When learning new languages, knowing how to say Hello or Hi is one of the first things we usually learn to say. Even if that’s the only word we can speak, most natives will be pleased to hear that you’ve made an effort to speak Chinese (or any language).
Get this post as a PDF to study it later!
We’ve put together a list of the most common Chinese greetings you should learn if you’re studying Mandarin. It’s helpful to know in which context to use these greetings and which ones will help you sound more fluent and natural.
Basic Chinese greetings
You’ll see that many of these greetings follow the same sentence pattern:
Noun + 好
How to say hello in Chinese
1. 你好 (nǐ hǎo) – Hello
You might have already come across the word 你好 (nǐ hǎo) or ‘Hello,’ in Chinese. While it is a common way to say ‘Hello’ in Mandarin, there are more casual phrases to use with friends instead. For many young Chinese people, 你好 (nǐ hǎo) is becoming less fashionable and is seen as too formal to be used between friends and colleagues.
CHINESE TIP: If both words have the 3rd tone, change the first word to the second tone in spoken Chinese. Learn more about tone rules here.
2. 您好 (nín hǎo) – Hello
您 (nín) is used when addressing someone older or in a respected position, whether at work or in the family. So, 您好 is a more formal way to say ‘Hello.’
How to say hi in Chinese
The following three are more modern and commonly used ways to say hello between friends, colleagues, and classmates. All three of them have been translated using transliteration, replacing the original English word with a Chinese character that sounds the same or similar. This is often done with brands, place names, and people. These types of words are becoming more fashionable among younger people in China.
Asking ‘How are you?’ in Chinese
6. 你好吗？ (nǐ hǎo ma) – How are you?
It is literally translated to ‘You good?’ and is often taught to students as an essential Chinese phrase, but it’s rarely used nowadays. Even in English, when you think about it, we rarely ask ‘How are you?’, and it’s now similar amongst young Chinese.
7. 吃了吗? (chī le ma?) – Have you eaten yet?
Asking if someone has eaten yet is a more common way to ask ‘how are you?’. Showing concern for a friend or acquaintance’s health is common within Chinese culture. You will hear it most often spoken between neighbors within a garden during their evening walk after supper.
This phrase can sometimes be used to ask, ‘Do you have time?’, especially if you call during lunch or dinner time.
Good morning in Chinese
Unlike in English, where we can say ‘good morning’ for the whole morning, in Chinese, the morning is split into several time frames, from early morning to mid-morning.
- 早上好 is used between 6 and 9 am
- 上午好 refers to mid-morning, from 9 am-12 pm.
8. 早上好 (zǎo shang hǎo) – Good Morning
早 (zǎo) actually refers to early morning and can be remembered as the sun 日 (rì) rising over a helmet. Originally, the 十 (shí) part of the character 早 (zǎo) was a helmet 甲 (jiǎ).
9. 早 (zǎo) – Mornin'
早 (zǎo), used on its own, is more often used as a shortened version of 早上好 (zǎo shang hǎo), creating a more casual phrase, just like saying mornin’.
Good afternoon in Chinese
10. 下午好 (xià wǔ hǎo) – Good Afternoon
Just like with good morning, and good evening (to follow), the time phrase + 好 is how we can say Good [time of day]. Here, 下午 is afternoon. 午 is the character referring to ‘noon’ or midday, so combining 下 makes ‘after the noon’.
Good evening in Chinese
11. 晚上好 (wǎn shang hǎo) – Good Evening
晚 (wǎn), or 晚上 (wǎn shang) means evening or night. Combined with the character for good, 好 (hǎo) creates the greeting commonly used after sunset.
In Chinese, 晚上好 is still a greeting and not a way to say ‘goodnight’. To say goodnight in Chinese, use the phrase 晚安 (wǎn ān).
12. 喂 (wéi) – Hey
This word is only used to say ‘hello’, when on the phone.
13. 好久不见 (hǎo jiǔ bu jiàn) – Long time no see
This is a great phrase to use if you haven’t seen someone for a long time. If you break down the characters, you’ll see it’s a very literal translation. You can do this by clicking the character link above.
14. 最近你怎么样? (zuì jìn nǐ zěn me yàng) – How’s things?
This is an informal phrase, more like saying ‘what’s up?’ to a friend or colleague.
CHINESE TIP: In spoken Chinese, you can omit the character 你 (nǐ).
15. 最近。。。 (zuì jìn) – …recently
最近 (zuì jìn) can be used to preface a greeting, to mean ‘since I saw you last’.
最近在干嘛？ (zuì jìn zài gàn má?) – What have you been doing recently?
最近干什么呢？ (zuì jìn gàn shén me ne?) – What were you doing recently?
最近忙什么呢？ (zuì jìn máng shén me ne?) – What have you been busy doing recently?
16. 去哪呢？ (qù nǎ ne?) – Where are you going?
This is often used as a pleasantry when passing an acquaintance or neighbor. It’s not really a question, just a greeting, which will have a short response.
17. 干嘛呢？ (gàn má ne?) – What are you doing?
When I first came to China, my impression of this phrase was that it was offhand and rude. Like, ‘what the heck are you doing?’ It is commonly used instead, as a greeting you would make to a colleague or friend.
18. 大家好 (dà jiā hǎo) – Hello everyone
If you need to address a group of colleagues or friends, use 大家好 to welcome everyone.
Meeting someone for the first time
Here are some phrases you can use to greet someone you’ve never met before or are meeting again but are not very familiar with.
19. 很高兴见到你。 (hěn gāo xìng jiàn dào nǐ) Nice to meet you.
20. 很高兴再次见到你。 (hěn gāo xìng zài cì jiàn dào nǐ) Nice to see you again.
If you have any comments or questions about any of the Chinese greetings we mentioned in the article, please feel free to leave your messages below.
Want to speak Chinese naturally?
Learn to chat like
the locals with this
unique video course.