Use this tool to add tone marks to pinyin or to convert tone number (e.g. hao3) to tone marks.

Although you can use the red buttons to add tone marks, we highly recommend you use the number method (e.g. hao3) for speed and placement of the accent above the correct vowel. [Hint: Type "v" for "ü"]
Note: You do not need to use this tool to enter pinyin in this dictionary.

How to Order Coffee in Chinese and Other Dialogues You Need to Know

Many of you may be completely new to Chinese, and feel a bit overwhelmed by how different this language is compared to your own native one. We’ve recently posted introductory articles on Essential words and phrases, and Chinese greetings.

Now, let’s take it up a notch, and learn some simple dialogues based on four situations that are common in China. Additionally, the sentences used in these examples, can be used in many other situations.

Each sentence of Chinese characters are linked to a breakdown, so you can click on each part of the dialogue and find out the meaning of each word and also how to pronounce the words correctly. To hear the Chinese, click on the speaker button on the left side of character.

Listen to Chinese Pronunciation.png

在超市 (zài chāo shì) At the supermarket…

At the Supermarket 在超市

Once you’ve put all your products in your basket, including your chicken feet and soy sauce, you’ll need to head to the checkouts and confidently answer some of these questions!

店员 (diàn yuán) Shop Assistant: Do you need a bag? (nǐ xū yào dài zi ma?) 你需要袋子吗?

客户 (kè hù) Customer: Yes, I want one. (shì de) 是的。

I don’t need one. (bù yòng, xiè xie) 不用,谢谢。

No, I already have one. (bù yòng, wǒ yǒu dài zi.)  不用,我有袋子。

Bringing your own bags is not only green, but will also save you a few kuai every time you go shopping, as most supermarkets charge for a plastic bag.

店员 Shop Assistant: Do you have a VIP card? (yǒu huì yuán kǎ ma?) 有会员卡吗?

客户 Customer: I don’t have one. (méi yǒu) 没有。

I have one. (yǒu) 有。

客户 Customer: Can I use my bank card? (kě yǐ shuā kǎ ma?) 可以刷卡吗

店员 Shop Assistant: Yes. (kě yǐ) 可以。

Sorry,  we only take cash。(bào qiàn, wǒ men zhǐ shōu xiàn jīn.) 抱歉,我们只收现金。

Here’s a bonus dialogue if you’re feeling confident. Most supermarkets have a combination of both ‘pick-your-own’ and pre-packed fruits, veggies, rice and dried goods, but sometimes it’s not clear whether they need to be weighed and a price added to your package. You can ask a shop assistant the following to prevent getting caught out when you get to the checkouts. It’s rare that anyone will help you get a price, so you either need to go back to the weighing station, or leave your dreams of guacamole (and avocados) behind.

客户 Customer: Do I need to weigh this? (zhè ge xū yào guò chēng ma?) 这个需要过称吗?

店员 Shop Assistant: Yes, over there. (shì de, zài nà bian guò chēng) 是的,在那边过称。

There’s no need. (bù yòng) 不用。

Important Sentences and Phrases to Learn

你需要 [sth] 吗?= Do you need…..?

不用。= No need.

有 [sth] 吗?Do you have….?

可以 [sth] 吗?Can I….?

在咖啡馆 (zài kā fēi guǎn) At a cafe…

At the Cafe 在咖啡馆

If the cafe has both an outside and inside sitting area, the waiter will probably ask you where you would like to sit.

服务员 (fú wù yuán) Waiter: Do you want to sit inside or outside? (qǐng wèn nín xiǎng zuò lǐ miàn hái shì zuò wài mian?) 请问您想坐里面还是坐外面?

客户 Customer: Outside, thanks. (wài mian, xiè xie) 外面,谢谢。

I want to sit inside. Here is OK. (zuò lǐ miàn jiù kě yǐ le?) 坐里面就可以了。

In the above example, you can see a useful sentence pattern: this + 还是 + that ?

In this situation it is used to offer 2 options and can be translated to mean ‘or’. Although it is a question, there’s no need to add the question particle, 吗 (ma), at the end of the sentence.

Sometimes, depending on the situation, you might be asked how many people are in your party.

服务员 Waiter: How many people? (jǐ wèi) 几位?

If you are not asked and you need to request a certain amount of seats use the following:

客户 Customer: # + 位.

When we book tables or seats, we use the word 位, which means seat or place, instead of 人 or ‘people’.

服务员 Waiter: What do you want to drink? (nín xiǎng hē diǎn shén me?)  您想喝点什么?

客户 Customer: I want a cup of coffee (wǒ yào (yī bēi) kā fēi) 我要(一杯)咖啡

apple juice (wǒ yào píng guǒ zhī)  我要苹果汁

2 bottles of beer (wǒ yào liǎng píng pí jiǔ) 我要两瓶啤酒

This sentence uses the simple sentence pattern subject + verb + object, which is extremely useful and commonly used.

When we ask for 2 of something in Chinese, we do not use the usual number 2, which is 二. The word is changed to 两. In the example, we also see the measure word for bottle, 瓶. However, if you were to use 个, the waiter would still understand.

If you do not place your order at the bar, the waiter may ask:

您好,请问是现在点单吗?(nín hǎo, qǐng wèn shì xiàn zài diǎn dān ma?)  Hi, Would you like to order now?

