How do you say hello in Chinese? You may answer 你好 which is the most common way to greet someone in Chinese. But did you know there were many other ways to say hello in Chinese? With this list of all the expressions to say hello in Chinese, from when you want to be polite to when you’re on the phone, you’ll have a 你好 nǐ hǎo Hello for every situation.
Did you know that 你好 nǐ hǎo was not the only way to say hi in Chinese? Get to know how to use these 13 expressions in Mandarin hello, in different situations and you’ll be soon saying hello in Chinese like a native. You can also head to Ninchanese to practice your hello and speak like a native.
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Most used word to say hello in Chinese
#1 你好- Hello: the perfect start
It would be inconceivable to not mention 你好 nǐ hǎo which is the most common and most used expression to say hello in Mandarin. If you want to learn Chinese, you definitely need to learn this useful word and if you are, this was most likely one of the first things you learned. As 你 nǐ is the informal form of “you”, Chinese people use 你好 when they want to greet friends or acquaintances. But watch out, this expression is used to greet one person at a time!
For example if you run across a classmate of yours you can say:
同学你好 tóngxué nǐ hǎo Hello.
In Chinese, it doesn’t matter if you put the name/subject before or after the greeting rexpression.
You can also shorten the greeting session by just putting the name/subject before 好 hǎo good.
老师好 lǎoshī hǎo Hello teacher!.
#2 您好 – Hello: to be the most polite Chinese learner
As we’ve just talked about the informal version of “you”, let me introduce to you the polite form of 你 nǐ you: 您 nín you. Imagine you want to say hello in Chinese to someone that is higher-ranked than you, let’s say your boss for instance, but also to elders, you’ll need to say 您好 nín hǎo hello to show your respect.
For example, when you meet someone’s grandfather, you have to say:
经理您好 jīnglǐ nín hǎo hello
, plus, they’ll be very pleased to hear you greeting them that way.
Note: The Taiwanese tend to use more 你好 nǐ hǎo than 您好 nín hǎo to greet people, even those they don’t know well.
#3 大家好 – Hello everyone: to greet a crowd
You saw in the first way to say hello in Mandarin, that 你好 nǐ hǎo can only be used to greet one person at a time. But what if you’re with many people and you want to say hi in Chinese to everyone of them at the same time? It’s the right time to use the Chinese expression 大家好 dàjiā hǎo Hello everyone. ( 大家 dàjiā means everyone)
Let’s set the background, if you go to the bakery and there are many sellers and people inside, you can definitely say:
大家好 dàjiā hǎo Hello everyone
When greeting many people at a time, you can also say
你们好 nǐmen hǎo hello everyone你们 nǐmen is the plural form of you so that works too.
How to greet people in Chinese at different times of a day
You know now how to greet people depending on how many they are with the most used and common expressions. Let’s see now how to say hello in Chinese based on what time of day it is. These following expressions are used as often as their equivalents in English. So don’t be surprised if someone greets you that way, it’ll happen.
#1 早上好 / 上午好 – To start the day the right way
How do to say hello in Chinese in the morning? Easy! You can use the word 早上 zǎoshang early morning and add the Chinese character 好 hǎo good. What you get in the end is the word 早上好 zǎoshang hǎo Good morning.
But be careful, 早上好 is only used if you meet someone early in the morning, specifically from 6am to 9am. After that, from 9am to 12am, you must say 上午好 shàngwǔ hǎo Good morning which also means good morning. 上午 shàngwǔ means morning.
#2 下午好 – Good afternoon: the greeting for the tea lovers
Let’s pretend it’s the afternoon and you’re going over a friend’s house for tea time. When arriving, you can say
朋友下午好 péngyǒu xiàwǔ hǎo Good afternoon my friend下午 xiàwǔ means afternoon and it’s added to the character 好 hǎo good, to create good afternoon. The Chinese language is really easy, don’t you think?
