No matter what language you learn as a new language, one of the first things you learn is always how to greet people. They’re the key to ensuring the people you talk to have a good impression of you right from the beginning. If you’re a beginner in learning Chinese, the very first question for you to ask is “How do you say ‘hello’ in Chinese?” and invariably, you are taught to say 你好 (nĭhǎo). However, it might not always be the best choice since there are different Chinese greetings for several occasions, and a proper greeting is key in opening up the gate to a fuller, desired conversation.
So now, let’s help you grasp the gist of Chinese greetings like a native! This article will cover Chinese common greeting expressions, when and how to say them. Even if you are a beginner, you’ll know all about Chinese greetings in no time!
The most common Chinese greetings phrases
#1 你好- Hello: the perfect start
It would be inconceivable not to mention “你好 (nǐ hǎo)” which is the most common and most used expression to say hello in Mandarin. If you want to learn Chinese, you definitely need to learn this useful word, and if you are learning Chinese, this was most likely one of the first things you learned. As “你 (nǐ)” is the informal form of “you”, Chinese people use “你好” when they want to greet friends or acquaintances. But watch out, this expression is used to greet one person at a time!
For example, if you run across a classmate, you can say:
同学你好 (tóngxué nǐ hǎo) Hello classmate.
It doesn’t matter if you put the name/subject before or after the greeting in Chinese.
You can also shorten the greeting by just putting the name/subject before “好 (hǎo)” good.
老师好 (lǎoshī hǎo) Hello teacher!
#2 您好 – Hello: how to be the most polite Chinese learner
As we’ve just talked about the informal version of “you”, let me introduce to you the polite form of “你 (nǐ)” you: “您 (nín)” you. Imagine you want to say hello in Chinese to someone that is higher-ranked than you, let’s say your boss for instance, but also to elders, you’ll need to say “您好 (nín hǎo)” hello to show your respect.
For example, when you meet your manager, you could say:
经理您好 (jīnglǐ nín hǎo) hello manager.
Plus, they’ll be very pleased to hear you greeting them that way.
Note: The Taiwanese tend to use “你好 (nǐ hǎo)” more than “您好 (nín hǎo)” to greet people, even those they don’t know well.
#3 大家好 – Hello everyone: to greet a crowd
Say hello in Chinese: “大家好” hello everyone.
You saw in the first way to say hello in Mandarin, that “你好 (nǐ hǎo)” can only be used to greet one person at a time. But what if you want to say hi in Chinese to many people at the same time? It’s the right time to use the Chinese expression “大家好 (dàjiā hǎo)” Hello everyone. ( “大家 (dàjiā)” means everyone)
Suppose that you go to the bakery and there are many sellers and people inside, you can say:
大家好 (dàjiā hǎo) Hello everyone.
When greeting many people at a time, you can also say:
你们好 (nǐmen hǎo) hello everyone
“你们 (nǐmen)” is the plural form of you, so that works too.
How to greet people in Chinese at different times of day
You know how to greet people depending on how many people there are with the most used and common expressions. Now let’s see how to say hello in Chinese based on what time of day it is. The following expressions are used as often as their equivalents in English. So don’t be surprised if someone greets you that way.
#1 早上好 / 上午好 – Good morning: to start the day the right way
How do you say hello in Chinese in the morning? Easy! You can use the word “早上 (zǎo shang)” early morning and add the Chinese character “好 (hǎo)” good. What you get in the end is the word “早上好 (zǎoshang hǎo)” Good morning.
But be careful, “早上好” is only used if you meet someone early in the morning, specifically from 6 am to 9 am. After that, from 9 am to 12 am, you must say “上午好 (shàngwǔ hǎo)” Good morning, which also means good morning. “上午 (shàngwǔ)” means morning.
#2 下午好 – Good afternoon: the greeting for the tea time
Let’s pretend it’s the afternoon, and you’re going over to a friend’s house for tea time. When arriving, you can say:
“朋友, 下午好 (péngyǒu, xiàwǔ hǎo)” Good afternoon my friend.
“下午 (xiàwǔ)” means afternoon and it’s added to the character “好 (hǎo)” good, to create “good afternoon”. The Chinese language is really easy, don’t you think?
