Daily Life Chinese

This is a guest blog post from Same Silverman of TutorMandarin. Sam works as CMO of TutorMandarin – an online learn Chinese tutor service that focuses on teaching students how to speak Chinese using an innovative learn Chinese app and PC Software. The APP is free to download and comes with a free 1-on-1 class, 2 unlocked courses, a full language evaluation, and daily Chinese articles. Sam has lived in China for 5-6 years in Beijing and Suzhou as well as Taipei for over a year. He has been studying the Chinese language and Chinese culture even longer.

If you are planning to go to a Chinese speaking country, no matter what your purpose (business trip, study, or just traveling!) you should absolutely try to learn at least a few key Chinese words and phrases! Yes, the local people may know some English, but it will go a long way to recognize and speak some Mandarin. It may even help you make a local connection you never thought possible.

Start From The Start

Whenever you start learning a new language, you have to start with the essentials –  “hello”, “thank you” and numbers from one to ten. Many people may know 你好 (Nǐ hǎo) means “hello” and 谢谢 (xièxiè) means “thanks”. Numbers from one to ten in Chinese may not be a problem for you to read and pronounce since all of them are just easy Chinese characters.

Beyond this, we’ll share with you other useful Chinese phrases that you can use in daily life. Here’s a tip: Make good use of  “May I ask…”(请问, Qǐngwèn),  “Excuse me” (不好意思, bù hǎoyìsi), and “May I bother…” (麻烦, máfan) three phrases if you want to ask for any help. In addition, you can find these basic phrases and sentences under categories.

Chinese Greetings And Self-Introduction

1. Nice To Meet You

很高兴认识你 (Hěn gāoxìng rènshì nǐ)

2. How can I Address You? / What’s Your Last Name?

请问您贵姓? (Qǐngwèn nín guìxìng?)

This sentence is asking people’s family name or surname. The word 贵(guì) before “family name” 姓(xìng) literally means “honorable” or “expensive.” It is mainly used to ask people’s last name in a very polite manner. If you are going to sign up for membership in a store or check in your reservation in a restaurant, the staff may ask you with this sentence, too! Be prepared in case someone calls you honorable!

After you know someone’s last name, you can refer to them as with this combination: last name + Mr/Mrs. To say mister use the phrase 先生 (Xiānshēng). For someone named Thomas Wang, you could refer to him as Wang Xiānshēng. The same works for women as well. Instead of Mr. use Miss (小姐, xiǎojiě) or Ms. (女士Nǚshì). A woman named Ellen Huang would be Huang xiǎojiě. Remember, 您 (nín) is the more polite version of 你(nǐ). Both mean “you”, but the former 您 (nín) usually used when referring to someone older or your guests! Really stress that last ‘n’ to make sure your politeness is understood!

3. My Name Is + Your Name

我叫… (Wǒ jiào…) or 我的名字是…(Wǒ de míngzì shì…)

Both phrases are ways to express your name. The only difference is that “我叫” literally means “I am called..”,  while 我的名字是… means “My name is…”. Same meaning, just two different ways to be asked.

4. I Come From + Your Country Or City

我来自… (Wǒ láizì…)

Wǒ láizì… New York, Australia, the Northwest, etc etc. The common exchange would be “Where are you from?” (您来自哪里? Nín láizì nǎlǐ?) “I’m from America” (我来自美国。Wǒ láizì měiguó.)

Ways To Say “Excuse Me” In Chinese

1. Excuse Me, Can You Say That Again?

  不好意思, 能再说一遍吗 (Bù hǎoyìsi, néng zàishuō yībiàn ma)

2. Sorry, I Don’t Understand Mandarin

   不好意思, 我不懂中文 (Bù hǎoyìsi, wǒ bù dǒng zhōngwén.)

3. I Beg Your Pardon?

   我听不清楚 (Wǒ tīng bù qīngchǔ) / 什么? (Shénme?)

Basically, if you can’t clearly hear what people are saying, you can just say “hmm?” The phrase “I don’t understand” (我不懂, wǒ bù dǒng) will be very useful. Start adding in a “Sorry” (不好意思, bù hǎoyìsi) at the beginning of your sentence to really get the point across. However, for “pardon”, you can say “我听不清楚, Wǒ tīng bù qīngchǔ” (I didn’t hear you well.) or “什么? Shénme” simply means “what”.

4. I’m Not Sure/ I don’t know.

我不清楚 (Wǒ bù qīngchǔ)/ 我不知道 (wǒ bù zhīdào.)

5. Excuse me. (Can I pass, please?)

借过一下。 (Jièguò yīxià.)

“借过 (Jièguò)” literally means “borrow + pass”, you can say this phrase when someone is in your way and you need to get pass them. It’s the same meaning as “excuse me”.

Praise In Chinese

1. I’m Impressed!/ You Are Really Good

  真厉害 (Zhēn lìhài)

“厉害” (lìhài) means “severe” or when describing people,  “amazing” or “incredible”. (Zhēn) means “quite” to emphasize the following adjective.

2. You Are So Beautiful/ Handsome/ Cute

   妳(你)好漂亮/帅/可爱 (Nǎi (nǐ) hǎo piàoliang/shuài/kě’ài.)

It’s a simple way to praise others and give them a compliment. “You” in Chinese has different words categorized by gender.  They sound pretty much the same but would be written in different words. 你() for boys and (Nǎi) for girls (esp. in Taiwan).

3. I’m So Envious Of You!

   好羡慕你 (Hǎo xiànmù )

When your Chinese friends tell you they have just come back from a luxurious boat trip, you can say “好羡慕你呦 (Hǎo xiànmù nǐ yōu)!”. “呦(yōu)” is a kind of exclamation word that ends the sentence, emphasizing your strong feelings.

If you’re a beginner and would like to learn Mandarin with passion, why not start with basic but useful Chinese phrases in life? You can practice these phrases and sentences in polite ways, greetings, self-introduction, and praising others. Coming up with more useful phrases in daily conversation, being modest in Chinese and more! When you immerse in the Chinese language environment, your language skills will skyrocket!