Greetings in Mandarin: Saying ‘Hello’ in Chinese

For most Chinese learners, the first Chinese word that you learned might be “你好” (nǐ hǎo, Hello). But do you know this is a really formal greeting expression, which is weird if you say that to your close friends or your family? You might say “你好” when first meet someone. (Also, it’s better to say “您好” (nín hǎo) instead of “你好” when the one is the elder or your boss.)

Do you want to know other alternative ways to say hello in Chinese and surprise your Chinese friends? Here I list several Chinese hello expressions along with examples. Let’s find out!

Who? When? Where?

For Chinese learners, the first thing you should know is the way we say hello is very different sometimes, I would say you just feel it in each particular context.

a. Who (you are talking to)?
b. When (it happens)?
c. Where?

Same as English, the way you say hello in Chinese depends on these 3 questions above…

1. If formal occasions…

If the person is the elder or your boss, and it’s a formal occasion, you can say…

If it’s in the morning… 早上好 (+ 对方称谓) zǎo shàng hǎo

If it’s around lunchtime… 中午好 (+ 对方称谓) zhōng wǔ hǎo

If it’s in the afternoon… 下午好 (+ 对方称谓) xià wǔ hǎo

If it’s around dinner time… 晚上好 (+ 对方称谓) wǎn shàng hǎo

These expressions above are quite formal, which can also be used in emails.

If you two long time no see, you may ask…

最近身体怎么样?zuì jìn shēn tǐ zěn me yàng?

Or 最近身体咋样?zuì jìn shēn tǐ zǎ yàng?

The translation is “Are you feeling well?” We often say that when the person is the elder or sick recently.

Based on Situation 1, if you want to create a more relaxing atmosphere, you can continue saying…

您吃了吗?nín chī le ma?

Or 您吃过了吗?nín chī guò le ma?

The translation is “have you eaten breakfast/lunch/dinner?”

If you two come across on the road, you may ask…

您这是去哪里啊?nín zhè shì qù nǎ lǐ a?

Or 您这是去哪儿啊?nín zhè shì qù nǎr?

The translation is “where are you going?”

If you two have already decided to eat meals together, then you may not say the expressions above. But you may ask the one…

您想吃什么?nín xiǎng chī shí me?

Or 您想吃点啥?nín xiǎng chī diǎn shá?

The translation is “what do you want to eat?”

If it’s a text message at night and you two tend to end the conversation, you can say… 晚安? (wǎn ān, Good night)

When you want to say hello to a group of people, you can say 大家好 (dà jiā hǎo, hey guys).

2. If informal occasions…

If the person has a very close relationship with you, and it’s a casual conversation, you can say with a lovely tone (用俏皮的语调说,yòng qiào pí de yǔ diào shuō) …

If it’s in the morning…早上好 (+ 对方昵称) zǎo shàng hǎo

早啊  (+ 对方昵称) zǎo a

  (+ 对方昵称) zǎo

你真早啊  (+ 对方昵称) nǐ zhēn zǎo a

If it’s around lunch time…

中午好 (+ 对方昵称) zhōng wǔ hǎo

And if the one just wake up at lunch time, you can say 你起的真早啊,太阳都晒屁股了!nǐ qǐ de zhēn zǎo ā ,tài yáng dōu shài pì gǔ le !It means you get up so late.

If it’s around dinner time… 晚上好 (+ 对方昵称) wǎn shàng hǎo

And you guys are looking at menus, you can ask the one 咱吃点啥?(zán chī diǎn shá, what we gonna eat?)

If you want to end the conversation and go home at night, you can say 我该走了,改天聊,晚安~ wǒ gāi zǒu le ,gǎi tiān liáo ,wǎn ān ~ Translation: I have to go now. Catch up later. Have a good night!

If it’s a text message around bedtime and you want to end the conversation, you can say …

我要洗洗睡啦,晚安~ wǒ yào xǐ xǐ shuì la,wǎn ān ~

Translation: I am gonna take a shower and then sleep. Good night!

Or 我要睡啦,晚安~ wǒ yào shuì la ,wǎn ān ~

Translation: I am gonna sleep. Good night!

If the person say 晚安 first, you can say …

晚安 (+ 对方昵称) wǎn ān, Good night

Or 晚安好梦 (+ 对方昵称) wǎn ān hǎo mèng, Good night and have a nice dream

For most of the time, Chinese people just say the following expressions instead of saying 中午好 and 下午好…

嗨~ (hāi, Hi)

哈喽~ (hā lou, Hello)

If you two long time no see, you can say 

好久不见 (hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn)

好久不见啊!(hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn a!)

If you want to continue asking what the person is doing these days, you can say

最近怎么样? (zuì jìn zěn me yàng)

你最近怎么样? (nǐ zuì jìn zěn me yàng)

你最近咋样? (nǐ zuì jìn zǎ yàng

近来如何? (jìn lái rú hé)

For text messages, when Chinese people have something to ask you, they often start the conversation by saying

在吗?(zài ma)

你在吗?(nǐ zài ma)

干嘛呢?(gàn ma ne)

(What are you doing?)

Personally, I don’t like this expression, if they just say 在吗 without any other words, which looks like a big thing will happen. So my suggestion is when you want to ask people for a favour, it’s better to add what the thing is after 在吗, so that the one has some time to consider.

If you two come across on the road, you may ask…

你这是要去哪里啊?(nǐ zhè shì yào qù nǎ lǐ a)

你这是要去哪儿啊?(nǐ zhè shì yào qù nǎr a)

要去哪儿啊?(yào qù nǎr a)

干嘛去啊?(gàn ma qù a)

(Where are you going?)

Now you know the variations of 你好. To see whether your understanding of these expressions is good or not, let’s go out and talk to Chinese people about what you learned today! And remember to say 谢谢 (xiè xie, thank you) after they share the ideas about learning Chinese. Hope you enjoy today’s blog! Want to learn more? Click the links below:

I Love You in Chinese

Thank You in Chinese

More Chinese Learning Tips and Tricks!

Want to boost your Chinese?

maayot sample

With maayot, receive a daily engaging story in Mandarin Chinese based on your level.

How does it work?

?️ You’ll get a Chinese story once a day. It’s tailored to your level. Click on any character you don’t know to see it’s definition or add it to your spaced-repetition app.

? Two new words that you may not have studied yet from higher levels.

? Practice your listen with a daily native high-quality recording of the day’s story.

? Test your understanding of the text with a quick and simple quiz. If you read it with attention, it should be rather simple. 

✏️ Practice your writing skills by answering to the day’s open-ended question.

You can register now to receive stories right away.