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11 Ways to Say Hello in Chinese | Greetings in Chinese

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HOW TO SAY HELLO IN CHINESE

Everyone knows the term nihao, but is it the only way to say hello in Chinese? In this video lesson we picked more than 10 different phrases to say hi in Chinese, all listed in Chinese writing as well. Next time when you want to greet people, you will have a lot more expressions to choose from. Also you can learn more about one specific way to say Hello in Chinese – say what are you doing in Chinese.

LESSON NOTES


How to Say Hello in Chinese with Characters

1. 你好

nǐ hǎo – literal. you good; you fine liberal. hello; hi
Literally, 你好 indicates something like “(I bet) you’re fine”. It is the most popular way of how to say hi in Chinese. Even though everyone knows 你好 as the standard greeting in Chinese, but 你好 (hello in Chinese characters) is actually way less casual than the simple “hello” or “hi” in English. I can’t think of a time when I saw my friend and said 你好. It’s more for situations like interviews or a non-personal phone call.

2. 您好

nín hǎo – literal. you(respectfully) good; you(respectfully) fine liberal. hello; hi
Is there a more formal and polite way of how to say 你好? In Chinese, there’s a very polite, formal and respectfully way of saying 你, which is 您 nín. 您好 is the polite and respectful way to write hello in Chinese characters. 您 is constructed by two components, 你 nǐ “you”, and 心 xīn, meaning “heart”, which indicates that “you really put this person in your heart” so that instead of 你, you will address them as 您. This is just a perfect example of how different elements with separate meanings are put together to build a new character that means the two Chinese elements combined.

 

Greetings in Chinese at Different Time of the Day

3. 早;早上好

zǎo; zǎo shàng hǎo – literal. early/morning; early/morning good liberal. good morning
How to say hi in Chinese to someone in an early morning? Use 早上好, or a simple 早.

4.下午好

xià wǔ hǎo – literal. afternoon good liberal. good afternoon
Just like 早上好, greetings in Chinese during a specific time of the day uses the same sentence pattern:
  • time( 早上 / 下午 / 晚上) + 好

When it’s in the afternoon, we say 下午好.

5.晚上好

wǎn shàng hǎo – literal. evening/night good liberal. good evening
This is another one of the commonly used greetings in Chinese related to the time of the day. When you meet someone in the evening, you say 晚上好, but if you want to say good night in Chinese as a goodbye for the night or before you go to bed, you say 晚安 wǎn’ān.

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How to Say Hello in Chinese on the Phone

6. 喂

wèi – literal. hello; hey liberal. hello; hey
When you pick up a phone call, how to say hello in Chinese? You can say 你好 of course, but a more casual and informal way of greetings in Chinese on the phone is just a simple 喂, and don’t forget to change into a more curious second tone 喂 wéi if you’re implying “who’s calling“. But using 喂 to say hi in Chinese in person might not be a good idea – just like the English equivalent “hey” can sometimes be rude. The characters for 喂 has the Chinese radical 口 kǒu in it, indicating that the meaning of the character has something to do with (1)mouth; (2)speaking.

 

How to Say Hi in Chinese to A Friend

7. 吃了吗

chī le ma – literal. ate yet liberal. have you eaten yet; have you had dinner yet
Even though nowadays people use 吃了吗 less and less, to the point where this term is almost a cliche, you’ll still hear it every now and again. This expression was commonly used back in the days when food was not enough and meals were the major concern of the day, and has lost its popularity long since. But then again, it could be a good way of greetings in Chinese when you meet someone(neighbors and roommates especially) during an after-dinner walk, wondering if the person you meet has already had dinner too.

8. 去哪儿啊

qù nǎ ‘ér ‘a – literal. to go where liberal. where are you going?
If you see your friend on the street and want to catch up, use this term to start the question. Here 啊 a is used to emphasize the question a little

9. 去干嘛呢

qù gàn má ne – literal. to go to do what liberal. what are you going to do
Just like the last one, this term is good for striking up a conversation when you see someone on the street, even though most of the time when people greet you with questions like 去哪儿啊, 去干嘛呢, they don’t really expect a detailed answer.

 

How to Say Hello in Chinese to Someone You Haven’t Seen In A While

10. 最近怎么样啊

zuì jìn zěn me yàng ’a – literal. lately how (are you) liberal. how have you been lately
What if you just see someone that you haven’t seen for a while, how to say hi in Chinese to them? 最近怎么样 would be a great choice! You can also add a 啊 a at the end of the question for a stronger intonation by saying 最近怎么样啊. Unlike 去哪儿啊 or 去干嘛呢, when people say 最近怎么样啊, they are probably ready to hear all your stories.

11. 最近好吗

zuì jìn hǎo ma – literal. lately good(?) liberal. have you been well lately
If you want to show that you care about someone, ask them 最近好吗 to show that you hope them have been well during the time that you haven’t seen each other.
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