The 50 Most Useful Chinese Adjectives for Everyday Conversation
Without adjectives, you won’t be able to describe anything.
When you’re learning Chinese, you’ll find it insanely difficult to communicate when simple, key adjectives are missing from your vocabulary.
So today, I’m here to teach you 50 of the most common Chinese adjectives you’ll hear (and use) all day every day.
1. 漂亮 (piào liang) — pretty
Like in English, Chinese has several ways to express that you find someone or something pleasing to the eyes. One of the most common choices is 漂亮.
wǒ de mā ma hěn piào liang
My mom is so pretty.
2. 好 (hǎo) — good
好 can be used the same way the words “good” or “well” are used in English.
While 好 can be used by Chinese speaker to describe positive experiences, feelings, or things, it’s also commonly used in conjunction with other words to make new, logical meanings..
For example, you might recognize it from likely the first phrase you ever learned in Chinese: 你好 (nǐ hǎo). You already know this means “hello,” but it literally translates to “you good.” Interesting how language works, right?
tā chàng gē chàng de fēi cháng hǎo
He sings very good/well.
3. 不好 / 坏 (bù hǎo / huài) — bad
Saying “bad” is quite simple in Mandarin—just say “not good!”
Or, opt for the word 坏.
jīn tiān de tiān qì kàn qǐ lái bù hǎo
Today’s weather looks bad.
tā de pí qì hěn huài
Her temper is very bad.
4. 美 (měi) — beautiful
Remember how we talked about the multiple ways to express attractiveness or beauty? Here’s another! Except, 美 is a bit stronger than 漂亮, similar to how “beautiful” is stronger than “pretty” in English.
zhè li de huán jìng zhēn měi
The environment here is really beautiful.
5. 大 (dà) — big
To remember this Chinese word, many learners imagine the character as a stick figure holding his arms out to say, “It was this big!”
nà ge shì zuì dà de
That one is the biggest.
6. 小 (xiǎo) — small
As with 好, Chinese speakers use 小 to make many related words. For example, the word “snack” is 小吃 (xiǎo chī), which literally means “small eat.”
wǒ de qún zi tài xiǎo le
My dress is too small.
7. 胖 (pàng) — fat
This Chinese adjective might become useful after the holidays, like when you’ve eaten one too many 月饼 (yuè bǐng — moon cakes) during 中秋节 (zhōng qiū jié — Mid Autumn Festival).
wǒ de xiǎo gǒu hěn pàng
My puppy is fat.
8. 瘦 (shòu) — skinny/thin
The opposite of 胖 is 瘦. When I first learned this word, I remembered it by thinking “if you want your muscles to 瘦 (shòu), you need to be thin.” Scientific truthfulness aside, it’s an easy mnemonic that worked for me.
nǐ yīng gāi duō chī yì diǎn, nǐ tài shòu le!
You should eat a bit more, you’re too skinny!
9. 高 (gāo) — tall
The Mandarin word for “tall” is 高, which looks like a tall building. It even has a roof on top!
wǒ de nán péng you hěn gāo
My boyfriend is very tall.
10. 矮 (ǎi) — short (in height)
wǒ bǐ tā ǎi
I’m shorter than her.
11. 长 (cháng) — long
In Chinese, there are two ways to say “long,” but they have slightly different meanings. This one, 长 (cháng), refers to length. The other word, 久 (jiǔ), refers to time.
wǒ bǐ jiào xǐ huān cháng tóu fa de nǚ shēng
I prefer girls with long hair.
12. 短 (duǎn) — short (in length)
Similar to the last adjective, 短 means “short” and refers to length while the adjective 矮 refers to height, as we learned earlier.
wǒ meì mei de tóu fa hěn duǎn
My little sister’s hair is very short.
13. 忙 (máng) — busy
Chinese speakers use also use this as a way to say “what’s up?” or “what have you been up to lately?”
nǐ zuì jìn máng shén me?
What’s up? / What have you been up to lately?
jīn tiān tài máng le, wǒ méi yǒu kòng
Today is too busy, I don’t have free time.
