20 Questions to Get You from Zero Chinese to Basic Fluency (Part 1)

In this series we will take a look at approximately 20 basic, high frequency questions and answers that will help you with your communication skills in Mandarin Chinese. Please feel free to answer the questions in Mandarin or pinyin in the reply to the best of your ability.

If you are beyond the basic Chinese level, perhaps you would like to answer the questions with a more in depth response, using more colloquial language, providing some helpful tips and cultural information or correcting the answers (or questions) for all who are new to Mandarin.

Follow me, let’s learn basic Chinese now:

#1: How to ask What is your name in Chinese

Q:你叫什么名字?Nǐ jiào shén me míng zì?
What is your name?
A: 我叫 Matt. 你呢?Wǒ jiào Matt. Nǐ ne?
My name is Matt. And you?

Q: 你的中文名字叫什么?Nǐde zhōng wén míng zì jiào shén me?
What is your Chinese name?
A: 我的中文名字叫马特。Wǒ de zhōng wén míng zì jiào mǎ tè.
My Chinese name is Ma Te.

#2: How to ask Where are you from in Chinese

Q: 你是哪国人? Nǐ shì nǎ guórén?
Where are you from?
A: 我是美国人。你呢? Wǒ shì měiguó rén. Nǐ ne?
I’m American. And you?

There are other ways to ask “Where are your from?” in Chinese depending on what information you are looking for. You may want to ask about what city, what state or what region a person is from. Or you may want to ask about where a person lives instead of asking where the person comes from. If you know how to ask these more specific questions about a person’s origin or living arrangements, we would love to see them in the reply.

#3: How to ask What do you do in Chinese

Learning basic Chinese with Matt. Today’s question is about professions. There are a few different ways to ask about this in Chinese, as well as in English, depending on the information you are looking for. Here is the most general way to ask, “What do you do?”

Q: 你是做什么的? Nǐ shì zuò shénme de?
What do you do?

A: 我是老师。Wǒ shì lǎoshī.

I am a teacher.

When you answer, just add your profession at the end of the sentence. Here are some professions.

学生 -Xuéshēng – student
老师-Lǎoshī – teacher
商人 – Shāngrén – business person
秘书 – Mìshū – secretary
会计 – Kuàijì – accounting
记者 – Jìzhě – journalist
厨师 – Chúshī – chef
科学家 – Kēxuéjiā – scientist
医生 – Yīshēng – doctor
护士 – Hùshì – nurse
牙科医生 – Yá kē yīshēng – dentist
工程师 – Gōngchéngshī – engineer
技术人员 – Jìshù rényuán – tech staff
律师 – Lǜ shī – lawyer
音乐家 – Yīnyuè jiā – musician
演员 – Yǎnyuán – actor/actress
艺术家 – Yì shù jiā – artist
退休 – Tuìxiū – retired
This answer is a little different. To say you are retired say:

我退休了。 Wǒ tuì xiū le.
I’m retired.

Of course there are a lot of other jobs out there to talk about. If you’ve got a question about how to say a profession in Chinese include it in your reply. Below are two other common ways to ask about professions with their answers:

Q: 你做什么工作? Nǐ zuò shénme gōngzuò?
What’s your job?
A: 我是老师。 (same as above)

Q: 你在哪儿工作? Nǐ zài nǎ’er gōngzuò?
Where do you work?
A: 我在学校工作。Wǒ zài xuéxiào gōngzuò.
I work at a school

#4: What do you like to do in your free time in Chinese

Today we are learning basic Chinese that how to say, “What do you like to do in your free time?” in Chinese. Here is the question and answer:


Q: 你空余时间喜欢做什么?
 Nǐ kòngyú shíjiān xǐhuan zuò shénme?


What do you like to do in your free time?
A: 我喜欢学中文。
Wǒ xǐhuan 
xué zhōngwén.

I like
to learn Chinese.

