Have you been interested in learning Mandarin Chinese in 2021 but have no idea where to begin? This article provides some tips and basic knowledge on learning Chinese idioms and characters for you to start without struggling!
Maybe before you find this article, you might already read several Chinese step-by-step learning guidelines. However, reading all these lengthy guidelines may seem like a massive amount of work that takes years of effort, tempting you to want to give up.
That’s why we’ve got you covered with this article from Pandanese! Let’s learn how to memorize Chinese characters in a fun and easy way as a beginner by going through these excellent tips on learning Chinese idioms.
Greeting in Chinese and English languages
No matter what language you learn as a new language, one of the first things you know is always how to greet people. Learning Chinese is no different from learning other languages. 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?.” Usually, your Chinese teacher will teach you 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 critical in opening up the gate to a fuller, desired conversation.
So now, let’s help you grasp the gist of greeting in the Chinese language like a native! Even if you are a beginner. You’ll know all about Chinese greetings in no time!
Top 3 popular ways to say ‘hello’ in Chinese
#1 你好 – Hello! The perfect start
It would be hard not to mention “你好 (nǐ hǎo)” which is the most common and used expression to say hello in Mandarin. If you want to learn Chinese, you need to know this helpful word, and if you are, 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. Although don’t forget that you should use this phrase to greet one person at a time!
For example, if you run into a classmate of yours, you can say:
同学你好 (tóngxué nǐ hǎo) Hello classmate!
It doesn’t matter if you put the name or subject before or after the greeting expression in Chinese.
You can also shorten the greeting session by just putting the name or subject before “好 (hǎo)” good.
老师好 (lǎoshī hǎo) Hello teacher!
#2 您好 – Hello! 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 someone’s grandfather, you have to say:
经理您好 (jīnglǐ nín hǎo) hello manager!
Plus, they’ll be happy to hear you greeting them that way.
Note: The Taiwanese tend to use more “你好 (nǐ hǎo)” 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!
In the section above, I mentioned the first way to say hello in Mandarin. That you should use “你好 (nǐ hǎo)” to greet one person at a time. But what if you’re with many people and you want to say hi in Chinese to everyone 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)
Let’s set the background. If 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!
Where “你们 (nǐmen)” is the plural form of you, meaning “everyone.”
Greeting people in Chinese at different times of a day
You know now how to greet people depending on how many they are with the most used and common expressions. Let’s see now how to say hello in Chinese based on what time of day it is! Chinese speakers use the following expressions regularly in their daily conversations. So don’t be surprised if someone greets you in one of these ways!
#1 早上好/上午好 – start the day the right way
How do you say hello in Chinese in the morning? It’s straightforward! 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)” which also means good morning. “上午 (shàngwǔ)” means morning.
#2 下午好 – Good afternoon! greetings for the tea hours
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, isn’t it?
#3 晚上好 – Good evening! greetings 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 words 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 listen to 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 charming 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
If you go to China, you’ll most likely hear young people say “哈罗 (hā luō)” Hello. If you pay attention ty6 o 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, right? 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.
When sometimes, you think a “你好” is not enough to greet someone, you can use the following expressions to help you to be friendly with people and greet others in Chinese.
#1 好久不见- Long time no see! greetings 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 friendly greeting from a close friend. Yes, 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?)” means “how has life been recently” and “how are you”?
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?)”, to which you can answer in 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 good!
#3 吃了吗？- Have you eaten?
Asking someone if they have eaten can seem like a weird question but it’s a well-known and popular expression to say hello in Chinese. Wait. To say hello? Absolutely. In China, eating is 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?, just 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 way to say “Hello” in Chinese. Do you feel your Chinese is more like a native? Now let’s move to a more difficult part – the Chinese idioms, and see how they can better help us memorize Chinese characters!
Chinese idioms to memorize Chinese characters
Chinese idioms also called “成语 (chéngyǔ)” is one term with four characters.
For almost all Chinese learners (no matter beginners or high-level learners), Chinese idioms are the most challenging. Even if you lived ten years in China, you may still have trouble understanding and using Chinese idioms. Today, I’d like to introduce two fun and easy ways to learn Chinese idioms and how they help you memorize Chinese characters, even if you are a beginner.
The first thing you should know about “成语 (chéngyǔ)” – Chinese idioms is that they are not words from modern Chinese, they are classical Chinese. In English, the term “成语 (chéngyǔ)” can be directly translated as “already made words” or “formed words.”
Chinese idioms always come from specific backgrounds, typically contain a story with them. After studying Chinese for a few months, especially if you learn Chinese in China, you become confident in your language abilities. Now is the time for level up that you may want to challenge learning Chinese idioms. My suggestion is to try reading some Chinese idioms storybooks with pictures to learn idioms like reading comics or children’s stories. There are even animations for them.
For example, one of the most famous Chinese idioms is “熟能生巧 (shú néng sheng qiǎo)” came from a story of “卖油翁 (mài yóu wēng)” wrote by “欧阳修 (ōu yángxiū)” in Song dynasty.
Watch this story in animation here
Another interesting idiom example is “画蛇添足 (huà shé tiān zú).”
In the Warring States Period, a man in the state of Chu was offering a sacrifice（祭品） to his ancestors. After the ceremony, the man gave a beaker of wine to his servants. The servants thought that there was not enough wine for all of them and decided1 to draw a picture of a snake; the one who finished the painting first would get the wine. One of them drew very rapidly. Seeing that the others were still busy drawing, he added feet to the snake. At this moment, another man finished, snatched the beaker（烧杯，大口杯） and drank the wine, saying, “A snake doesn’t have feet. How can you add feet to a snake?”
This idiom refers to ruining a venture by doing unnecessary and surplus things. You can watch the story here. If you are a visual learner, definitely check out our most recommended Chinese TVs and movie websites to watch for free!
Another way to learn Chinese idioms is to play games with them. It is also helpful in learning any new Chinese terms. Especially when you have friends and classmates, you can practice Chinese while having fun with your friends.
First, you open the Pandanese website: https://www.pandanese.com/ and sign up.
Then, you can check the bottom of this web page and find the mandarin flashcards section. You click and you will see this screenshot:
It is time to play! There are many ways to play with these cards.
If you don’t know any of these words and they’re all new to you, you can click on the characters and learn their meaning.
For example, you click “一无所有(yī wú suǒ yǒu),” a four-character idiom and you will see this page:
Then, you will hear the pronunciation of the term that you click. You can replay this audio until you are fluent in pronouncing it.
If you want to memorize this Chinese idiom, there are several ways to help you do it! Firstly, you try breaking down the term and remember it one by one. On the other hand, you can use mnemonics to remember its reading and meaning. You can also click the blue and orange flashcards to learn related characters.
After you and your friends finish learning the first row, you can start to play.
One person clicks a flashcard, and others listen to the audio. Then the others click their flashcard to find the word that matches the sound. Since each row has eight words, you can click four of them in one round and check if everyone found out the correct words or not.
There are indeed other ways to play with Chinese idioms while memorizing them. We’d love to hear your experiences in the comment below. Let us know if you are interested in getting more fun games ideas to learn and memorize Chinese characters!