Chinese Greetings: Your Vocabulary List

Even if you don’t speak fluent Mandarin, by being able to politely and appropriately greet others in Chinese you can demonstrate respect in your conversations with Chinese native speakers.

For best results, you should know more than how to say “hello” in Mandarin. Sometimes you’ll need to say “good morning”, at other times, “good afternoon” or “good evening.” Sometimes you’ll have to sound more formal, like when meeting a coworker for the first time. At other times, like when you’re with friends, being too formal will sound out of place. 

In this post, we list a range of expressions you can use to start up a conversation. Learn various forms of greetings so you can adapt what you say to your particular social situation and the time of day. 

“Ni Hao”: the most famous of Chinese greetings

The most famous Chinese greeting is probably “ni hao,” meaning “hello.” Even if you’ve never taken a Chinese course, if you know any Chinese greetings, you probably know “ni hao.”

“Ni hao” is a greeting that can be translated into English as “hello.” Each syllable in the expression corresponds to a Chinese character. The characters for “ni hao” are “你” (nǐ) and “好” (hǎo). These two characters literally translate to “you” (你) and “good” (好), and the phrase is basically a shortened version of “Are you well?”

Now here’s the twist. Even though “ni hao” is the most famous greeting, it actually isn’t used the most often by native Chinese speakers. “你好” is generally used between people of roughly the same age and social status in formal situations, like when meeting each other for the first time. In other informal situations, it sounds rather stiff. 

For example, you probably wouldn’t say “你好” to your friends when you’re meeting up to catch a movie. It would be like greeting your friends by saying “how do you do?” instead of “hey” or “what’s up?” It’s technically an acceptable greeting, but it sounds awkward with people you’re already familiar with. 

List of Chinese greetings to remember

Below is a table of Chinese greetings to expand your vocabulary. These expressions can help you make the right impression in a variety of situations. Notice that the time of day and the social context affect which expression you should use. The list also includes several options for asking “how are you” in Chinese as well as several different ways of saying “hello” so you can be prepared for all different kinds of situations. 

Chinese Pinyin English Notes
你好 nǐ hăo hello
您好 nín hǎo hello respectful, polite
大家好 dàjiā hǎo hello, everyone
你们好 nǐmen hǎo hello, everyone used less frequently than “大家好”
老师好 lǎoshī hǎo hello, teacher may also be used for other esteemed people who are not teachers
早上好 zǎoshàng hǎo good morning
早! zǎo! Morning! informal
下午好 xiàwǔ hǎo good afternoon
晚上好 wǎnshàng hǎo good evening
晚安 wǎn ān good night
wéi Hello? phone greeting
你好吗? nǐ hǎo ma? How are you? sounds quite formal (used more in textbooks than real life!)
最近怎么样?  zuìjìn zěnme yàng? How’ve you been?
最近好吗? zuìjìn hǎo ma? Have you been doing alright lately?
怎么了? zěnme le? What’s up? informal;

used among the younger generation.

你吃了吗?/吃饭了吗?  nǐ chī le ma?/Chī fàn le ma? How are you doing?  literally: “Have you eaten?”

used among the older generation.

好久不见 hǎo jiŭ bú jiàn long time no see
hāi hi informal;

used among the younger generation.

hēi hey informal;

used among the younger generation.

哈喽/哈啰 hālóu/hāluō hello informal;

used among the younger generation.

干嘛呢? gàn má ne? What are you up to? used among friends
去哪? qù nǎ? Where are you headed?
再见 zàijiàn goodbye literally: “see you again”
拜拜 bàibài bye

If you’d like to use these expressions to greet someone in Chinese online, here’s your quick guide on how to type in Chinese.

Memorize these Chinese greetings with Hack Chinese

To ensure you remember these phrases when it comes time to use them, learn them with Hack Chinese. Hack Chinese is a spaced-repetition platform for learning Chinese vocabulary that will help you learn more efficiently and effectively.

In your Hack Chinese account, you can create a custom list of words you’d like to learn. Give it a try with these Chinese greetings. Once you have these expressions memorized and at your disposal, you’ll be prepared to greet others and open up conversations whether you’re with friends or colleagues in the morning, afternoon, or evening.

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