14. 累 (lèi) — tired
I don’t know about you, but when I’m really tired, all I want to do is 累 (lèi) down.
tā zuó tiān gōng zuò dào hěn wǎn, suǒ yǐ jīn tiān jué de hěn leì
He worked late yesterday, so today (he) feels very tired.
15. 多 (duō) — many, a lot
多 (duō) is a powerful, multifaceted little word. It can be used as an adjective, a quantity and a question word. You’ve probably heard it in phrases like “多少钱 (duō shǎo qián) — How much does it cost?” and “多长时间 (duō cháng shí jiān) — How long?”.
But you can also use it when you want to say there’s a lot (or too much) of something, like in the example sentence below.
rén tài duō le, wǒ kàn bù qīng chu
There are too many people, I can’t see clearly.
16. 少 (shǎo) — few
Like 多, 少 has a myriad of uses, making it a handy adjective to know. You can use it in combination with 多 to ask questions—like how much something costs (多少钱 — duō shǎo qián)—or to say there isn’t a lot or enough of something.
wǒ de qián tài shǎo le, wǒ mǎi bù qǐ
I have too little money, I can’t afford it.
17. 可爱 (kě ài) — cute
可 comes from the word 可以 (kě yǐ — can) and 爱 (ài) means “love,” so if you translate it part-by-part, this adjective means “can love.”
suǒ yǒu de xiǎo gǎo dōu hěn kě ài!
All puppies are cute!
18. 好吃 (hǎo chī) — delicious
Remember how I said 好 can be combined with other words to make new adjectives? Well, this is one of them. 好吃 literally means “good eat.”
nà ge cān tīng de fàn hěn hǎo chī
That restaurant’s food is delicious.
19. 难吃 (nán chī) — not delicious
难 (nán) means “hard” or “difficult,” so to say something doesn’t taste good, all you need to say is that it’s literally “hard to eat” with the word 难吃!
wǒ zuò de fàn hěn nán chī
The food I cooked is very awful.
20. 好玩 (hǎo wán) — fun
Another 好 combination, the word for “fun” in Chinese literally means “good play.”
tā shì gè hěn hǎo wán de rén
He is a fun person.
21. 有趣 (yǒu qù) — interesting, funny
There are two ways to say “interesting” in Mandarin: 有趣 and 有意思 (yǒu yì si). Textbooks usually teach 有意思 first, but in my opinion, you’re better off getting comfortable with 有趣.
Why? For one, it means both interesting and funny. Kill two birds with one stone by learning one word with two useful meanings.
And second, 有趣 just seems (in my personal experience) to be used more often by native speakers.
duì wǒ lái shuō, lì shǐ shì zuì yǒu qù de kē mù
To me, history is the most interesting subject.
22. 无聊 (wú liáo) — boring, bored
Like many adjectives, 无聊 can be used to say that something/someone is boring or someone/something is bored. For example:
wǒ bú tài xǐ huān nà ge diàn shì jù. yīn wèi tā tài wú liáo le
I don’t really like that TV show, because it is too boring.
wǒ zài jiā dāi le yì zhěng tiān, gǎn jué hěn wú liáo
I stayed at home the whole day (and I) feel very bored.
23. 快 (kuài) — fast
I wish I had a clever mnemonic or interesting fact for this adjective, but the best I have is that 快 sounds similar to “quick.”
tā pǎo bù pǎo de nà me kuài a!
He runs so fast!
24. 慢 (màn) — slow
I know several people whose pet peeve is a 慢 (màn) walking or driving too slow.
qǐng shuō màn yì diǎn
Please speak slower.
25. 容易 (róng yì) — easy
zhōng wén bǐ yīng wén róng yì
Chinese is easier than English.
26. 难 (nán) — hard
First introduced with the adjective 难吃, 难 (nán) means “hard” or “difficult.”
nǐ jué de xué zhōng wén nán ma?
Do you think learning Chinese is hard? / Do you find it difficult to learn Chinese?
