useful chinese words

250+ Useful Chinese Words to Survive and Thrive in Chinese-speaking Countries

Need to learn Chinese quick but not really sure where to start?

No matter if you’re traveling to a Chinese-speaking region or simply jump-starting your Mandarin language learning journey, this list is definitely the place to start!

I’ve gathered all the most practical and important vocabulary for basic conversations, money, food, recreational activities and more—suited for travelers and beginners alike!

No, you won’t immediately be an expert on one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, but you won’t need to rely as heavily on a translation app.

Knowing just a few words can get you farther than you think.

All the words listed are in Simplified Chinese rather than Traditional. Simplified Chinese is common in China, Singapore and Malaysia, while Traditional is preferred in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

To make sure you’re able to practice saying each one correctly, the pinyin is complete with pronunciation links.

If you need some extra help in using these words and phrases in basic Chinese conversations, you can always plug these terms into FluentU to see how they function in authentic contexts.

Now, onto those useful Chinese words!

Chinese Greetings and Conversation Basics

useful chinese words

Basic Greetings, Farewells and More

你好 (nǐ hǎo) — Hello

您好 (nín hǎo) — Hello (polite)

你好吗?(nǐ hǎo ma) — How are you?

欢迎 (huān yíng) — Welcome

谢谢 (xiè xie) — Thank you

没关系 (méi guān xi) — No problem

早上好 (zǎo shàng hǎo) — Good morning

下午好 (xià wǔ hǎo) — Good afternoon

晚上好 (wǎn shàng hǎo) — Good evening

再见 (zài jiàn) — Goodbye

明天见 (míng tiān jiàn) — See you tomorrow

Question Words

谁?(shuí) — Who?

什么?(shén me) — What?

什么时候?(shén me shí hòu) — When?

在哪里?(zài nǎ lǐ) — Where?

为什么?(wèi shén me) — Why?

怎么?(zěn me) — How?

几点钟?(jǐ diǎn zhōng) — What time?

多少?(duō shǎo) — How much?

Simple Action Words (Verbs)

(shì) — To be

(jiào) — To call oneself

(yǒu) — To have

(zhǎo) — To look for

需要 (xū yào) — To need

(yào) — To want (an object)

(xiǎng) — To want (something intangible i.e. sleep)

(bāng) — To help

知道 (zhī dào) — To know

明白 (míng bai) — To understand

迷路 (mí lù) — To be lost

睡觉 (shuì jiào) — To sleep

(mǎi) — To buy

() — To pay

(lái) — To come

() — To go

打电话 (dǎ diàn huà) — To call on the phone

(zhù) — To live

离开 (lí kāi) — To leave

回来 (huí lái) — To come back

Simple Subject Pronouns

  • (wǒ) — I
  • (nǐ) — you
  • 他/她/它 (tā) — he/she/it
  • (men) — pluralizes the above pronouns
    • 我们 (wǒ men) — we
    • 你们 (nǐ men) — plural you, y’all
    • 他们 (tā men) — they, them
  • 这个 (zhè gè) — this
  • 那个 (nà gè) — that

Chinese Words for Travel

useful chinese words

Modes of Transport

(chē) — Car

出租车 (chū zū chē) — Taxi

公共汽车 (gōng gòng qì chē) — Bus

地铁 (dì tiě) — Subway

火车 (huǒ chē) — Train

自行车 (zì xíng chē) — Bicycle

电动自行车 (diàn dòng zì xíng chē) — e-Bike

(chuán) — Boat

渡轮 (dù lún) — Ferry

飞机 (fēi jī) — Plane

Important Locations

厕所 (cè suǒ) — Restroom

酒店 (jiǔ diàn) — Hotel

旅馆 (lǚ guǎn) — Hostel

出租车站 (chū zū chē zhàn) — Taxi stand

机场 (jī chǎng) — Airport

地铁站 (dì tiě zhàn) — Subway station

火车站 (huǒ chē zhàn) — Train station

公共汽车总站 (gōng gòng qì chē zǒng zhàn) — Bus terminal

渡轮码头 (dù lún mǎ tóu) — Ferry terminal

警察局 (jǐng chá jú) — Police station

医院 (yī yuàn) — Hospital

诊所 (zhěn suǒ) — Clinic

银行 (yín háng) — Bank

邮局 (yóu jú) — Post office

旅行社 (lǚ xíng shè) — Travel agency

美国大使馆 (měi guó dà shǐ guǎn) — U.S. Embassy

Directions and Navigation

 (běi) — North

 (nán) — South

 (dōng) — East

西 () — West

左转 (zuǒ zhuǎn) — Left turn

右转 (yòu zhuǎn) — Right turn

一直走 (yì zhí zǒu) — Keep going (straight)

