Our last blog《50 Most Userful Mandarin Chinese Words and Phrases for Social Occasions》quickly hit the hot list. In order to thank readers for their support, the editor would especially like to invite everyone to give us some feedback and help us create new topics, based on reader’s requests.
We have selected some very practical vocabulary and sentences across eight different levels. Due to the length of the article, we have divided it into part one and part two. This is the part one of the article in which we will talk about:
-Essential Mandarin Chinese Phrases
-Common Chinese Phrases
-Easy Chinese Sentences
-Helpful Chinese Phrases
These are some basic phrases that you are likely to need whatever the situation. They are very simple, but even simple phrases, spoken politely, can help you a great deal. The table below is just 10 of these basic phrases to get you started.
Even you don’t speak Chinese well, there may be words and phrases you already know, for example:
The famous greeting ‘nǐ hǎo’ (‘你好’ in characters) literally means ‘you good?’ but is universally used for ‘hello’
Adding ‘ma’ to ‘nǐ hǎo’ making ‘nǐ hǎo ma?’ turns it into a well known question, ‘How are you?’
Thank you, ‘xièxie’ (‘谢谢’ in characters), is another universal expression
But there are some subtle variations to greetings:
‘How are you’ is not only ‘nǐ hǎo’ (‘你好’) but becomes ‘nín hǎo’ (‘您好’) when addressing people who should be respected, especially to older people in Chinese society. This applies to anyone in a responsible or valued position in Chinese society, such as teachers and is important to show you recognise their importance or value.
For more people who are familiar to you or part of your family, there is an older traditional greeting that’s often used, 'chī le ma?’ (‘吃了吗?’), instead of ‘nǐ hǎo’ (‘你好’). This literally means ‘have you eaten?’ and goes back to a time when not everyone in China had enough to eat, for example in times of famine, and indicates a stronger interest in the other person’s well-being. Older people in western European countries are often in the habit of asking the same thing of their visitors, which also reaches back to hard times after the major wars and problems in the recent past. People are the same everywhere!
Other essential phrases are:
* ‘duìbùqǐ’ (对不起) is the term for ‘sorry’
* ‘méi guānxì’ (没关系) is the term for ‘it’s ok’ or ‘it doesn’t matter’
* ‘wǒ hěnhǎo’ (我很好) is the term for ‘I’m ok’ or ‘I’m good’
* ‘qǐngwèn’ (请问) is the term for ‘excuse me’ or ‘pardon me’
* ‘zàijiàn’ (再见) is the term for ‘Goodbye’ or ‘Bye bye’
* ‘méiyǒu’ (没有) is the term for ‘don’t have’
* ‘bù zhīdào’ (不知道) is the term for ‘don’t know’
Essential Mandarin Chinese Phrases Summary:
|你好||nǐ hǎo||Hello/ how are you|
|吃了吗?||chī le ma?||Have you eaten/how are you?|
|没关系||méi guānxì||It's all right|
|我很好||wǒ hěnhǎo||I'm very good|
|不知道||bù zhīdào||Don't know|
There are some very common phrases that we use all the time. Here are some of these in Mandarin Chinese:
* ‘wǒ de míngzi shì …’ (我的名字是....) - My name is …..
‘míngzi’ (名字) is ‘name’, ‘de’ (的) after the pronoun makes it possessive - ‘wǒde’ (我的) is mine or my
* ‘wǒ shì Yīngguó rén’ (我是英国人) - I am British
‘rén’ is person or people, in Chinese singular and plural are the same. ‘Yīngguó’ (英国) is British
* ‘nǐ jiào shénme míngzi?’ (你叫什么名字?) - What’s your name?
‘jiào shénme’ (叫什么) is literally ‘called what’, as ‘shénme’ (什么) is ‘what’ here.
* ‘rènshí nǐ hěn gāoxìng’ (认识你很高兴） - Nice to meet you, pleased to meet you etc..
‘rènshí’ (认识) is ‘meet’, ‘gāoxìng’ (高兴) is ‘pleased’ or ‘happy’ etc..
* ‘nǐ yǒu shénme àihào?’ (你有什么爱好?) - Do you have a hobby?
‘yǒu’ (有) is the verb ‘to have’ and ‘àihào’ (爱好) is ‘hobby’.
* ‘wǒ xǐhuān Zhōngguó měishí’ (我喜欢中国美食) - I like delicious Chinese food
‘xǐhuān’ (喜欢) is ‘like’, ‘Zhōngguó’ (中国) is China or in this case Chinese and ‘měishí’ (美食) is a common term for delicious or tasty food
* ‘nǐ xiǎng hē diǎn shénme?’ (你想喝点什么) - What would you like to drink?
‘xiǎng’ (想) is want or like in this case, ‘hē’ (喝) is the verb ‘to drink’ and ‘ shénme’ (什么) is the ‘what’
* ‘gānbēi’ (干杯) - to drink a toast or ‘cheers’
* ‘bǎochí liánxì’ (保持联系) - Keep in touch.
