Common Chinese Phrases You Need To Know

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Written By Jessica Knight

Founder of Linguatics. Passionate multilinguist.

Are you planning a trip to China? Want to be able to communicate with the locals and navigate your way around the country with ease? Look no further! This article is here to help you learn some common Chinese phrases that you absolutely need to know.

From basic greetings and expressions to ordering food and drinks, asking for directions, and even shopping and bargaining, we’ve got you covered.

We’ll also give you some tips on cultural etiquette and polite phrases, as well as how to talk about your hobbies and interests.

And of course, we’ll teach you how to tell time, ask for dates, and bid farewell to your new Chinese friends.

So get ready to impress and connect with the people you meet on your journey through China. Let’s dive in and start learning these essential phrases together!

Greetings and Basic Expressions

As you walk through the bustling streets of Beijing, you can feel the warmth and energy of the city as locals greet each other with a cheerful ‘Nǐ hǎo!’ This is the most common way to say ‘hello’ in Mandarin Chinese.

Another common greeting is ‘Zǎo ān’, which means ‘good morning’.

To say ‘goodbye’, you can use ‘Zài jiàn’.

It’s important to note that in Chinese culture, it’s customary to exchange pleasantries before getting into the main topic of conversation. So, when meeting someone for the first time, it’s polite to ask ‘Nǐ jiào shénme míngzì?’ which means ‘What is your name?’

To show politeness and respect, you can also say ‘Xièxiè’ to express gratitude and ‘Duì bù qǐ’ to apologize.

These basic expressions will help you navigate through the city and interact with locals in a friendly and respectful manner.

Introducing Yourself and Others

Introduce yourself and make a memorable impression by using these phrases in your conversations.

When meeting someone for the first time in China, it is important to greet them with a friendly ‘Nǐ hǎo’ which means ‘Hello’ in English.

To introduce yourself, you can say ‘Wǒ jiào’ followed by your name, which means ‘My name is.’

If you want to ask someone’s name, you can say ‘Nǐ jiào shénme míngzì?’ which means ‘What is your name?’

It is also common to ask about someone’s nationality by saying ‘Nǐ shì nǎ guó rén?’ which means ‘Where are you from?’

To introduce someone else, you can say ‘Zhè shì’ followed by their name, which means ‘This is.’

By using these phrases, you will be able to start conversations and make a great first impression in Chinese culture.

Asking for Directions

Find your way around easily by asking for directions in Chinese. When you’re in China, it’s important to know how to ask for directions so you can navigate the streets with ease.

Here are some common phrases that will help you get to your destination. To ask ‘Where is the ?’ you can say ‘ zài nǎlǐ?’ For example, if you’re looking for a restaurant, you can say ‘Cānguǎn zài nǎlǐ?’

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To ask ‘How do I get to ?’ you can say ‘Zěnme qù ?’ For example, if you want to know how to get to the train station, you can say ‘Zěnme qù huǒchēzhàn?’

Remember to listen carefully to the directions and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you’re unsure.

Ordering Food and Drinks

Navigating the streets of China becomes even more delightful when you confidently order your favorite food and drinks in Mandarin.

To begin, it’s important to know some basic phrases. When you enter a restaurant, simply say ‘Wèi’ (喂) to get the attention of the staff.

To order food, say ‘Qǐng wèn, wǒ yào zhè gè’ (请问,我要这个), which means ‘Excuse me, I would like this one.’

If you want to order a drink, say ‘Wǒ yào yī bēi ‘ (我要一杯), filling in the blank with the name of your desired drink.

To ask for the bill, say ‘Mǎi dān’ (买单).

Finally, when you’re finished, say ‘Xièxiè’ (谢谢) to thank the staff.

With these phrases, you’ll be able to confidently order food and drinks in China.

Enjoy your meal!

Shopping and Bargaining

Discover the secrets of shopping and bargaining in China, where you’ll become a master negotiator in no time!

When shopping in China, it’s important to remember that bargaining is a common practice, especially in markets and smaller shops.

Start by greeting the shopkeeper with a friendly ‘Ni hao’ (hello) and then ask ‘Duoshao qian?’ (how much?).

Remember, the initial price the shopkeeper gives you is usually higher than what they expect you to pay, so don’t be afraid to negotiate.

A good strategy is to offer a lower price and gradually increase it until you reach a mutually agreed price.

It’s also helpful to have a calculator handy to communicate numbers easily.

Remember to keep a friendly and polite attitude throughout the process, and you’ll leave with great bargains and a sense of accomplishment.

Numbers and Counting

Get ready to become a pro at bargaining by mastering the art of numbers and counting in China. Knowing how to count in Chinese is essential when it comes to negotiating prices and making deals.

The Chinese number system is relatively straightforward, with a few unique features. The numbers from one to ten are easy to learn: yī (一), èr (二), sān (三), sì (四), wǔ (五), liù (六), qī (七), bā (八), jiǔ (九), and shí (十).

To form numbers beyond ten, you simply combine the words for the tens and ones place. For example, twenty is èrshí (二十), thirty is sānshí (三十), and so on.

By mastering the Chinese number system, you’ll have a valuable tool that will greatly enhance your bargaining skills.

Transportation and Getting Around

Hop on a bus or catch a taxi to effortlessly explore and traverse the bustling streets of China. Public transportation in China is extensive and efficient, making it easy to get around.

Buses are a popular mode of transportation, with routes that cover almost every corner of the country. They are affordable and convenient, with frequent stops and schedules.

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Taxis are also readily available in major cities, and they offer a more convenient option for getting around quickly. It’s important to note that most taxi drivers in China do not speak English, so it’s helpful to have your destination written down in Chinese characters or use a translation app.