掉头 (diào tóu) — U-turn

前面 (qián miàn) — In front

后面 (hòu mian) — Behind

对面 (duì miàn) — Across/Opposite

旁边 (páng biān) — Next to

里面 (lǐ miàn) — Inside

外面 (wài miàn) — Outside

这里 (zhè lǐ) — Here

Chinese Numbers and Money

useful chinese words

Chinese Numbers

() — one

(èr) — two

(liǎng) — two (when talking about a pair or both items in question)

(sān) — three

() — four

() — five

(liù) — six

() — seven

() — eight

(jiǔ) — nine

(shí) — ten

十一 (shí yī) — 11

十五 (shí wǔ) — 15

二十 (èr shí) — 20

二十五 (èr shí ) — 25

一百 (yī bǎi) — 100

一百一 (yī bǎi yī) — 101

一百五十五 (yī bǎi wǔ shí ) — 155

一千 (yī qiān) — 1,000

一万 (yī wàn) — 10,000

Common Currencies

(yuán) — Chinese yuan; unit of currency

(fēn) — Cents

人民币 (rén mín bì) — Renminbi (RMB), China’s official currency; “people’s currency”

港币 (gǎng bì) — Hong Kong dollars

澳门元 (ào mén yuán) — Macau patacas

台币 (tái bì) — Tawainese dollars

新加坡元 (xīn jiā pō yuán) — Singapore dollars

美元 (měi yuán) — U.S. dollars

欧元 (ōu yuán) — Euros

日元 (rì yuán) — Japanese yen

英镑 (yīng bàng) — Great British pounds

加元 (jiā yuán) — Canadian dollars

澳元 (ào yuán) — Australian dollars

At the Bank

护照 (hù zhào) — Passport

自动取款机 (zì dòng qǔ kuǎn jī) — ATM

货币兑换 (huò bì duì huàn) — Currency exchange

账户 (zhàng hù) — Bank account

存款 (cún kuǎn) — To deposit money

取钱 (qǔ qián) — To withdraw money

Making Payments

买单 (mǎi dān) — To pay the bill

AA制 (AA zhì) — To split the bill (although not very common in China)

 (qián) — Money

现金 (xiàn jīn) — Cash

零钱 (líng qián) — Change

# 块钱 (kuài qián) — Pieces of money, similar to “bucks”

 (máo) — Fraction of a monetary unit, another way to say “cents”

借记卡 (jiè jì kǎ) — Debit card

信用卡 (xìn yòng kǎ) — Credit card

国际卡 (guó jì ) — International card

支付宝 (zhī fù bǎo) — Alipay

微信支付 (wēi xìn zhī fù) — WeChat Pay

Apple 支付 (Apple zhī fù) — Apple Pay

发票 (fā piào) — Invoice

Chinese Food Words

useful chinese words

At the Restaurant

餐厅 (cān tīng) — Restaurant

快餐 (kuài cān) — Fast food restaurant

咖啡馆 (kā fēi guǎn) — Cafe

预订 (yù dìng) — Reservation

# 位 (wèi) — Table for # of people (lit. # of seats)

房间 (fáng jiān) — (Private) Room

(chī) — To eat

() — To drink

饿 (è) — To be hungry

口渴 (kǒu kě) — To be thirsty

用餐 (yòng cān) — For dine-in

外卖 (wài mà) — For takeout

点菜 (diǎn cài) — To order

打包 (dǎ bāo) — To pack (for takeout)