#3 晚上好 – Good evening: the greeting for the night owls
When it’s late, and you’re supposed to meet people in the evening, you can greet them by saying “晚上好 (wǎnshàng hǎo)” – Good evening. As you have probably easily guessed, “晚上 (wǎnshàng)” means evening.
Short and cool expressions to say hello in Chinese
Nowadays, Chinese people have added more expressions to say hi in Mandarin. Young people, especially, have created their own expressions inspired by the Western greeting expressions. See how and when you can get rid of “你好”.
#1 喂 – Hello: to pick up the phone like a pro
The expression “喂 (wèi)” Hello is only used in one situation: when answering your phone. If you’ve heard a Chinese person on the phone, then you have to have heard that “喂” before! For instance, if someone calls you on your phone when you answer, you can say “喂 (wèi)” Hello to greet them and indicate you’ve picked up. This is a very cute and yet simple word to say hello in Chinese. “喂” is used by everyone, age doesn’t matter here.
#2 哈罗 – Hello: the one that sounds familiar
Say hello in Chinese: 哈罗
If you go to China, you’ll most likely hear young people say “哈罗 (hā luō)” Hello. If you pay attention to the pronunciation of “哈罗”, you’ll notice it sounds like hello. In fact, “哈罗 (hā luō)” is a loanword the Chinese borrowed from English. Easy to remember, don’t you think? You can use this expression when speaking with young people.
#3 嗨 – Hi: to sound cool in Chinese
Young people are very creative. Here’s another expression to say hello in Chinese you can use when talking to young people or people of your age to show how cool you are. “嗨 (hāi)” Hi is also a loanword the Chinese borrowed from English. If you say it out loud, you’ll hear it sounds just like the English word Hi.
Common expressions to greet people in Chinese
When sometimes you think a “你好” is not enough to greet someone, you can use the following expressions to help you be friendly with people and greet others in Chinese.
#1 好久不见 ！- Long time no see! the greeting sentence for old friends
Old friends can be separated by life’s duties, jobs, family, or hobbies, but once they gather together, it’s like they’ve never been away from each other that long. If that happens to you with a Chinese friend, you can tell them “好久不见 (hǎojiǔ bújiàn!)” Long time no see!. It’s a nice greeting from a very good friend. Some suspect the English expression “long time no see” was borrowed from Chinese.
#2 最近过得怎样呀？- How has life been recently?
The expression “最近过得怎样呀？(zuìjìn guò dé zěnyàng ya?)” – “How has life been recently?” can also be translated as “How are you?” in English, as the same kind of answer is expected. For example, when you meet one of your friends you haven’t seen in a little while, they can ask you “最近过得怎样呀? (zuìjìn guò dé zěnyàng ya?) How has life been recently?”, you can answer several ways:
“挺好的。 (tǐng hǎo de.)” Quite good.
“还不错。 (hái búcuò.)” Not bad.
“一般般。 (yì bān bān.)” Just so so.
“不太好。 (bù tài hǎo.)” Not so good.
#3 吃了吗？- Have you eaten? How food got involved in the greetings
Say hello in Chinese: 吃了吗? “Have you eaten?”
Asking someone if they have eaten can seem like a weird question, but it’s actually a well-known and popular expression to say hello in Chinese. Wait. To say hello? Absolutely. In China, eating is extremely important and therefore inquiring whether someone has eaten or not “吃了吗? (chī le ma?) Have you eaten?” gradually became a perfectly normal way of asking “How are you?” in Chinese. Whenever someone asks you “吃了吗？ (chī le ma?) Have you eaten?, say “吃了 (chī le)” I’m fine (literally I’ve eaten) and ask them back “你呢？ (nǐ ne?)” And you? They’ll be glad to be asked so.
After learning some fun and extended ways of Chinese greetings, do you feel your Chinese is more like a native? To remember these Chinese greetings properly, we suggest you frequently practice with a friend, make sentences with appropriate backgrounds, or learn with Mandarin flashcards.
Another great way to learn Chinese as a beginner is to learn common Chinese idioms. Check out Part Two of How To Learn Chinese As A Beginner here!
Don’t forget that you can also learn Chinese with Pandanese – the ultimate Mandarin learning platform – for free! Pandanese helps Chinese learners at all levels memorize Hanzi (Chinese characters) efficiently with images, flashcards, reminders, and cool example sentences.