52 Common Chinese Phrases To Survive Your First Conversation

Let’s Get Talking Chinese

Here are the categories of phrases that you will learn below:

Greetings & small talk

Getting to know you

Being polite

“I don’t understand!”

Asking for directions

Transport in China

Eating out



Solving problems

Special occasions

Saying goodbye

Common Chinese Phrases To Greet People

The backbone of social interactions – we all need greetings to start off a conversation right!

#1 你好!Nǐhǎo – Hello!

(Nee haow)

#2 你好吗?Nǐhǎo ma? – How are you?

(Nee haow ma)

#3 很好 Hěn hǎo – Good

(Hun haow)

#4 还好 Hái hǎo – Pretty good

(Hi haow)

#5 不太好 Bù tài hǎo – Not so good

(Boo tye haow)

#6 早上好 Zǎoshang hǎo – Good morning

(Dzow shung haow)

#7 晚上好 Wǎnshang hǎo – Good evening

(Wun shung haow)

#8 晚安 Wǎn’ān – Good night


Common Chinese Phrases For Getting To Know People

If you’re visiting China, you’ll generally find people are very friendly and not shy about asking questions! Here are some basics to help you connect with people you meet.

Pronunciation note: in this guide, the “or” sound represents the vowel sound in the English word “or,” but without an audible “r” sound at the end. In other words, the way it typically sounds in a British accent, rather than an American one.

#9 你叫什么名字?Nǐ jiào shénme míngzi? – What’s your name? (Informal)

(Nee jyaow shun muh ming dzrr)

#10 我叫__ Wǒ jiào__ – My name is…

(Wor jyaow..)

#11 您贵姓?Nín guìxìng? – What is your surname? (Formal)

(Neen gway shing)

#12 我姓__ Wǒ xìng__ – My surname is…

(Wor shing)

#13 你多大?Nǐ duōdà? – How old are you?

(Nee dwor da)

#14 我三十岁 Wǒ sānshí suì – I’m thirty (years old)

(Wor sun shrr sway)

#15 你来自哪里?Nǐ láizì nǎli? – Where do you come from?

(Nee lye dzrr na lee)

#16 我来自中国 Wǒ láizì zhōngguó – I come from China

(Wor lye dzrr jong gwor)

#17 你是哪国人?– Nǐ shì nǎ guó rén? – Which country are you from?

(Nee shrr na gwor run)

#18 我是中国人 Wǒ shì zhōngguó rén – I’m Chinese (literally, “I’m a Chinese person”)

(Wor shrr jong gwor run)

#19 我是外国人 Wǒ shì wàiguó rén – I’m a foreigner

(Wor shrr wye gwor run)

#20 老外 Lǎowài – Foreigner (a common slang term!)

(Laow wye)

#21 很高兴认识你 Hěn gāoxìng rènshi nǐ – Nice to meet you

(Hun gaow shing run shrr nee)

Pro tip: you usually use this last phrase when saying goodbye to someone after meeting them for the first time, rather than immediately after being introduced.

If you’re visiting China, your home country is quite likely to come up in conversation – find the Chinese name of your country here!

Common Chinese Phrases For Being Polite

As humans, we’re generally out to make a good impression – here’s some help on that front!

Even if you don’t have much vocabulary yet, these words are bound to help your conversations go more smoothly.

#22 谢谢! Xièxiè! – Thank you!

(Shyeah shyeah) (Pronunciation tip: the “x” sound in Chinese is really somewhere in between “s” and “sh” in English.)

#23 非常感谢! Fēicháng gǎnxiè! – Thank you so much!

(Fay chung gun shyeah)

#24 不用谢 Bù yòng xiè – You’re welcome (literally, “no need for thanks”)

(Boo yong shyeah)

#25 不客气 Bù kèqì – You’re welcome (literally, “no need to be so polite”)

(Boo kuh chee)

#26 不好意思 Bù hǎoyìsi – Excuse me, sorry (To get attention, for getting past, for mild apologies)

(Boo haow yee srr)

#27 对不起 Duìbuqǐ – Sorry (A more emphatic apology)

(Dway boo chee)

#28 请问…? Qǐngwèn…? – Could I ask…? (A polite way to preface a question)

(Cheeng wun)

#29 麻烦你了Mǎfan nǐ le – Sorry to bother you

(Ma fun nee luh)

#30 没问题 Méi wèntí – No problem

(May wun tee)

#31 好的!Hǎo de! – OK!