Just replace the
 学中文 in the answer above to tell about your own personal interests. Here are some pastimes that will work well with this pattern:

书法 - Shūfǎ - calligraphy
爬山 - Páshān – hiking/mountain climbing
电子游戏 – Diànzǐ yóuxì – video games
做饭 - Zuò fàn – cooking
跳舞- Tiàowǔ – dancing
唱歌 - Chànggē – singing
画画- Huà huà – drawing
喝酒- Hē jiǔ – drinking
吃饭 - Chīfàn – eating
看电影 - Kàn diànyǐng – watching movies
养花 - Yǎng huā – gardening
听音乐- Tīng yīnyuè – listening to music
拍照- Pāizhào – photography
看书- Kàn shū – reading books
体育- Tǐyù – sports
上网- Shàngwǎng – surfing online
聊天- Liáotiān – chatting
旅游- Lǚyóu – travelling
散步- Sànbù – walking
看电视-Kàn diànshì – watching TV
逛商店- Guàng shāngdiàn – window shopping
长跑- Chángpǎo – jogging
打篮球- Dǎ lánqiú – playing basketball
打棒球- Dǎ bàngqiú – playing basebal l
打橄榄球-Dǎ gǎnlǎnqiú – playing football
踢足球- Tī zúqiú – playing soccer
打曲棍球- Dǎ qūgùnqiú – playing hockey
打网球- Dǎ wǎngqiú – playing tennis
打排球- Dǎ páiqiú – play volleyball
游泳- Yóuyǒng – swimming
练功夫- Liàn gōngfu – practicing kung fu
搞举重- Gǎo jǔzhòng – lifting weights
露营- Lùyíng – camping
钓鱼- Diào yú – fishing
攀岩- Pānyán – rock climbling
划船- Huáchuán – rowing
滑雪- Huáxuě – skiing
锻炼- Duànliàn – working out
弹吉他- tán jítā – playing guitar
弹钢琴- tán gāngqín – playing piano

#5: How many people are in your family in Chinese

Today’s question is, “How many people are in your family.” Here is today’s question and answer in Chinese:

Q: 你家有几个人?
Nǐ jiā yǒu jǐ gè rén?

How many people are in your family?
A: 我家有四个人, 我太太, 两个儿子, 和我。 Wǒ jiā yǒu sì gè rén, wǒ tàitai, liǎng gè érzi, hé wǒ.

My family has
 four people, my wife, two sons, and I.

To tell how many people are in your family, simply replace
 四 with the appropriate number:
 两, 三, 四,五, 六, 七, 八, 九。(liǎng, sān, sì, wǔ, liù, qī, bā, jiǔ.) In some places, 个 (ge) is replaced by 口(Kǒu), but the words are interchangeable in this context and do not change the meaning of the sentence.

Telling about your family members can be a little more complicated in Chinese than it is in other languages, so we won’t go into a full list of vocabulary here. Below are some common names for family members that should be enough for you to express yourself clearly.

丈夫 - Zhàngfu ¬- husband
太太 - Tàitai - wife
爸爸 - Bà ba - father
妈妈 - Māma - mother
儿子 – Érzi – son
女儿 - Nǚ’ér - daughter
哥哥 - Gēge - elder brother
弟弟 - Dìdi - younger brother
姐姐- Jiějie – elder sister
妹妹 - Mèimei - younger sister
男朋友 - Nán péngyou. – boyfriend
女朋友 - Nǚ péngyou. – girlfriend

What if you don’t really want to talk about your family, or what if answering with a number of people seems a little awkward? Here are some other ways to answer if you are single, if you are in a relationship or if you’d just like to gracefully sidestep the question.

我结婚了。- Wǒ jiéhūn le. – I’m married
我离婚了。- Wǒ líhūn le. – I’m divorced.
我有伴。- Wǒ yǒu bàn. – I’m in a relationship.
我是单身。- Wǒ shì dānshēn. – I’m single.
Now it’s your turn. Try to tell about the topics above and I will launch more topics for learning basic Chinese. later

Matt Sikora

Matt is a certified foreign language instructor(English, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish) with 20 years experience in the US and abroad. He focused on developing online communicative environments for students in their language of study. Provides classes for personal, educational and corporate enrichment that blend face-to-face instruction with current technology to create individualized learning paths.