8 Ways to Say Hello in Chinese
How do you say hello in Chinese? Well, you might be surprised to know that there are multiple expressions used to say hello in Chinese. In this article, we will go through how to say hello in Chinese both with Mandarin characters, its Pinyin equivalent to aid your pronunciation, and the English translation. Let’s dive right in and take a look at alternatives to the infamous 你好! (nǐ hǎo), which, spoiler alert, isn’t commonly used amongst native Chinese speakers!
你好! (nǐ hǎo) – “Hello”
This is the phrase that you are probably most familiar with. It’s not commonly used amongst friends as it’s awkwardly formal, and its more formal version 您好！(nín hǎo) would be most appropriate for those formal situations. Though this is a great Chinese greeting to start off with, it sadly won’t convince the locals that you are a native speaker.
哈罗 (hā luō) – “Hello”
If you ever go to a Chinese speaking country, this is what is most commonly heard among young people. If you listen to its pronunciation, you’ll notice it sounds like “hello” in English. In fact, 哈罗 (hā luō) is a loanword the Chinese borrowed from English.
嗨 (hāi ) – “Hi”
Speaking of loanwords borrowed from English, here is another one. 嗨 (hāi) is another way to say hello in Chinese that is typically used when speaking to your friends or people your own age. Again, if you listen to its pronunciation, you’ll hear how it sounds just like the English word “hi.”
你吃了吗？(nǐ chīle ma) – “Have you eaten?”
When someone says 你吃了吗？(nǐ chīle ma), they’re not asking if you are feeling hungry. Instead, it’s actually a well-known expression to say “hello” in Chinese. In response, you can say 吃了你呢？ (chīle, nǐ ne?), the literal translation of “I’ve eaten and you?.” It’s used to express that you care about the other person and is similar to the expression “how are you?” in English.
Learn more Chinese phrases in our article “Learn Chinese Online.”
早上好 (zǎoshang hǎo) – “Good morning”
This one is pretty self-explanatory and is used the same as we would use “good morning” in English. You can also keep it short and casual and say 早! (zǎo), simply meaning “morning!”
The Chinese character 早 (zǎo) is composed of two radicals: 日 (rì) meaning "sun" and 十, an old form of 甲 (jiǎ), meaning “first.” Therefore, a literal interpretation of the character 早 (zǎo) is “first sun.”
下午好 (xiàwǔ hǎo) – “Good afternoon”
Again, this one is pretty self-explanatory like the one above, however, used in the afternoon time. This is a great option to add a bit of variety to your conversation.
晚上好 (wǎnshàng hǎo) – “Good evening”
You have probably guessed by now that 好 (hǎo) means “good” in Mandarin Chinese. Just put 晚上 (wǎnshàng) in front of it and you have “good evening.”
喂 (wèi) – “Hello?”
This expression is only used in one situation – when answering the phone. Just like when English speakers say “hello?” when they first pick up the phone, you can say 喂 (wèi) in Chinese expecting that the person on the other end identifies themselves.