On the Menu

食物 (shí wù) — Food

饮料 (yǐn liào) — Drinks

菜单 (cài dān) — Menu

早餐 (zǎo cān) — Breakfast

午餐 (wǔ cān) — Lunch

晚餐 (wǎn cān) — Dinner

小吃 (xiǎo chī) — Snacks

开胃菜 (kāi wèi cài) — Appetizers

甜点 (tián diǎn) — Dessert

美食 (měi shí) — Delicacies

 (ròu) — Meat

蔬菜 (shū cài) — Vegetables

鸡肉 (jī ròu) — Chicken

牛肉 (niú ròu) — Beef

猪肉 (zhū ròu) — Pork

 () — Fish

 (xiā) — Shrimp

鸡蛋 (jī dàn) — Egg

豆腐 (dòu fu) — Tofu

菠菜 (bō cài) — Spinach

花椰菜 (huā yē cài) — Broccoli

蘑菇 (mó gu) — Mushroom

辣椒 (là jiāo) — Chili

白菜 (bái cài) — Cabbage

米饭 (mǐ fàn) — Rice

 (miàn) — Noodles

饺子 (jiǎo zi) — Dumplings

点心 (diǎn xīn) — Dimsum

 (shuǐ) — Water

可乐 (kě lè) — Coke

百事可乐 (bǎi shì kě lè) — Pepsi

雪碧 (xuě bì) — Sprite

七喜 (qī xǐ) — 7 Up

橙汁 (chéng zhī) — Orange juice

苹果汁 (píng guǒ zhī) — Apple juice

 (chá) — Tea

葡萄酒 (pú tao jiǔ) — Wine

啤酒 (pí jiǔ) — Beer

鸡尾酒 (jī wěi jiǔ) — Cocktail

Special Diets, Allergies and Other Requests

素食 (sù shí) — Vegan/Vegetarian

鱼素者 ( zhě) — Pescatarian

无乳制品 ( rǔ zhì pǐn) — Dairy-free

无坚果 ( jiān guǒ) — Nut-free

无麸质 (wú fū zhì) — Gluten-free

辣酱 (là jiàng) — Hot sauce

不辣 ( ) — Not spicy

微辣 (wēi là) — Mildly spicy

中辣 (zhōng ) — Medium spicy

 () — Spicy

重辣 (zhòng ) — Very spicy

特辣 (tè là) — Extremely spicy

三分熟 (sān fēn shú) — Rare

四分熟 ( fēn shú) — Medium rare

五分熟 (wǔ fēn shú) — Medium

七分熟 (qī fēn shú) — Medium well

全熟 (quán shú) — Well done

 () — Hot

 (bīng) — Iced/Cold

Shopping and Recreation in Chinese

useful chinese words

Shops

商店 (shāng diàn) — Shop

购物中心 (gòu wù zhōng xīn) — Shopping center

百货公司 (bǎi huò gōng sī) — Department store

市场 (shì chǎng) — Market

超市 (chāo shì) — Supermarket

咖啡店 (kā fēi diàn) — Coffeeshop

面包店 (miàn bāo diàn) — Bakery

便利商店 (biàn lì shāng diàn) — Convenience store

药房 (yào fáng) — Pharmacy

书店 (shū diàn) — Bookstore

电子商店 (diàn zǐ shāng diàn) — Electronics store

Shopping Essentials

手机 (shǒu jī) — Cellphone

SIM 卡 (SIM ) — SIM card

手机充电器 (shǒu jī chōng diàn qì) — Cellphone charger

电池 (diàn chí) — Batteries

无线网 (wú xiàn wǎng) — Wi-Fi

肥皂 (féi zào) — Soap

洗发水 (xǐ fà shuǐ) — Shampoo

护发素 (hù fā sù) — Conditioner

洗手液 (xǐ shǒu yè) — Hand sanitizer

洗面奶 (xĭ miàn năi) — Facial cleanser

化妆水 (huà zhuāng shuǐ) — Lotion

除臭剂 (chú chòu jì) — Deodorant

牙刷 (yá shuā) — Toothbrush

牙膏 (yá gāo) — Toothpaste

薄纸 (báo zhǐ) — Tissue

衣服 (yī fu) — Clothes

鞋子 (xié zi) — Shoes

化妆品 (huà zhuāng pǐn) — Makeup

(piào) — Ticket

Entertainment

电影院 (diàn yǐng yuàn) — Cinema

剧院 (jù yuàn) — Theater

运动场 (yùn dòng chǎng) — Sports arena

博物馆 (bó wù guǎn) — Museum

游乐园 (yóu lè yuán) — Amusement park

动物园 (dòng wù yuán) — Zoo

水族馆 (shuǐ zú guǎn) — Aquarium

公园 (gōng yuán) — Park

夜市 (yè shì) — Night market

美食街 (měi shí jiē) — Food street

酒吧 (jiǔ bā) — Bar

夜总会 (yè zǒng huì) — Nightclub

卡拉OK酒吧 (kǎ lā OK jiǔ bā) — Karaoke bar

水疗中心 (shuǐ liáo zhōng xīn) — Spa

沙龙 (shā lóng) — Salon

游泳池 (yóu yǒng chí) — Swimming pool

 

That was a lot to go through. But you’ll definitely find all these words very useful, whether you’re navigating the streets of Shanghai or wandering in your local Chinatown!

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 FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store.

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.

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