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Responding with ‘好的’(hǎo de), ‘好啊’(hǎo a), ‘好吧’(hǎo ba), ‘好嘛’(hǎo ma), ‘好啦’(hǎo la)

‘好(hǎo)’ in its original definition means ‘good’, and when it’s used as a response or reply, it automatically transforms to mean ‘fine’, ‘sure’ or ‘ok’. Yet, with various words and interjections following ‘好hǎo’, it changes to show different emotions or tones. In this article, let’s have a closer look at the use of ‘好的(hǎo de)’, ‘好啊(hǎo a)’, ‘好吧(hǎo ba)’, ‘好嘛(hǎo ma)’, ‘好啦(hǎo la)’.

好的(hǎo de)

      
  • ‘的(de)’, when placed at the end of sentences, it suggests a confirming sound, therefore ‘好的’ equals to ‘sure’ or ‘ok’, with a sense of confirmation.
  • ‘好的’ is often used when you agree to a request or suggestion without hesitation, while showing your understanding of it at the same time.

Example

经理:你明天9点前到公司吧!(Jīnglǐ: nǐ míngtiān 9 diǎn qián dào gōngsī ba!)

Manager: Arrive at the company at 9 tomorrow.

小刚:好的。(Xiǎogāng: hǎo de.)

Xiaogang: Sure.

 

妈妈:你能帮我买点儿鸡蛋吗?(Māma: nǐ néng bāng wǒ mǎi diǎnr jīdàn ma?)

Mum: Can you help me buy some eggs?

儿子:好的,没问题。(érzi: hǎo de, méi wèntí.)

Son: Sure, no problem.

好啊 (hǎo a)

      
  • ‘啊a’, when placed at the end of sentences, it shows exclamation and enthusiasm, therefore ‘好啊’ means ‘sure’ or ‘ok’ in a keen expression.

Example

A:你想去那家饭馆吗? (Nǐ xiǎng qù nà jiā fànguǎn ma?)

   Do you want to go to that restaurant?
B:好啊!(Hǎo a!) 

   Sure!

  
A:我们一起踢足球,怎么样?(Wǒmen yìqǐ tī zúqiú, zěnmeyàng?)

   Let’s play football together, how about it?

B:当然 好啊!(Dāngrán hǎo a!)

   Of course great!

好吧 (hǎo ba)

      
  • ‘好吧’ often used when you agree to a request or suggestion, yet with an indifferent or relatively less passionate tone.
  • It’s similar to the way English uses ‘ok…’, ‘fine’, and ‘all right then.’

Example

妈妈:你先把作业写好才可以出去玩。(Mama: nǐ xiān bǎ zuòyè xiě hǎo cái kěyǐ chūqù wán.)

Mum: You can then go out to play only after you finish your homework first.

儿子:好吧!(ér zǐ: hǎo ba!)

Son: Ok, fine.

 

老师:下个星期我们有考试,大家请记得。(Lǎoshī : xià ge xīngqī wǒmen yǒu kǎoshì, dàjiā qǐng jìdé.)

Teacher: There’s an exam next week, everyone please remember it.

同学:好吧!(Tóngxué: hǎo ba!)

Class: Fine.

好嘛 (hǎo ma)

      
  • One function of ‘嘛ma’ is to make the tone sound more ‘cute’ when specifying your expectation, therefore ‘好嘛’ is often used when you’re seeking help from others, and hope they would say ‘yes’, ‘sure’, or ’ok’.
  • It’s similar to the meaning ‘please’, or ‘say yes, please’

Example

儿子:我真的很喜欢这个电脑游戏,你买给我吧!(érzi: wǒ zhēnde hěn xǐhuān zhè ge diànnǎo yóuxì, nǐ mǎi gěi wǒ ba!)

Son: I really like this computer game, buy it for me!

妈妈:走吧,别看了。(Māma: zǒu ba, bié kàn le.)

Mum: Let’s go, stop looking.

儿子:妈,好嘛!就买给我嘛!(érzi: mā, hǎo ma! jiù mǎi gěi wǒ ma!)

Son: Mum, yes please! Just buy me for me.

妈妈:不行。(Māma: bù xíng.)

Mum: No.

 

同学:小丽,借我看一下你的作业,行吗?(Tóng xué: Xiǎolì, jiè wǒ kàn yíxià nǐ de zuòyè, xíng ma?)

Classmate: Xiaoli, lend me your homework for a look, is it ok?

小丽:这个啊,让我想想。(Xiǎolì: zhè ge a, ràng wǒ xiǎng xiǎng.)

Xiaoli: For this …let me think.

同学:好嘛!(Tóngxué: hǎo ma!)

Classmate: Yes, please!

小丽:那好吧!看完了马上还我。(Xiǎolì: nà hǎo ba! kàn wán le mǎshang huán wǒ.)

Xiaoli: Fine, then! Return it to me once you’ve finished looking.

好啦 (hǎo la)

      
  • ‘好啦’ is often used when you agree to a request, yet with a relatively less passionate tone, showing unwillingness.
  • It’s similar to the way English uses ‘fine’, ‘ok…’and ‘alright then’, but with greater unwillingness.
  • The application is similar to ‘好吧’, but the ‘reluctant’ emotion is often perceived to be stronger.

Example

朋友:好啦,别哭了,我们出去散散步吧!(Péngyǒu: hǎo la, bié kū le, wǒmen chūqù sàn sàn bù ba!)

Friend: Fine, don’t cry anymore, let’s go out for a walk!

小红:好吧!(Xiǎohóng: hǎo ba!)

Xiaohong: Ok.

 

女儿:爸,可以带我去逛商场吗?(Nǚér: bà, kěyǐ dài wǒ qù guàng shāngchǎng ma?)

Daughter: Dad, can you bring me to the mall to go shopping?

爸爸:好啦,好啦!(Bàba: hǎo la, hǎo la!)

Dad: Ok, fine, fine!

As you can see, the word ‘好(hǎo)’, when combined with another character after it, can then alter the meaning of “OK”, “Fine,” or “All right” in different ways. If you can master these different words, you will be able to not only express yourself more clearly when you say “OK” in Chinese, you will also be able to tell what native Chinese speakers really mean whenever they say “OK” to you. Learning this can definitely make you a better speaker and listener of Chinese.

Winkie Wong

Passionate about teaching and as a Chinese speaker, Winkie is also qualified with the Certificate of Proficiency in Putonghua by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority. She's now dedicated to offering Chinese lessons on ChineseQQ, via Skype and face to face. Her students are from various backgrounds, levels and ages.

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