pm

I hope it is okay I always ask “Ni jio she me?” (in case the person living with me knows 2+ people whose surname is Wang)…

你好!How would you write and say the name “Jenna”?


ccesarPremium Student February 12, 2019 at 4:26 pm

Hi Lili! When should I use (or not use…) 名字 at the end of the question phrase, eg, 你叫什么名字….. To be polite? Is it necessary in daily conversation?


我叫 Olga你呢什么名字 ?

How do I type the Chinese characters on my keyboard?

you have to download it . or may be when you will slide your tab button on keyboard of mobile language switches .

DonaldPremium Student February 25, 2018 at 11:17 am


mtrpop3Premium Student January 2, 2018 at 5:27 am

Lili, I hear you saying shemme with the n changed to be the same as the following m of me, and I assume that you are a very careful speaker; in general, what I hear is shemme as you say it, but rarely I do hear shenme. Why do some say shenme and others shemme? Is shenme with a true n sound more formal, or what?

It’s good that you noticed the pronunciation difference. When speaking in natural language flow the pronunciation gets altered. Consonants and vowels are likely to have Pronunciation Variations because of the neighboring sounds, it is a common language phenomenon and it is not limited to Chinese language only. Same reason why tools like Siri might speak in perfect pronunciation but just sound forced and not like real human beings.

什么 shenme is a very commonly used word in Chinese, it is very colloquial, making it even more likely to have Pronunciation Variations. I would agree that the “n” in shenme might not sound like a standard “n” (the tongue position is not high enough because it is affected by the tongue position of “e”, which is lower), but probably not as low as “m”(“shemme”).

wow! Very well explained Miss Lily, thank you for that

thankyou for explaining . 谢谢 你

wohengaoxingPremium Student August 5, 2017 at 12:30 am

Years ago I learned some pinyin at a University in Shanghai, but only for about a month. There I learned the question – 你叫什么名字?Why do you teach only 你叫什么?I know that both versions have the same meaning, but when do I use either version?

你叫什么名字 is literally “you are called what name”.
你叫什么 is literally “you are called what”.

They are the same. And you can use either one for most situations.

你叫什么名字 might be a tiny little bit more polite or formal because it’s longer. Usually longer sentences sound nicer while shorter sentences might sound more straight-forward.

Here I teach 你叫什么 instead of 你叫什么名字 because this is the beginner’s first lesson and since 你叫什么 and 你姓什么 share the same construction it’s a little easier. The word 名字 and the sentence 你叫什么名字 will be in Lesson 7.

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