30 Basic Chinese Words For Beginners

30 Basic Chinese Words For Beginners

Traveling to China soon? Starting to thinking about learning Chinese? Just want to know a bit of Mandarin to impress your friends and family?

Today we’re going to teach the most useful, more practical Chinese words and phrases to get started with!

Even if you know zero Chinese, this list should get you started off on the right foot. Enjoy!

Basic Chinese Greetings

1. Hi

Chinese: Hāi (嗨)

You actually should already know a Chinese word! To say “hi” the Chinese often will just say “Hāi.” It’s pronounced exactly the same but uses the first tone (do-re-MI!). Practice now. hi… HI!

2. Hello

Chinese: Nǐhǎo (你好)

This is the most common way in Chinese to say hello. Fun fact, this word is made up of two Chinese characters. the first one 你 Nǐ means “you.” The second characters 好 hǎo means “good.” So when Chinese say hello, they are essentially saying, “You good.” Pretty cool, huh?

Example sentence:


Wéi, nǐhǎo, qǐngwèn yǒu shénme shì?

Hello, how can I help you? 

3. How are you?

Chinese: Nǐ hǎo ma? (你好吗)

Your next word only involves adding one additional character, 吗 / ma which has no tone. It sounds just like saying ma (吗) in grandma. Interestingly, the 吗 here makes it a question. So, if 你好 was “You good” then this is the question form of it. “Are you good?” or just “You good?”

Example Sentence:


Nǐ hǎo ma?

How are you? 

4. Good morning

Chinese: 早 (zǎo)

So the word for ‘morning’ in Chinese is just 早 zǎo. The ‘z’ here should sound like a ‘ds’ together. Much like a greeting in England, you can just use the word of morning as a greeting. You see a friend on the street? “Morning.” “zǎo.”

5. Good afternoon

Chinese: 下午好 (Xiàwǔ hǎo)

As you may expect, this is used during the afternoons, just like English. The direct translation is 下午 (Xiàwǔ) or Afternoon and 好 (hǎo) meaning Good. So, just remember “Afternoon good!” and you’ll know how to say Good Afternoon in Chinese.

6. Good night

Chinese: 晚安 (wǎnān)

This is the translation for “good night” like you would say before someone goes to bed. 晚 wǎn means night or evening and 安 (ān) means peaceful. Have a peaceful evening!

7. Nice to meet you

Chinese: 高兴认识你 (Gāoxìng rènshì nǐ)

This is a very important phrase to learn! You can use it the first time you meet ANYONE. The phrase breaks down to “happy” 高兴  “to meet” 认识 “you” 你. Same as English!

8. See you later

Chinese: 回头见。(húi tóu jiàn)

This is a slightly advanced or colloquial way to say “see you again.” This phrase is used if you plan to see the person in the near future. So if its a friend you may see in a few weeks, you can say: húi tóu jiàn!

9. Thank you

Chinese: Xièxie (谢 谢)

Maybe this word should have been #1 since you’ll use it so often! This word is tough for foreigners to learn for 2 reasons. One, the “x” sound is unusual. This will sound like a very soft “sh.” Xie will be pronounced like a soft/feminine “shay.” The second thing is the fourth tone. This is a tone that goes from Mi all the way down to Do. (from Do-Re-Mi). So make your voice quickly descend as you say this.

10. Excuse me

Chinese: 请问 qǐngwén

This is a polite way to grab someone’s attention! If you need someone to see or listen to you, then learn this!  ‘Qǐngwén” is especially useful in restaurant or loud, noisy atmospheres.


10. Sorry

Chinese: 对不起 (duìbùqǐ)

Another hugely important word. Learning to apologize in Chinese will get you a long way. Hopefully, it will make up for anything you have to apologize for!

12. Please

Chinese: 请 (qǐng)

This is the same “qing” from “Qing wen” from before. You can add this in front of most sentences if you want to add an extra layer of politeness!

