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If you’ve ever read or been a part of a forum on the subject, you know that it has been decided that using 你好| nǐ hǎo isn’t a very native way to greet someone in Chinese. But relaaaaax — if you have been strictly using Ni Hao, it’s no big deal. But if you really want to sound more native, read more for our list of useful greetings that are great to have in your arsenal.
1. 早! | Zǎo!
The first greeting of the day is 早上好！| zǎoshang hǎo! But, you’ll probably use it more with your teachers and/or bosses. If you want to greet your friends and family members, simply throw out a 早！and that should be good enough.
2. 你好! | Ní hǎo!
你好吗？| ní hǎo ma? or 你好！| ní hǎo! Are rumored to only be used occasionally by Chinese people when they speak to non-Chinese people…because the locals know that’s what textbooks teach us. If you reply back with a 你好, you’ll still be understood so it is no worries… you just are going like a foreigner.
3. 怎么样? | Zěnme yàng?
One way to sound natural is to throw out a 你最近好吗？| nǐ zuìjìn hǎo ma? or a 你最近怎么样? | nǐ zuìjìn zěnme yàng? You are actually asking “How have you been lately?” but it also serves as a “Hello!”. It’s a good way to get a conversation started with your friend or even with someone you’d like to get to know a little better!
4. 你吃饭了吗? | Nǐ chīfànle ma?
This one confuses a lot of people. Most people don’t expect to be greeted out of nowhere with “Have you eaten yet?”, but this phrase is also considered a greeting. 你吃饭了没有? | Nǐ chīfànle méiyǒu? or 你吃了没? | nǐ chīle méi? is more casual than 你最近怎么样 | Nǐ zuìjìn zěnme yàng? and would probably be heard from your host family, a teacher of a class you’ve been in for a while, or a really good friend. It is a sort of status check like “How are you doing?” Just for kicks, try answering with 还没吃饭 | hái méi chīfàn (I haven’t eaten yet) and see what happens.
5. 你还好吗? | Nǐ hái hǎo ma?
Another useful expression is 你今天还好吗? | Nǐ jīntiān hái hǎo ma? Some may translate this as “How are you today?” but it is more of a follow up question. Maybe you were sick a few days ago, you took a nerve-racking test, or something of the sort. In this case, a close friend would use this phrase, and it would mean something along the lines of “How are you holding up?” For example, you might ask this question to a friend who is calling in sick for work.
6. 去哪儿? | Nǐ qù nǎ’er?
This translates to “Where are you going?”… can you say nosy! Umm…I mean, I’m just going to the store, why?It has been rumored that 你去哪儿? | Nǐ qù nǎ’er? is used as a type of greeting in some parts of China. It seems more like a conversation starter, maybe with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. Or maybe it’s a hint that they need something to do and want to tag along with you? One way you might find yourself using this greeting is if you ran into someone on the elevator and want to ask them why they are going. Just try it out and see where it takes you.
7. 好久不见! | Hǎojiǔ bùjiàn!
“Long time no see” Is a frequently used phrase in many languages.. This phrase is obviously used when you haven’t seen someone in a long time. If you want to keep the convo going, add the previous phrase with it: 好久不见！你去哪儿? | Hǎojiǔ bùjiàn! Nǐ qù nǎ’er?
8. 哈喽! | Hālóu!
So you’ve spent years learning how to say hello only to arrive in China and hear HELLO! And yes, you will definitely hear it. The pinyin pronunciation for hello is becoming increasingly popular, especially in areas frequented by tourists. You may even hear some of the younger generation throw out a hi! | 嗨 | hāi!
I hope you will be able to use these alternative greetings to your advantage and start sounding more native.
• Hello | 你好 | Nǐ hǎo
• Good Morning | 早上好! | Zǎoshang hǎo!
• Morning! | 早! | Zǎo!
• How have you been? | 你最近好吗?| Nǐ zuìjìn hǎo ma?
• How have you been? | 你最近怎么样?| Nǐ zuìjìn zěnme yàng?
• Have you eaten yet? (Hello) | 你吃饭了没有? | Nǐ chīfànle méiyǒu?
• Have you eaten yet? (Hello) | 你吃了没?| Nǐ chīle méi?
• I haven’t eaten yet. | 还没吃饭。 | Hái méi chīfàn.
• How are you holding up? | 你还好吗? | Nǐ hái hǎo ma?
• How are you holding up today? | 你今天还好吗? | Nǐ jīntiān hái hǎo ma?
• Where are you going? | 你去哪儿? | Nǐ qù nǎ’er?
• Long time no see! | 好久不见! | Hǎojiǔ bùjiàn!
• Hello! (Phonetic) | 哈喽! | Hālóu!
• Hi! | 嗨! | hāi!