(Haow duh)

Common Chinese Phrases To Say: “I Don’t Understand!”

Ever been in a situation where you were listening to a native speaker and just kept nodding and smiling, when really had no idea what they were saying?

Here’s how to avoid that. The simplest way to get people to help you understand is to ask them!

#32(你)听得懂吗?(Nǐ) tīngdedǒng ma? – Do you understand?

(Nee teeng duh dong ma)

#33(我)听得懂 (Wǒ) tīngdedǒng – I understand

(Wor teeng duh dong)

#34(我)听不懂!(Wǒ) tīngbudǒng – I don’t understand!

(Wor teeng boo dong)

#35(你)会说中文吗?(Nǐ) huì shuō zhōngwén ma? – Do you speak Chinese?

(Nee hway shwor jong wun ma)

#36(你)会说英文吗?(Nǐ) huì shuō yīngwén ma – Do you speak English?

(Nee hway shwor yeeng wun ma)

#37(我)不会说中文 (Wǒ) bù huì shuō zhōngwén – I don’t speak Chinese

(Wor boo hway shwor jong wun)

#38(我)会说 (Wǒ) huì shuō – Yes, I can speak it

(Wor hway shwor)

#39 可以说得慢一点吗?Kěyǐ shuō de màn yīdiǎn ma? – Could you speak more slowly?

(Kuh yee shwor duh mun yee dyen ma)

#40 __ 什么意思?__ shénme yìsi? – What does __ mean?

(__shun muh yee srr)

#41 __怎么说?__zěnme shuō? – How do you say __?

(__dzun muh shwor)

#42 (我)不知道 (Wǒ) bù zhīdao – I don’t know

(Wor boo jrr daow)

Common Chinese Phrases For Asking For Directions

Sometimes asking the locals is still the best way to find something!

We’re so used to relying on map apps these days. But it pays to have some useful phrases up your sleeve. This is especially the case since Google services don’t work in mainland China.

Check out local alternative Baidu Maps for your navigation needs. Or better yet, keep reading for tips on navigating the old-fashioned way.

#43 不好意思,可以问个路玛? Bù hǎoyìsi, kěyǐ wèn ge lù ma? – Excuse me, could I ask for some directions?

(Boo haow yee srr, kuh yee wun guh loo ma)

#44 到__怎么走?Dào ___ zěnme zǒu? – How do you get to the __?

(Daow __ dzun muh dzoh)

#45 __在哪儿?/ __在哪里?__zài nǎr?/__ zài nǎli – Where is the __?

(__dzye narr/__dzye na lee)
 (Pro tip: the first variant, with an “r’’ sound, is more common in Beijing and northern China, while you’ll hear more of the second variant further south.)

#46 __在那儿/__在那里 __zài nàr/__zài nàlǐ – The __ is over there.

( ____ zay naar / _____ zay naa-lee)

Pro tip: Tones are important here! Check out the above two examples:

哪儿nǎr means “Where?”

while 那儿 nàr means “there!”

#47 在这儿/在这里 Zài zhèr/Zài zhèlǐ – It’s here.

(Dzye jurr/Dzye juh lee)

#48 直走 Zhí zǒu – Go straight ahead

(jrr dzoh)

#49 右转 Yòu zhuǎn – Turn right

(Yoh jwun)

#50 左转 Zuǒ zhuǎn – Turn left

(Dzwor jwun)

#51 过马路 Guò mǎlù – Cross the road

(Gwor ma loo)

#52 我要去__ Wǒ yào qù__ – I want to go to __ (Also good for directing a taxi or buying a ticket)

(Wor yaow choo)

Source: iwillteachyoualanguage

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