If you want to ask them to give you some time to look, just say:

客户 Customer: Please give me 5 minutes to look. (dài huì diǎn, wǒ xiān kàn yī xià) 待会点,我先看一下。

Before you leave the cafe, don’t forget to pay your bill!

客户 Customer: Bill, please. (mǎi dān) 买单

服务员 Waiter: 30 (sān shí) 三十

25 (èr shí wǔ) 二十五

Here are some additional phrases and questions you might want like to know If you go to a chain coffee shop. The barista may ask what size cup you want. Here are the common cups sizes:

Small size (xiǎo bēi) 小杯

Medium size (zhōng bēi) 中杯

Large size (dà bēi) 大杯

Finally, the barista might ask whether you’ll drink the coffee in the shop, or take it with you?

店员 Barista Do you want it here or to take away? (zài zhè hē hái shì dài zǒu?) 在这喝还是带走?

客户 Customer: Here. (zài zhè hē) 在这喝

Take-away. (dài zǒu) 带走

If the barista doesn’t ask, just use one of the previous answers.

Important Sentences and Phrases to Learn

[sth] 还是 [sth] ? = sth or sth else?

我要 [sth]。= I want….

的士里面 (dí shì lǐ miàn) In a taxi…

In the Taxi

If you find yourself in China, taxi drivers can be the best way to practice your Chinese. Not only are they interested (obviously not always), in foreigners, but they are often willing to answer questions about China and Chinese culture.

FYI, don’t be surprised if the conversation swerves quickly into a topic you might find a little inappropriate, such as ‘how much money do you earn? (shhh, It’s a secret.)’, or ‘do you know about [enter own risque political conversation here]?’

师傅 (shī fu) Taxi Driver: Where do you want to go? (qù nǎ lǐ?) 去哪里?

客户 Customer: I want to go to the train station. ((wǒ yào) qù huǒ chē zhàn)  (我要)去火车站。

hospital ((wǒ yào) qù yī yuàn) (我要)医院。

Di Wang Building ((wǒ yào) qù dì wáng dà shà) (我要)去地王大厦。

In oral Chinese, you can remove the phrase ‘I want’ (我要), as it is implied within the context of the situation.

师傅 Taxi Driver: Where are you from? (nǐ cóng nǎ lái de?) 你从哪来的?

客户 Customer: I‘m from the USA. (wǒ lái zì měi guó) 我来自美国

the UK  (wǒ lái zì yīng guó) 我来自英国

Spain (wǒ lái zì xī bān yá) 我来自西班牙

If you don’t know how to say your country, you can go to our Online Dictionary, and search for it. You’ll be able to see the Chinese characters, Pinyin and learn how to pronounce the name properly.

客户 Customer: Where are you from? (nǐ shì nǎ lǐ rén) 你是哪里人?

This phrase can be used to ask a Chinese person where they are from in China, but tends not to be used to ask a foreigner which country they are from.

师傅 Taxi Driver: How long have you been in China/ Shenzhen/ Beijing? (nǐ lái zhōng guó/shēn zhèn/běi jīng duō jiǔ le) 你来 中国/深圳/北京 多久了?

客户 Customer: I’ve been here for 5 weeks ((wǒ dāi le) yī gè duō yuè)  (我待了)一个多月。         around 2 months ((wǒ dāi le) chà bu duō liǎng gè yuè) (我待了)差不多两个月

1 year ((wǒ dāi le) yī nián) (我待了)一年。

The phrase ‘I have been here for’ (我待了) does not have to be included in spoken Chinese.

Important Sentences and Phrases to Learn

(我要)去 [location]。 = I want to go to…

我来自 [location]。= I’m from….

在电影院 (zài diàn yǐng yuàn) at the Cinema…

At the CInema 在电影院

You might be a little restricted with the choice of English movies in China, there’ll certainly be the bigger Hollywood blockbusters.

Ticketing Cashier: Which movie do you want to watch? (nǐ xiǎng kàn nǎ bù diàn yǐng?) 你想看哪部电影?

This question might stop you in your tracks, as you might not have learned how to say the movie in Chinese. Don’t worry, just show them the movie poster. If you want to learn some famous Chinese titles of Western movies, take a look at this post.

客户 Customer: This one. (wǒ xiǎng kàn zhè ge) 我想看这个。

If you know the title you can say:

客户 Customer: I want to watch….(wǒ xiǎng kàn) 我想看

Next, let’s chose the time.

Ticketing Cashier: Which showing do you want? There are two shows: one at 6pm, the other at 8:30pm. (kàn nǎ yī cháng? liù diǎn yǒu yī cháng? bā diǎn bàn yǒu yī cháng?) 看哪一场?六点和八点半各有一场.

客户 Customer: The next showing. (xià yī cháng) 下一场

What’s the last showing? (zuì jìn de yī cháng) 最近的一场

6pm (liù diǎn zhōng de (nà cháng)) 六点的(那场)

8.30pm (bā diǎn bàn de (nà cháng)) 八点半的(那场)

Choose your seats. Most cinema will allow you to choose the location of your seats when you buy your tickets.

Ticketing Cashier: Where do you want to sit? (qǐng xuǎn yī xià wèi zhi) 请选一下位置。

客户 Customer: Here (zhè lǐ) 这里

B4 and B5 (BsìhéBwǔ) B四和B五

Important Sentences and Phrases to Learn

我想看 [sth]。= I want to watch…

If you have any questions or comments about these Chinese dialogues, please leave them for us below! If you’d be interested in dialogues for other situations, please let us know.