Chinese Greetings You Need to Know

The proper use of Mandarin Chinese greetings can pave the way for establishing good relationships. How does one use correct expressions when meeting someone for the first time? Let me explain that to you. Here is a sample dialogue:

A:你好!(nǐ hǎo! Hi!)
B:你好!( nǐ hǎo! Hi!)
A:你好吗?( nǐ hǎo ma? How are you?)
B:我很好,你呢?( wǒ hěn hǎo, nǐ ne? I am fine, and you?)
A:我也很好。(wǒ yě hěn hǎo. I am fine too.)
B:你家人好吗?( nǐ jiārén hǎo ma? How are your family?)
A:他们都很好,谢谢。(tāmen dōu hěn hǎo, xièxiè. They are all fine, thank you.)

你好! (Nĭ hăo!) is a very common expression used in Chinese greeting to show friendliness or respect. In English, it means “Hello”, “Hi”, and “good day!” etc. It may be used at any time on meeting someone or on being introduced. Usually The response to it is also你好! (Nĭ hăo!)

吗?(ma) One of the most common ways of forming a simple question in Chinese is to add the interrogative particle吗 at the end of a declarative.
Hence 你好! (Hi!) becomes 你好吗? (How are you?)

呢?(ne)Particle 呢 supplies the means of cutting a question down to a topic. It shows that the same question as that asked previously is to be raised about a new topic. Its meaning is equivalent to “and you?” “what about you?” or “how about you?”. Here are some examples:

A:你忙吗?( nǐ máng ma? Are you busy?)
B:我很忙,你呢?( wǒ hěn máng, nǐ ne? I am busy, how about you?)
A:我不忙。(wǒ bù máng. I am not busy.)

很(hěn)here does not carry the meaning of degree “very”. It is simply because to say 我好 is a bit abrupt and hence awkward with only a monosyllabic adjective好as the predicate of the sentence. Therefore people usually add 很 before 好 to make the sentence sound natural: 我很好 in this case does not necessarily mean “I am very well”, it may simply convey the meaning of “I am fine”.

好(hǎo, good)and忙(máng, busy)are both adjectives, When adjectives form the predicate to describe the subject, they function as verbs(stative verb ). There is no additional word for ‘to be’. For instance:

我很忙。 Wǒ hěn máng. I am busy.

Note that the Chinese verb, be it a stative or an action verb, has no morphological changes whatsoever resulting from person, gender, number, time, etc.

Adverbs such as 很, 不,也, 都 come immediately before the verb and can only be separated from it by another adverb. (Negation word不,When you negate a Chinese sentence, you simply place the adverb before the predicative verb.) Thus:

爸爸很高,妈妈不高。 Bàba hěn gāo, māmā bù gāo.
My father is tall, yet my mother is not.

你不累,我也不累。 Nǐ bù lèi, wǒ yě bú lèi. You are not tied, me neither.

我们都是老师。 Wǒmen dōu shì lǎoshī. We are both/all teachers.

都不 VS 不都

Sometimes you may find two or more adverbs occur together, such as都不 and 不都. A distinction should be noted about the position of the adverb 不 between BEFORE and AFTER other adverbs都. Before the adverbs 都, it is a partial negation; and after those adverbs, it is a total negation. Compare the following examples:

他们都不是中国人。Tāmen dōu bùshì zhōngguó rén. None of them is a Chinese.
他们不都是中国人。Tāmen bù dōu shì zhōngguó rén. Not all of them are Chinese.
我们都不忙。 Wŏ men dōu bù máng. None of us is busy.
我们不都忙。 Wŏ men bù dōu máng. Not all of us are busy.

Let us do some excises, try to translate these sentences in Chinese by yourself:

1. Not all of us are students.
2. None of them is a doctor.
3. Both my elder sister and my elder brother can speak English.
4. But none of them can speak Chinese.
5. My younger sister’s friend is also my friend, we both like music.
6. He is ill, and looks not very good.

Rita Zhang

Rita is a professional Mandarin teacher, has been teaching more than 8 years. She enjoys digging more about Chinese grammar and culture work and helping more learners. Now she is working at the one-on-one online Chinese school TouchChinese.