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Hello in Chinese Featured Image
Hello in Chinese Featured Image

Hello in Chinese – An unbelievably easy start in 10 minutes

How do you say hello in Chinese? It’s ni hao.

ni hao

Or, a more holistic way to represent nihao, hello in chinese writing, would be:

Hello in Chinese in “normal” and full illustration

Granted that knowing hello in Chinese, which is ni hao, is becoming a common sense, it seems unnecessary to write a blog about it. However, once you understand the components and how they are put together, you would learn the basic logic of how Chinese works. And this is what this article is about.

Or, if you came to this site from my Youtube video, you can jump in and take the quiz right away here:

First, imagine you couldn’t speak English and you are trying to learn it for the first time. You probably would start with this:

Hello!
How are you?
I’m fine, thanks!
I’m not doing so well.
Just so so.

All of these are vocabulary and grammar that you will need to learn extra. These 5 sentences contain 11 elements. Moreover, they don’t even sound similar!

To make it even clearer: After you’ve learned Hello to greet someone, you can’t have helloed, or be helloed by someone. Or, you can’t ask questions with Hello again. In fact, though you’ve just learned it, you probably will never use it again in any other situation unless you are greeting someone again.

Of course, you can only use Hello for greeting someone! Isn’t this normal? As a matter of fact, not for Chinese. No word is used only for one purpose. In other words, once you’ve learned one word, you can be sure you will use it again.

How would Hello in Chinese work, if it were English

In order to make it perfectly easy to understand, please pretend Chinese was English for a while. Just imagine the Chinese language uses an alphabetic system, and it has no characters. Similar to your native language, e.g. English.

ni hao

In fact, this form of Chinese exists, and it’s called pinyin. We use pinyin to describe the pronunciation of the characters. The only thing missing here is the tones. But let’s first forget it for a while because the tones are not essential here. Especially, when we are using entire sentences. If we split the sentence into words, it means literally:

ni hao
you good

And now imagine using you good as basic elements, meanwhile, you skip grammar. Consequently, you will have sentences like:

you good!
you good huh?

I very good.
not too good.
I still good.

By all means: This is exactly how Chinese works: You put words or characters together, like legos. In addition, you have no grammar. Therefore, the only thing you really need is vocabulary. The more words you know, the better you get at Chinese.

With this in mind, let’s go back to the English version. In addition, you will need to learn the form be, am, are, is, was

Hello!
How are you?
I’m fine!
I’m not doing so well.
Just so so.

And this is why Hello in Chinese opens its door so easily: If you leave the complex characters and tones first aside, it’s an unbelievably easy language.

How do you say Hello in Chinese phonetically?

ni hao
you good

Of course, Chinese does not only consist of the pronunciation. After all, what makes it notoriously hard to learn are those thousands of characters. However, there is some good news here. As demonstrated, you will never learn a character just once. Unlike Hello itself, you can use both elements over and over again. In fact, ni and hao both belong to the 100 most frequently used Chinese characters. To clarify: These 100 most frequently used characters cover up to 40% of the daily use. And if you manage to learn at least these two, you will only have 98 left!

A little more on “Pinyin”

If you are interested in learning more about the Chinese alphabet pinyin, you can check this article and learn the entire thing in just 10 minutes.

How do you respond to Ni Hao?

As a matter of fact, Ni hao works just like Hello. Whenever you hear someone say ni hao to you, you answer with ni hao as well.

Hello in Chinese characters: How do you write Hello in Chinese?

Once you’ve learned the Pinyin for “nihao”, the only thing left to do is to type this, if you use smartphone or computer for reading and writing. Of course, if you insist on writing with the hand, that’s another story. But first, the next easy step is simply using “nihao” to transform “Hello” in spoken into written form.

Once you’ve installed the Chinese input (choose simplified Chinese), typing in “nihao” automatically turns into the following two characters:

How to write Hello in Chinese
How to write Hello in Chinese

And if you simply take the first suggestion, using the space bar, you will automatically get the right written form:

Hello in Chinese characters
Hello in Chinese characters

So the entire content would be:

ni hao
你 好
you good
Hello!

Provided that there is indeed a lot to remember, I made a google story to make it easier for you to memorize. Here is an extra link, in case you want to check it some other time. Obviously, the user experience is better there.

How do you greet someone in Chinese?

Now I think it’s the perfect time to introduce How are you in Chinese. Although there are plenty of ways to greet someone, this is just the perfect place to expand the expression.

ni hao ma
你 好
you good huh
How are you?

Here ma works as a question mark. Equally, it’s a spoken question mark. Consequently, answering this question with I’m fine would be:

wo hen hao
我 很
I very good
I’m fine.

Meanwhile, I’m not doing very well would be:

(wo) bu tai hao
(我) 不 太 好
(I) not too good
I’m not doing very well.

Equally important, you can also be honest and say Just so so, like this:

wo hai hao
我 还
I still good
Just so so.

Expanding Hello in Chinese: To good, or not to good?

If you combine bu and hao together, it’s simply “not good”, literally.

hao bu hao
好 不 好
good not good
(Let’s …,) shall we?

You can build all kinds of sentences with it. Whenever you are making a suggestion, you can say: We go to the park, good, or not good?

women qu gongyuan, hao bu hao
我们 去 公园, 好 不 好
we go park good not good
Let’s go to the park, shall we?

Some additional vocabulary to practice

hao ren
好 人
good person

hao chi
好 吃
good eat
delicious

I run a German website explaining the Chinese Language. Unfortunately, this is a website only in German. However, I will make this content available here in English as well. Until then, I can only offer you to use Google translate to read it. Unless you speak German, then you can read it anyways. Sorry about it. I will work on it and renew the link as soon as I get it done.

Now, if you want to move on to the next level, you must first take a quiz to make sure you’ve learned it right. Only if you make absolutely no mistakes, you can move on to the characters.

Also, you can download everything I mentioned in the article and video here:

Comment below to ask anything you want to ask about the Chinese language. Or, if you want to know how to say something in Chinese, simply comment as well!

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Written by
Chi Zhang

A sinologist, anglicist, linguist, and a tech lover who lives in Berlin. Was once a manager, producer, school opener, language teacher, SEO agency owner, and marketing director.
She could be angry sometimes, especially about racism, but overall, she's a friendly person who's famous for her loud laughter.
Here's the place for her to express a new voice in the language world, a world dominated by the west.

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Who wrote this?

Chi Zhang

A sinologist, anglicist, linguist, and a tech lover who lives in Berlin. Was once a manager, producer, school opener, language teacher, SEO agency owner, and marketing director.
She could be angry sometimes, especially about racism, but overall, she's a friendly person who's famous for her loud laughter.
Here's the place for her to express a new voice in the language world, a world dominated by the west.