#3 晚上好 – Good evening: the greeting for the night owls
When it’s late, and you’re supposed to meet people in the evening you can greet them by saying 晚上好 wǎnshàng hǎo Good evening. As you have probably easily guessed, 晚上 wǎnshàng means evening.
Short and cool expressions to say hello in Chinese
Nowadays, Chinese people have added more expressions to say hi in Mandarin. Young people, especially, have created their own expressions inspired by the Western greeting expressions. See how and when you can get rid of 你好.
#1 喂 – Hello: to pick up the phone like a pro
The expression 喂 wèi Hello is only used in one situation: when answering your phone. If you’ve heard a Chinese person on the phone, then you have to have heard that 喂 before! For instance, if someone calls you on your phone, when you answer,you can say 喂 wèi Hello to greet them and indicate you’ve picked up This is a very cute and yet simple word to say hello in Chinese. 喂 is used by everyone, age doesn’t matter here.
#2 哈罗 – Hello: the one that sounds familiar
If you go to China, you’ll most likely hear young people say 哈罗 hā luō Hello. If you pay attention to the pronunciation of 哈罗 you’ll notice it sounds like hello. In fact, 哈罗 hā luō is a loanword the Chinese borrowed from English. Really easy to remember, don’t you think? You can use this expression when speaking with young people.
#3 嗨 – Hi: to sound cool in Chinese
Young people are very creative, here’s another expression to say hello in Chinese you can use when talking to young people, or people of your age to show how cool you are. 嗨 hāi Hi is also a loanword the Chinese borrowed from English, if you say it out loud you’ll hear it sounds just like the English word Hi.
Current expressions to greet people in Chinese
When sometimes, you think a 你好 is not enough to greet someone, you can use these following expressions that will help you to be friendly with people and greet others in Chinese.
#1 好久不见 ！- Long time no see!: the greeting sentence for old friends
Old friends can be separated by life’s duties, their jobs, their family, or hobbies, but once they gather together, it’s like they’ve never been away from each other that long. If that happens to you with a Chinese friendn, you can tell them 好久不见 ！ hǎojiǔ bújiàn! Long time no see!. It’s a nice greeting for a very good friend. And yes, some suspect the English expression Long Time No see was borrowed from Chinese.
#2 最近过得怎样呀？- How has been life recently?
The expression 最近过得怎样呀？ zuìjìn guò dé zěnyàng ya? How has been life recently? can also be translated by “How are you?” in English, as the same kind of answers are expected. For example when you meet one of your friends you haven’t seen in a little while, they can ask you 最近过得怎样呀？ zuìjìn guò dé zěnyàng ya? How has been life recently? you can answer several things:
挺好的。 tǐng hǎo de. Quite good. 还不错。 hái búcuò. Not bad. 一般般。 yì bān bān. Just so so. 不太好。 bù tài hǎo. Not good..
#3 吃了吗？- Have you eaten ?: how food got involved in the greetings
Asking someone if they have eaten can seem like a weird question but it’s actually, a well known and popular expression to say hello in Chinese. Wait. To say hello? Absolutely. In China, eating is extremely important and therefore inquiring whether someone has eaten or not 吃了吗？ chīle ma? Have you eaten ? gradually became a perfectly normal way of asking “How are you?” in Chinese. Whenever someone asks you
吃了吗？ chīle ma? Have you eaten ?, just say 吃了 chīle I’m fine (literally I’ve eaten) and ask them back 你呢？ nǐ ne? And you? They’ll be glad to be asked so.
你好 may be the most used expression to say hello in Chinese but they are plenty of other ways to greet someone like a native Chinese. Learn the 13 expressions offered in this list and you’ll be able to change your lingo and adapt in different situations just like a real language chameleon. You can learn all these expressions and practice them on Ninchanese so you’ll never forget about them.
Did you know all these Chinese sayings for hello? Were you surprised by the loanwords? Let us know in the comments.
The Nincha Team