27. 新 (xīn) — new
To me, 新 (xīn) kind of sounds like “shiny.” So when I hear it, I think of shiny new things.
zhè shì wǒ de xīn chē
This is my new car.
28. 老 (lǎo) — old
Another multi-use word, 老 can describe someone or something’s age, but is also used in conjunction with other words to create new meanings (especially when denoting authority or superiority in status).
Take words like 老师 (lǎo shī — teacher) , 老公 (lǎo gōng — husband) and 老板 (lǎo bǎn — boss) as examples of this.
wǒ hěn xǐ huan lǎo fáng zi
I really like old houses.
29. 聪明 (cōng míng) — smart
明 (míng), the last part of 聪明, literally means “bright.” This is helpful since “bright” can be used in English to mean smart or clever.
wǒ de nǚ ér hěn cōng míng
My daughter is smart.
30. 远 (yuǎn) — far
This word is easy to mix up with 元 (yuán), the Chinese currency. Just remember that 远 (yuǎn) has a third tone instead of a second!
You can remember this by imagining the dip in the third tone represents a valley, and the other side is far away.
nǐ jiā lí wǒ de bàn gōng shì hěn yuǎn
Your home/house is far from my office.
31. 近 (jìn) — close
The opposite of 远 is 近. Try using the mnemonic “Jean is close” to remember this one!
wǒ zhù de hěn jìn
I live close by.
32. 便宜 (pián yi) — cheap
This adjective is one we all find useful! No matter how much 钱 (qián — money) you have, I’m willing to bet everyone here is a sucker for great deals.
zhè ge shāng diàn yǒu hěn duō pián yi de yī fu
This shop has a lot of cheap clothes.
33. 贵 (guì) — expensive
No matter how much haggling you might do, some things will just always be expensive. In this case, you might want to tell the shop owner or the street vendor that the item you’re looking at is just a tad over budget.
zhè jiàn máo yī tài guì le
This sweater is too expensive.
34. 快乐 (kuài lè) — happy
快乐 is helpful for describing emotions, but it’s also the word you use to wish someone a happy holiday—like in the phrase, 新年快乐！(xīn nián kuài lè!) — Happy New Year!
tā jué de zì jǐ hěn kuài lè
She thinks she is very happy.
35. 伤心 (shāng xīn) — sad
伤心 literally means “hurt heart.” Good luck trying to convince me there’s a more perfect way to describe sadness.
zhè shì yí bù lìng rén shāng xīn de diàn yǐng
This is a movie that is breaking people’s heart/This is a sad movie.
36. 有名 (yǒu míng) — famous
Hopefully, by now you’re starting to see that Chinese words have a lot of sense behind them. This one is no different. The word “famous” is 有名, which literally means “has name.”
wǒ de péng yǒu hěn yǒu míng
My friend is famous.
37. 内向 (nèi xiàng) — introverted
The word 内 (nèi) means “inside, within,” and 向 (xiàng) means “orientation, direction.” So to say someone is introverted is like saying they’re inner-oriented. That sounds much cooler than our English version if you ask me!
tā fēi cháng nèi xiàng, bù xǐ huān hé rén liáo tiān
She’s very introverted and doesn’t like to chat with people.
38. 外向 (wài xiàng) — extroverted/outgoing
After learning 内向, you could probably guess what this adjective means just by looking at it. It means extroverted, which makes perfect sense once you realize that 外 (wài) means “outside.”
wǒ de péng you hěn xǐ huān jù huì, yīn wèi tā shì gè wài xiàng de rén
My friend likes to party because he is an extroverted/outgoing person.
39. 热 (rè) — hot
All it takes to remember this Chinese adjective is thinking of the English phrase red-hot.
zuó tiān wǎn shàng tài rè le, wǒ shuì bù zháo jiào
Last night was too hot, I couldn’t fall asleep.
