How to say hello in Chinese (and other useful phrases)

How to say Hello in Chinese is one of the most searched terms of any language in 2021.

China is an amazing and diverse country with a population of nearly 1½ billion. Where the language is concerned, there are many different dialects and nuances but the most commonly learned ones are Mandarin (used in wider China) and Cantonese (primarily used in provinces such as Hong Kong).

Learning a few words and phrases in these languages can help you build relationships and ensure you stay on the right side of conventions as well as help you build stronger relationships when talking with someone from the country.
Let’s look at some of the basics.

How to say hello in chinese - Chinese translation services

How to Say Hello in Chinese

One of the things to look out for in learning Chinese is the way words are pronounced. In Cantonese, you would say néih hóu (pronounced nay hoh) when saying hello while in Mandarin it’s slightly different nǐ hǎo (pronounced nee how).

There are also time-dependent greetings:

  • Good morning: In Cantonese, it’s Jóusàhn (yoh sun) and in Mandarin, it’s zǎo shang hǎo (tzow shong how).
  • In the afternoon: In Cantonese, it’s ńgh ōn (nnn ohn) and in Mandarin, it’s xià wǔ hǎo (shah-oo how).
  • Good evening: In Cantonese, it’s Máahn ōn (mmm ohn) and in Mandarin, it’s wǎn shàng hǎo (wun-shong how).

Body language is also important when greeting people, especially in formal situations. If you are meeting a customer for the first time, for example, a bow or nod of the head is appropriate and shows respect.

If you are seated, it’s important to stand up when introduced to someone when saying hello. If there is a group, it’s also important to greet the oldest person first.

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How to Say Thank You in Chinese

Politeness is an essential and ingrained part of Chinese society and so you will need to know how to say thank you. Again, there are differences between Cantonese and Mandarin.

In Cantonese:

  • M-goi (mmm-gooy) is used when someone does something for you, such as a waiter delivering your meal to your table.
  • Doh-je (doh-jai) is used when someone gives you a gift or you want to express that you are grateful for something (for example, that someone has decided to have a meeting with you).

In Mandarin:

  • Xiè xie (syeh-syeh) can be used for many situations but be careful with the intonation. The first xie should be higher in tone than the second, which tends to be more neutral.
  • Nǎlǐ, nǎlǐ (na-ha-lee na-ha-lee) roughly translates as where-where which doesn’t make much sense to Western speakers. It’s used when someone compliments you, for example, and is less arrogant and has more humility, something which the Chinese value.
  • Bù, bù, bù (bhoo bhoo bhoo) is another way to say thank you with humility.
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 How to Say How Are You in Chinese

Asking someone how they are is another useful phrase in Chinese. In Cantonese, it’s often expressed as néih hóu ma (nay hoh mah) and in Mandarin, you might use Zuìjìn hǎo ma (shui shin how mah).

One of the challenges of the Chinese language is the tone you use with each syllable or word and it’s a good idea to listen to native speakers to understand how this works.

Find a Chinese Translation Service

Chinese is a complicated but rewarding language to learn. There have been some notable examples of companies that have been set up in the country, however, where they that have gotten their translation completely wrong. KFC’s famous tag line ‘finger-lickin’ good’ when directly translated the first time into Chinese appeared as ‘we’ll eat your fingers off’.

It’s important to work with a local Chinese linguist when you are translating anything, including documents and video subtitles.

That’s why building a relationship with Avitas Translations is such a good idea.

Furthermore, we have more than 2000 vetted and registered translators on our books and can provide a fast and accurate translation that is fit for purpose first time.

If you’d like to find out more, contact our expert team today.