14 Ways to Say Hello in Chinese Like Native Speakers Do

Do you know that awkward moment that every Chinese learner experiences?

When you realize that “nǐ hǎo” is actually not how native speakers say hello?

If you didn’t know that, then this post is for you: Now you’ll be able to say hello in Chinese like a local!

And if you did know that, this post is still for you: Now you’ll have some extra options for your Mandarin Chinese greetings.

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1. 你好 (nǐ hǎo) — Hello

If you’re just getting started with Chinese, 你好 is basically the first phrase that you’ll learn in Chinese class.

You should note, however, that it’s not often used with familiar people like friends or colleagues. As mentioned above, it’s not actually used frequently at all. It’s kind of awkwardly formal.

2. 您好 (nín hǎo) — Hello (respectful)

您好 is the respectful form of 你好. It’s used with people whom you want to express a greater level of respect towards, such as a teacher. In fact, 您好 is used and appropriate in such situations!

3. 大家好 (dà jiā hǎo) — Hello everyone

If you’re speaking to a group, you can use this Chinese greeting. You’d be likely to hear 大家好 at the beginning of a lecture or talk you’re attending, or even at the beginning of many Chinese-language YouTube videos and podcasts.

4. 哈罗 (hā luō) — Hello

Did you hear the resemblance to “hello”? That’s because 哈罗 is actually a loanword from English! This is fairly commonly used, especially among younger generations.

5. (hāi) — Hi

Yep—this is another loanword from English. Again, this is used more among younger Chinese speakers, and most likely with friends.

6. (zǎo) — Morning

This is a casual way to greet someone in the morning. It’s pretty much used the exact same way as it is in English, so you can’t go wrong with this one (unless it’s too late in the day, of course).

7. 早上好 (zǎo shàng hǎo) — Good morning

This is the full greeting for “good morning.” While 早 sounds a little more casual, you can pretty much use these two terms interchangeably.

8. 下午好 (xià wǔ hǎo) — Good afternoon

下午好 is quite straightforward. This is a good way to greet people in the afternoon.

9. 晚上好 (wǎn shàng hǎo) — Good evening

By the time it gets dark outside, you can switch from 下午好 to 晚上好 to wish people a good evening.

10. 你吃了吗? (nǐ chī le ma?) — Have you eaten?

The first time someone greeted me with this phrase, I responded that I unfortunately had already eaten, but I would be happy to eat with them some other time. They burst out laughing.

When someone asks this, they’re not asking you out to lunch. This Chinese greeting is a way to lightly express that you care about the other person.

Much like the expression “How are you?” in English, you don’t need to answer with a long description of the sandwich you just had—they’re just asking it to be polite and acknowledge you.

Instead, you can just say: 吃了,你呢? (chī le, nǐ ne?) — “I’ve eaten, how about you?”

That pretty much suffices.

11. 最近好吗? (zuì jìn hǎo ma?) — How are you these days?

This is basically the literal equivalent to “How are you?” in English.

You can actually reply with just a noise! Saying (en) implies you’re doing fine.

You can also say either 我很好 (wǒ hěn hǎo) — “I’m very good” or 我还好 (wǒ hái hǎo) — “I’m okay.”

Or, you can reply with a few lines about how things are going and keep the conversation flowing.

12. 去哪儿? (qù nǎr?) — Where are you going?

This is a Chinese greeting that’s commonly used when you run into someone while out and about.

It might seem quite nosy by non-Chinese standards, but don’t be bothered by that. It’s another way for people to express that they care—by showing interest.

It’s common to use variations of this expression by adding a location. For example, if you run into a student, you might greet them with: 去上课了? (qù shàng kè le?) — “Going to class?”

13. (wéi) — Hello (answering the phone)

This is the first thing Chinese speakers say when they pick up the phone.

It’s just like when English speakers say “Hello?” to answer the phone. The receiver is greeting the caller, but also expecting that they identify themselves.

14. 好久不见 (hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn) — Long time no see

This is an expression used between old friends. It’s a very positive greeting. In fact, it’s where we got the English phrase “long time no see”!

 

Now that you know these 14 ways to say hello in Chinese, you’ll be able to greet people with confidence in different situations.

You can even see them used by native speakers in real situations with a language learning program like FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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Don’t be afraid to go beyond 你好 when you speak Chinese—you may also want to learn how to say “goodbye” in Chinese too! Use these phrases, and you’ll be closer to talking like a local.

And One More Thing...

If you want to continue learning Chinese with interactive and authentic Chinese content, then you'll love FluentU.

FluentU naturally eases you into learning Chinese language. Native Chinese content comes within reach, and you'll learn Chinese as it's spoken in real life.

FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos—like dramas, TV shows, commercials and music videos.

FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up. All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.

FluentU's Learn Mode turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you're learning.

The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your vocabulary. It customizes quizzes to focus on areas that need attention and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a 100% personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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