40. 冷 (lěng) — cold
How should you remember this word? Breathing in cold air can make your 冷 (lěng)s hurt.
wǒ xiàn zài hěn lěng, yīn wèi wǒ méi yǒu chuān máo yī
I’m cold now because I don’t wear a sweater.
41. 努力 (nǔ lì) — hard working
By itself, 力 (lì) means “force” or “power.” When combined with 努 (nǔ), it becomes “hard-working”.
努力 is paired with a verb and depending on context, it can mean either to “do something hard” or “do something with effort.”
In the first example sentence, 努力 is used with the verb 学 (xué) to mean “study hard.” In the second, it’s simply used as an adjective to describe someone’s character.
wǒ mā ma gào sù wǒ, rú guǒ nǐ xiǎng zhǎo yí fèn hǎo gōng zuò, nǐ jiù xū yào nǔ lì xué xí
My mom told me, if you want to find a good job, you need to study hard.
wǒ xiǎng zhǎo yí gè hěn nǔ lì de nán péng yǒu
I want to find a hard-working boyfriend.
42. 懒 (lǎn) — lazy
This word might come in handy on the weekends when your friends want to go out but all you want to do is stay home to have a movie marathon on the couch.
wǒ yí dào wǎn shàng jiù biàn de hěn lǎn
When the evening comes, I become lazy/I become lazy at night.
43. 帅 (shuài) — handsome
You might hear this word in the phrase 帅哥美女 (shuài gē měi nǚ), which is used to describe a good-looking group of young people and literally means “handsome man beautiful woman.”
Even more common is just 帅哥 (shuài gē) by itself, which you’ll hear a lot if you fancy Chinese dramas. This is like the Chinese version of the Korean “oppa.” But in English, we’d usually just say “handsome/cute boy” or “a lady’s man.”
wǒ de nán péng you yòu cōng míng yòu shuài
My boyfriend is both smart and handsome.
44. 好看 (hǎo kàn) — good-looking
And here we have another 好 combination adjective! Since the word 看 (kàn) can mean “see, look, read or watch,” 好看 can be used the same way. Check out the examples to see how agile this adjective is.
nǐ chuān zhè ge cháng qún hǎo kàn
You look good in this dress.
zhè běn shū hěn hǎo kàn
This book is a good read.
zhè bù diàn yǐng hěn hǎo kàn
This movie is a good watch.
45. 难看 (nán kàn) — bad-looking, ugly
Remember how 难吃 (not delicious) literally meant “hard to eat?” Well, bad-looking in Chinese is literally “hard to look at”: 难看.
nà ge yán sè hěn nán kàn
That color is ugly.
46. 甜 (tián) — sweet
zhè ge dàn gāo tài tián le
This cake is too sweet.
47. 辣 (là) — spicy, hot
Spicy is one of those flavors you either love or hate. Either way, you’ll be using this word a lot when talking about food, especially if you visit 四川省 (sì chuān shěng) — Sichuan Province, which has long been known for its spicy cuisine.
wǒ bú tài néng chī là de dōng xi
I can’t eat spicy things that much.
48. 酸 (suān) — sour
In my opinion, 酸 is the perfect pronunciation for a word that means “sour.” When your lips pucker up from sourness, repeating “suān” is a fool-proof way to straighten them back out.
nǐ xǐ huan tián de shí wù hái shì suān de shí wù?
Do you like sweet or sour food?
49. 干净 (gān jìng) — clean
干净 is both an adjective and a verb (meaning “to clean”)!
nǐ de fáng jiān bǐ wǒ de fáng jiān gān jìng
Your room is cleaner than mine.
50. 脏 (zāng) — dirty
Last but not least, we have the opposite of 干净.
wǒ dì di de yī fu zǒng shì hěn zāng
My little brother’s clothes are always dirty.
Chinese adjectives are the perfect tools for adding flavor to your speech, sounding more like a native and getting one step closer to fluency.
While there are many more out there, learning these 50 will give you the solid foundation you need to memorize others.
I can almost guarantee that once you immerse yourself in Chinese—whether through travel or online Chinese media—you’ll hear these words 25/8!