‘bǎochí’ is to keep (up) and ‘liánxì’ (联系) is connect or connection
* ‘qīdài hé nǐ zàicì jiànmiàn’ (期待和你再次见面) - Looking forward to seeing you again.
‘qīdài’ (期待) is ‘to look forward to’, ‘hé nǐ’ (和你) is ‘with you’, ‘zàicì’ (再次) is ‘once again’ and ‘jiànmiàn’ (见面) is ‘meet’
Common Chinese Phrases summary:
|我的名字是....||wǒde míngzi shì …||My name is …..|
|我是英国人||wǒ shì Yīngguó rén||I am British|
|你叫什么名字?||nǐ jiào shénme míngzi?||What’s your name?|
|认识你很高兴||rènshí nǐ hěn gāoxìng||Nice to meet you|
|你有什么爱好?||nǐ yǒu shénme àihào?||Do you have a hobby?|
|我喜欢中国美食||wǒ xǐhuān Zhōngguó měishí||I like Chinese food|
|你想喝点什么?||nǐ xiǎng hē diǎn shénme?||What would you like to drink?|
|保持联系||bǎochí liánxì||Keep in touch|
|期待和你再次见面||qīdài hé nǐ zàicì jiànmiàn||Looking forward to seeing you again|
In this section, we want to introduce to some simple sentences and phrases that you can use that also give you a basic insight into how simple Chinese grammar works.
First, there are some simple sentences of the form ‘A’ verb ‘B’ that are useful to learn. For example, these are a few useful ones:
* ‘zhè shì dàwèi’ (这是大卫) - This is David.
‘zhè’ (这) is the common ‘this’, ‘shì’ (是) is the verb ‘is’ (to be’) and ‘dàwèi’ (大卫) is ‘David’
* ‘míngtiān shì xīngqītiān’ (明天是星期天) - Tomorrow is Sunday.
‘tiān’ (天) is ‘day’ in Chinese, ‘míng’ (明) means ‘next’ when used with ‘day’, ‘xīngqī’ (星期) means ‘week’. Chinese refer to days of the week by week and number, for example ‘xīngqīyī’ (星期一） is weekday one (yī=1), ‘xīngqī’èr’ (星期二) is weekday two etc. Sunday breaks the pattern and has a special name ‘tiān’ (天) the same as ‘day’. ‘jīntiān’ (今天) is ‘today’, ‘měitiān’ (每天) is ‘every day’
* ‘tā shì lǎoshī’ (她是老师) - She is a teacher.
‘tā’ (她) is ‘she’. The pinyin for he and she is the same, the pronunciation is the same but the character (Hanzi) is different. ‘he’ is 他. ‘lǎoshī’ (老师) is teacher. In Chinese there are no definite and definite articles, the Chinese literally says ‘she is teacher’ but in English we add an ‘a’ as the indefinite article.
then there some useful sentences with the structure Subject + Verb + Object:
* ‘tā jiào dàwèi’ (他叫大卫) - He is called David.
‘tā’ here is seen as masculine by the use of ‘他’ and ‘jiào’ (叫) here is the verb ‘to call’. In English we have to change the grammar to make the literal translation ‘he call David’ into ‘he is called David’, but in the Chinese there is no direct equivalent of this structure.
* ‘xiǎo wáng shì Zhōngguó rén’ (小王是中国人) - Xiao Wang (小王) is Chinese.
Xiao Wang here is a person’s name so is not translated. In Chinese, any nationality can be described by putting the country first, in this case China (Zhōngguó, (中国)) and adding ‘ren’ (人), which can either be people or person. So actually Chinese grammar is simpler!
* ‘dàwèi chī miànbāo’ (大卫吃面包) - David eats bread. The verb ‘chī’ (吃) is ‘to eat’ and ‘miànbāo’ (面包) is bread. The present tense in Chinese is very straightforward so here the verb is just ‘eats’.
This simple structure can be extended quite simply to make a simple question by adding ‘ma’ (吗):
* ‘tā jiào dàwèi ma?’ (他叫大卫吗) - Is he called David? Just adding ‘ma’ (吗) makes the original sentence into as simple yes/no question
* ‘xiǎo wáng shì Zhōngguó rén ma?’ (小王是中国人吗) - Is Xiao Wang Chinese?
* ‘dàwèi chī miànbāo ma?’ (大卫吃面包吗) - Is David eating bread?
Finally, the modal article ‘ne’ (呢) can be used to ask a simple question about something or someone:
* ‘dàwèi ne?’ (大卫呢) - Where’s David?
Simple, present tense, question like in ‘we’re here. where’s David?’:
* ‘wǒmen zài zhèlǐ. Dàwèi ne?’ (我们在这里。大卫呢?) - We’re here. where’s David?
* ‘xiǎo wáng shì nǎlǐ rén ne?’ (小王是哪里人呢?) - Where is Xiao Wang from?
‘nǎlǐ’ (哪里) is ‘where’ and with ‘rén’ (人) mean person or people from where do they come?
