你好— Ni hao! Simple Mandarin Greetings

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Let’s learn some simple Mandarin greetings that you can use daily.

Probably what comes to mind when we mention Mandarin is the phrase “你好”nǐ hǎo, which means ‘hello’.
01 ni hao
You can use it when you meet someone for the first time. It’s also used with people you know, and you can say it pretty much any time of the day, a very convenient phrase to know!

Apart from ‘nǐ hǎo’, what are some other common greetings we use in a day? In the morning, we say
“早上好”zǎoshang hǎo、
02 zaoshang hao

“早安”zǎo ’ān、
03 zao an

“早”zǎo
04 zao
which all mean ‘good morning’.

In the afternoon, other than ‘nǐ hǎo’, we also say
“下午好”xiàwǔ hǎo、
05 xiawu hao

“午安”wǔ ’ān
06 wu an
which both mean ‘good afternoon’.

‘Good evening’ is
“晚上好”wǎnshang hǎo
08 wanshang hao

And ‘good night’ is
“晚安”wǎn ’ān
09 wan an
(This, in Taiwan, can mean ‘good evening’.)

I’ve listed greetings that can be used in a day, but in reality, how often do we use them? This might sound like a weird question, but I think it’s a question worth asking, and answering, of course.

With people we meet regularly, we hardly say ‘nǐ hǎo’. And indeed, phrases like ‘xiàwǔ hǎo’ and ‘wǔ ’ān’ do sound rather formal. In replacement, one common expression used is
“吃饭了吗?”chī fàn le ma
10 chi fan le ma
which literally means ‘Have you eaten?’ The person asking may or may not be genuinely interested in your answer – it’s just a natural question that many people ask when they bump into each other.

At gatherings, we like to say
“来啦!”lái la
11 lai la
‘You’re here!’

“这么早!”zhème zǎo
12 zheme zao
‘(You’re) very early!’

“出去吗?”chūqu ma
13 chuqu ma
which is literally ‘(Are you) going out?’

“去买东西?”qù mǎi dōngxi
14 qu mai dongxi
‘Going shopping?’

“刚回来?”gāng huílai
15 gang huilai
‘(You’ve) just come back?’ You can see that we don’t really have fixed forms of greeting, we decide what to say according to the situation.

By the way, in the morning, ‘zǎo’ is more casual and common than ‘zǎoshang hǎo’ and ‘zǎo ’ān’.

Another point to note about ‘wǎn ’ān’ is this: Apparently this phrase has indeed started to acquire a new meaning among the youngsters in Mainland China. Apart from the traditional meaning of ‘good night’, it now has another subtle layer embedded – ‘I love you’. I bet you wouldn’t have thought of that! This can be deciphered from the pinyin of the two expressions. ‘I love you’ in Mandarin is “我爱你”, and the pinyin is ‘wǒ ài nǐ’. When we repeat it, it becomes ‘wǒ ài nǐ (wǒ) ài nǐ’. Take the initial letters from ‘Wǒ Ài Nǐ Ài Nǐ’, and there you have it – ‘wǎn ’ān’. People of my generation wouldn’t say ‘I love you’ – it’s not something we express verbally. But I guess ‘wǎn ’ān’ as a disguised form of ‘I love you’ is still implicit, and I have to take my hat off to the youngsters!

Until next time!

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