Additionally, popular ride-hailing apps like Didi are widely used and offer a convenient way to book a ride.

Whether you choose to use public transportation or taxis, getting around in China is a breeze.

Asking for Help and Assistance

If you’re ever in need of a helping hand while exploring China, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. Chinese people are generally friendly and willing to help, especially if you approach them politely. Here are some common phrases you can use to ask for help:

  1. 请问 (Qǐngwèn) – Excuse me
  2. 可以帮忙吗? (Kěyǐ bāngmáng ma?) – Can you help me?
  3. 我迷路了 (Wǒ mílù le) – I’m lost
  4. 我不会说中文 (Wǒ bù huì shuō Zhōngwén) – I can’t speak Chinese
  5. 请帮我找一下 (Qǐng bāng wǒ zhǎo yīxià) – Please help me find

Remember to say ‘xièxiè’ (thank you) after someone helps you. It’s also helpful to have a map or the address written down in Chinese characters to show to people if needed.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, as it will make your experience in China much smoother and more enjoyable.

Making Reservations and Booking

Planning a trip to China and want to ensure a stress-free experience? Discover the key to seamless travel by mastering the art of making reservations and booking.

When it comes to reserving accommodations, it’s important to know a few key phrases. Start by saying ‘我要预订一个房间’ (wǒ yào yùdìng yīgè fángjiān), which means ‘I want to book a room.’ If you have a specific type of room in mind, you can say ‘我要预订一间双人房’ (wǒ yào yùdìng yī jiàn shuāngrén fáng), which means ‘I want to book a double room.’

To make a reservation at a restaurant, you can say ‘我想预订一桌’ (wǒ xiǎng yùdìng yī zhuō), which means ‘I would like to reserve a table.’ Remember to always confirm the details, such as the date and time, to ensure a smooth experience.

Emergency Situations and Medical Phrases

In case of an emergency, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with medical phrases to effectively communicate your needs. If you find yourself in need of medical assistance, you can say ‘救命!’ (jiùmìng), which means ‘Help!’ or ‘Save me!’ in Chinese.

To inform someone that you are feeling unwell, you can say ‘我不舒服’ (wǒ bù shūfú), which translates to ‘I don’t feel well.’

If you need immediate medical attention, you can ask for an ambulance by saying ‘我需要叫救护车’ (wǒ xūyào jiào jiùhùchē).

It’s also crucial to know how to describe your symptoms. For instance, if you have a fever, you can say ‘我发烧了’ (wǒ fāshāo le).

Being prepared with these phrases can help you communicate your needs effectively in an emergency situation.

Cultural Etiquette and Polite Phrases

Etiquette is crucial when interacting with locals in China, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with polite phrases to show respect and build positive relationships.

One of the most basic phrases you should know is ‘Nǐ hǎo,’ which means ‘hello.’ It’s a simple greeting, but it goes a long way in showing politeness and friendliness.

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When meeting someone for the first time, it’s customary to address them by their full name followed by ‘xiānsheng’ for men or ‘nǚshì’ for women, which means ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ respectively.

Additionally, using ‘xièxiè’ to say ‘thank you’ is a common way to express gratitude.

Remember to use these phrases with a smile and a respectful tone to make a positive impression.

Talking about Hobbies and Interests

Discovering new hobbies and sharing interests is a great way to connect with locals in China. Chinese people are passionate about their hobbies and enjoy discussing them. When talking about hobbies and interests, use polite phrases to show respect and interest in the other person’s activities.

Start a conversation by asking, “Nǐ xǐhuan zuò shénme yùndòng?” (What sports do you like to do?) or “Nǐ zuìjìn zhǔyào zuò shénme xiǎng qù?” (What places have you been wanting to go to recently?). Express admiration for the other person’s hobbies by saying, “Wǒ rènzhī nǐ yǒu hǎo duō yìwèi!” (I admire your talent!).

Remember to actively listen to the other person’s responses and ask follow-up questions to keep the conversation flowing.

Sharing and discussing hobbies and interests will not only help you connect with locals but also give you a deeper insight into Chinese culture.

Time and Dates

When planning a meeting or event in China, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with time and date conventions. Chinese people use a different system to express time and dates compared to Western countries.

To indicate time, they use a 12-hour clock, similar to the AM/PM format. Additionally, it’s common to use the 24 solar terms, which divide the year into 24 equal parts based on the sun’s position.

When discussing dates, it’s important to note that the Chinese calendar follows the lunar cycle and is different from the Gregorian calendar. Chinese people often mention the year, month, and day when stating a date.

Knowing these conventions will help you communicate effectively and avoid any confusion when scheduling events or meetings in China.

Farewells and Goodbyes

Saying goodbye in China can be a bittersweet moment that leaves a lasting impression. Farewells and goodbyes hold significant importance in Chinese culture, as they reflect respect and gratitude towards others.

When bidding farewell, it is customary to use phrases like ‘zàijiàn’ (goodbye), ‘wǒ zǒu le’ (I’m leaving), or ‘xièxiè’ (thank you). These phrases convey sincerity and politeness, showing appreciation for the time spent together.

Additionally, it is common to exchange contact information and express a desire to meet again in the future. Chinese culture values maintaining relationships, so it is important to leave on a positive note.

Remember that saying goodbye in China is not just a formality; it is a chance to strengthen connections and leave a lasting impression.


In conclusion, learning common Chinese phrases is essential for anyone who wants to communicate effectively in China. Whether you’re greeting someone, asking for directions, ordering food, or engaging in cultural etiquette, these phrases will come in handy.

By familiarizing yourself with these phrases, you can easily navigate through daily conversations and interactions. So why not start learning these common Chinese phrases today? It’ll not only make your trip to China more enjoyable but also help you connect with the local people on a deeper level.

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