If you ask what the most well- known Chinese phrase is, I would say it is “你好”. It is becoming quite common to hear “你好” in a foreign country from a non Chinese person. Is “你好” the only greeting phrase in Chinese? The answer is no. Like other commonly used phrases “Goodbye” and “Thank you“, people use different expressions to say “hello” depending on the situations. Let’s learn how to say Hello in Chinese like a native.
In most cases, using 你好 as a greeting phrase is correct. But to be like a native, you got to know 2 more phrases: 您好 and 你们好. As they are all greeting phrases, you don’t expect an answer when you say them.
Saying Hello with 你好, 您好, and 你们好
It is used in informal situations when addressing to one person.
Xiǎo wáng, nǐ hǎo!
(note: in this case, Xiaowang is a friend or a classmate.)
In formal situations, “您好” is used when addressing an elder person or a person at a higher rank.
Wáng lǎoshī, nín hǎo!
Hello, Ms Wang!
(note: in this case, Ms Wang is a teacher.)
你们好(nǐ mén hǎo )
This can be used in both formal and informal situations when addressing a group of people.
Tóngxuémen, nǐmen hǎo!
你们好(Nǐmen hǎo) and大家好 (Dàjiā hǎo)
There is another expression we can use when addressing to a group of people: 大家好. The difference between is 你们好(Nǐmen hǎo) and 大家好 (Dàjiā hǎo) is very little, in detail,
They can be used in both formal and informal situations. 大家好(Dàjiā hǎo)is lightly more formal than 你们好(Nǐmen hǎo) .
Saying Hello with 喂(wèi)，哈罗(hā luō) and 嗨(hāi)
It is the first phrase that Chinese people say when they answer the phone. Actually 喂 (wèi) Hello is only used in this situation.
Wèi, qǐngwèn shì shéi?
Hello, who is it?
Wǒ shì xiǎo wáng. Qǐngwèn wáng lǎoshī zàijiā ma?
This is Xiaowang speaking. Is Ms Wang at home?
If you pronounce this phrase, you will find 哈罗 sounds exactly like hello in English. As you guessed, 哈罗 is a loanword Chinese borrowed from English. It is often used among yound people.
Hā luō, wǒ qīn’ài de jiějiě!
Hello, my dear sister!
Young people want to seem cool. To show uniqueness, 嗨(hāi) is used by cool young guys. It is informal, sounds like “hi” in English.
你好(nǐ hǎo) vs 你好吗？ (nǐ hǎo mā?)
“你好” is a greeting. When said, we do not expect an answer.
“你好吗？” (nǐ hǎo mā?) is a greeting question rather than a greeting, so when asked, we do expect an answer. A typical answer is “我很好，谢谢，你呢？“ For example,
- 你好吗？(nǐ hǎo mā?) — How are you doing?
- 我很好，谢谢。你呢？（wǒ hěn hǎo. xiè xiè. nǐ nē?) — I am very well. Thank you. And you?
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Resources Mentioned Above
- How to Say Hello in Chinese Like a Native
- How to Say Goodbye in Chinese Like a Native
- Thanksgiving Chinese
- Thanksgiving Chinese Learning Pack for Kids
- Top 100 Commonly Used Chinese Character Flash Cards and Audio Pack
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