Easy Chinese Sentences Summary:
|Easy Chinese sentences: A verb B|
|这是大卫||zhè shì dàwèi||This is David|
|明天是星期天||míngtiān shì xīngqītiān||Tomorrow is Sunday|
|她是老师||tā shì lǎoshī||She is a teacher|
|Basic sentences structure: Subject + Verb + Object|
|他叫大卫||tā jiào dàwèi||He called David|
|小王是中国人||xiǎo wáng shì Zhōngguó rén||Xiao Wang is Chinese|
|大卫吃面包||dàwèi chī miànbāo||David eats bread|
|Make a simple question: subject + verb + object + ma(吗)?|
|他叫大卫吗？||tā jiào dàwèi ma?||Does he called David?|
|小王是中国人吗？||xiǎo wáng shì Zhōngguó rén ma?||Is Xiao Wang Chinese?|
|大卫吃面包吗？||dàwèi chī miànbāo ma?||Does David eats bread?|
|Ask where somebody or something is or comes from: use off ne(呢)?|
|大卫呢？||dàwèi ne?||where is David?|
|我们在这里。大卫呢？||wǒmen zài zhèlǐ. Dàwèi ne?||we're here. where's David?|
|小王是哪里人呢？||xiǎo wáng shì nǎlǐ rén ne?||Where is Xiao Wang come from?|
There’s a few helpful Chinese Phrases that you might be really glad of if you find yourself in China, either for business or travel. Some of them are quite long, but could be very helpful. So try to remember these:
* ‘jiùmìng’ (救命) - Help!
* ‘nǐ néng bāng bang wǒ ma?’ (你能帮帮我吗) - Can you help me?
‘neng’ (能) is ‘to be able to’ or ‘have the ability to’ and ‘bāng’ (帮) is the verb ‘to help’ or ‘to assist”. This phrase can also mean ‘can you do me a favour?’
* ‘wǒ mílù le’ (我迷路了) - I’m lost, or I’ve lost my way.
‘mí’ (迷) is confused and ‘lù’ (路) is road or way. ‘le’ (了) added after the verb or expression makes the past tense, i.e. already happened
* ‘wǒde qiánbāo diū le’ (我的钱包丢了) - I’ve lost my wallet.
‘qiánbāo’ (钱包) is wallet and ‘diū’ (丢) is the verb to lose
* ‘wǒde hùzhào bèi tōu le’ (我的护照被偷了) - My passport has been stolen.
‘hùzhào’ (护照) is passport, ‘tōu’ (偷) is the verb to steal and using ‘bèi’ (被) before the verb makes it into the passive, ‘has been’, with ‘le (了) adding the past tense
* ‘zhè shì wǒde jiǔdiàn dìzhǐ’ (这是我的酒店地址) - This is my hotel address
‘jiǔdiàn’ (酒店) is hotel and ‘dìzhǐ’ (地址) is address. In this case the Chinese grammar and English grammar match!
* ‘wǒ kěyǐ jiè yòng nǐ de diànhuà ma?’ (我可以借用你的电话吗) - May I borrow (use) your phone?
‘kě yǐ’ (可以) is a common expression for ‘may’, ‘jiè yòng’ (借用) here means ‘borrow’ or ‘use’, and ‘diànhuà’ (电话) is phone
* ‘wǒ hé péngyǒu shīqù liánxì le’ (我和朋友失去联系了) - I’ve lost contact with my friend or I can’t find my friend.
‘hé’ (和) is ‘with’, ‘péngyǒu’ (朋友) is ‘friend’, ‘shīqù’ (失) is ‘lose’ and ‘ lián xì’ (联系) is ‘contact’ so it literally means ‘I with my friend lost contact’
* ‘qǐng jiào jiùhùchē’ (请叫救护车) - Please call the ambulance.
‘jiùhùchē’ (救护车) is ambulance.
* ‘qǐng bāng wǒ bào jǐng’ (请帮我报警) - Please help me call the police.
‘bàojǐng’ (报警) is ‘call police’
Helpful Chinese Phrases Summary:
|你能帮帮我吗？||nǐ néng bāng bang wǒ ma?||Can you help me?|
|我迷路了||wǒ mílù le||I’m lost|
|我的钱包丢了||wǒde qiánbāo diū le||I’ve lost my wallet|
|我的护照被偷了||wǒde hùzhào bèi tōu le||My passport has been stolen|
|这是我的酒店地址||zhè shì wǒde jiǔdiàn dìzhǐ||This is my hotel address|
|我可以借用你的电话吗？||wǒ kěyǐ jiè yòng nǐ de diànhuà ma?||May I borrow (use) your phone?|
|我和朋友失去联系了||wǒ hé péngyǒu shīqù liánxì le||I’ve lost contact with my friend|
|请叫救护车||qǐng jiào jiùhùchē||Please call the ambulance|
|请帮我报警||qǐng bāng wǒ bào jǐng||Please help me call the police|
In next blog, we will talk about:
See you soon!