13. How do you say … in Mandarin?

basic chinese words





















Chinese: … 中文怎么说? (… zhōngwén zěnme shuō)

This is a great phrase if you are LEARNING CHINESE. If you ever want to know how to say something in Chinese, use this. You can point to an object, say an English word, or whatever — add this at the end and the native Chinese speaker will know to teach you the Mandarin word.

14. What is this?

Chinese: Zhè shì shénme?  这是什么?

If you are in China, you may see a lot of new things that you don’t even know what they are — food, clothes, toys, instruments, whatever! This is the phrase to use to point and ask. Granted, the answer may be in Chinese…

15. Where is the toilet?

Chinese: 厕所在哪里? (cèsuǒ zài nǎli?)

There are several ways to ask where the bathroom is. This one is the most common. The “zài nǎli” just means “where” — so that’s a good phrase to keep in mind as well. I also had a friend who took a picture of the toilet sign and he would just show people it to ask where the bathroom is! Clever.


16. Where are you from?

Chinese: 你是哪国人? (nǐ shì nǎguórén)

This is a useful phrase to be able to understand. Many Chinese will ask you this. Try to learn your country in Chinese so you can appropriately answer them. If you ask a Chinese this, they will probably just say “China.”


17. I’m from…

Chinese: 我是 … 人 (wǒ shì … rén)

This is the phrase to add your country into. E.g. wǒ shì Canada/Australia/USA rén.

18. Do you speak English?

Chinese: 你会说英语吗?(nǐ huì shuō yīngyǔ ma?)

If these phrases aren’t enough and you need to switch to English, you can use this phrase to see if your counterpart can hold a conversation in English.


19. I don’t understand

Chinese:: 我不懂 (wǒ bù dǒng)

Clarifying phrase. If someone is speaking too much or too complicated Chinese, stop them in their tracks with this phrase. It tells them you don’t understand and they need to explain more clearly.

20. Where is…?

Chinese:… zài nǎlǐ?  … 在哪里

This is the same “zai nali” from the bathroom request. You can add any location or landmark before it to make a sentence.

21. Restroom?

Chinese: Cèsuǒ 厕所

If the phrase from before was too complicated, just learn the word for toilet. The “C” sounds like “Ts.” So the English sounds something like “Tsiss woah.”

22. Call the police

Chinese: 叫警察! (jiào jǐngchá!)

Hopefully, you won’t have to use this one! But learn it well so you can shout it quickly in case of an emergency.

23. Leave me alone

Chinese: 别管我! (bié guǎn wǒ)

This is a decently nice way to say leave me alone (there are more rude ways). It can also mean “just let me be.”

24. How much is this?

Chinese: Duōshao qián? 多少钱 ?

Great phrase. You can use that when shopping China. Goes together nicely with the “what is this?” phrase.

25. Would you like to dance with me?

Chinese: 你要不要跟我跳舞? (nǐ yào bú yào gēn wǒ tiàowǔ)

On the chance you’re out and about experiencing Chinese nightlife, you can use this phrase to start dancing.

26. Do you come here often?

Chinese: 你常来这儿吗? (nǐ cháng lái zhè’er ma?)

This phrase is similar to old English pickup line. Simple, basic, a conversation starter.

27. What kind of work do you do?

Chinese: 你作什么样的工作? (nǐ zùo shén me yàng de gōng zùo)

If you’re networking or looking to understand more about a person’s career, keep this phrase close by. Granted, you’ll have to learn all the Chinese words for various jobs.

28. That’s hilarious

Chinese: 好搞笑 (hǎo gǎo xiào)

Useful at night in the clubs or at daytime in the work. Compliment your funny coworkers with this!

29. Get well soon

Chinese: 快点好啦 (kuài diǎn hào la)

Wish someone well if they’re a little sick. Not applicable to more serious diseases.

30. I love you

Chinese translation: 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ)

The most universal phrase of all. I love you. Learn this and use it wisely!


Think you’ve got your phrases down? Try them out with a free TutorMandarin class with a live tutor. They will help your pronunciation and tones and get your prepared to visit China!

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