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Introducing some more very common Mandarin Chinese phrases


Common Chinese phrases

In an earlier article, Some very common Chinese mandarin phrases and sentences, we introduced our readers to some very common and useful mandarin Chinese expressions and simple dialogue. 

In this article, we have selected some very practical vocabulary and sentences across eight different levels. Due to the length of the article, we have divided it into part one and part two. This is the part two of the article in which we will talk about:

-Everyday Chinese Phrases

-Chinese Phrases for Travellers

-Funny Chinese Phrases

-Simple Mandarin Chinese Dialogue

Everyday Chinese Phrases

Everyday Chinese phrases

There are many phrases that we all use every day, often comments on what’s happening around us. Here’s a few well known ones translated to Chinese:

* ‘jīntiān tiān qì búcuò’ (今天天气不错) - The weather’s not bad today

‘tiān qì’ (天气) is weather and ‘búcuò’ (不错) is ‘not bad’, ‘cuò’ () is ‘bad’ and ‘bú’ () is the negative, ‘not’ or ‘no’

* ‘wǒ zǎo wǎn dōu shuāyá’ (我早晚都刷牙) - I brush my teeth morning and night

The grammar order is different to English here. In Mandarin Chinese, time usually comes first, so here ‘zǎo wǎn’ (早晚) is ‘morning’ and ‘night’. ‘dōu’ () is ‘includes all’ or ‘always’ and ‘shuāyá’ (刷牙) is brush teeth

* ‘bàba zuò gōnggòngqìchē shàngbān’ (爸爸坐公共汽车上班) - Father (Dad) takes the bus to work

‘’bàba’ (爸爸) is ‘Father’, ‘zuò‘ () is ‘sit’, ’gōnggòngqìchē’ (公共汽车) is public bus and ‘shàngbān’ (上班) is the common expression for going to work. So literally this says ‘ Father sits on the (public) bus to go to work’. In Mandarin Chinese, using a car, bus or train to go somewhere is always sitting on it not using it.

* ‘māma měitiān hěn zǎo qǐchuáng’ (妈妈每天很早起床) - Mother (Mum) gets up early every day

‘māma’ is ‘Mother’, ‘hěn zǎo’ (很早) is ‘very early’ and ‘qǐchuáng’ (起床) is ‘get up’

* ‘xiǎo wáng xǐhuān hē kāfēi’ (小王喜欢喝咖啡) - Xiao Wang likes to drink coffee

‘hē kāfēi’ (喝咖啡) is ‘drink coffee’

* ‘mèimei xiàwǔ sān diǎn fàngxué’ (妹妹下午三点放学) - My younger sister’s school finishes at 3pm

Chinese families distinguish between older and younger siblings, ‘’mèimei’ (妹妹) is ‘younger sister’. ‘xiàwǔ’ (下午) is ‘afternoon’ and ‘sān diǎn’ (三点) is ‘3 o’clock’. ‘fàngxué’ (放学) is ‘finish school’

* ‘nǐ jǐ diǎn xiàbān?’ (你几点下班) - What time do you finish work?

‘jǐ diǎn’ (几点) is ‘what time’ and ‘xiàbān’ (下班) ‘finish (after) work’

* ‘māma zuò de fàn hěn hǎochī’ (妈妈做的饭很好吃) - Mother (Mum) cooked a delicious meal

‘zuò de fàn’ (做的饭) is ‘make (cook) a meal’ and ‘hěn hǎochī’ (很好吃) is ‘delicious’

* ‘wǒ qù chāoshì mǎi dōngxi’ (我去超市买东西) - I'm going to the supermarket to buy something

‘chāoshì’ (超市) is ‘supermarket’, ‘mǎi’ () is ‘buy’ and ‘dōngxi’ (东西) is the common term for ‘something’

* ‘dàwèi zǒngshì bàngwǎn liùgǒu’ (大卫总是傍晚遛狗) - David always walks his dog in the evening

‘zǒngshì’ (总是) is ‘always’, ‘bàngwǎn’ (傍晚) is evening, literally ‘before night’, and “liùgǒu’ (遛狗) is ‘walk (the) dog’

Everyday Chinese Phrases Summary:

Everyday Chinese phrases table

Chinese Phrases for Travellers

Chinese for travellers

When travelling, there are always situations where you will need to ask the locals about directions, the location of a restaurant or a bathroom, and more. If you're planning a trip to China, you'll need many of these described in this section. For example, if you want to buy your favorite local souvenirs, you need to know how to say "It’s too expensive, can it be cheaper?" for bargaining over the price.

* ‘qǐng wèn, xǐshǒujiān zài nǎ?’ (请问, 洗手间在哪?) - Excuse me, where is the toilet?

‘qǐng wèn’ (请问) is ‘please’ or ‘excuse me’, ‘xǐshǒujiān’ (洗手间) is toilet or washroom

* ‘nǐ zhīdào zěnme qù …ma?’ (你知道怎么去?) - Do you know how to get to….? 

‘zhīdào’ (知道) is ‘know’ and ‘zěnme qù’ (怎么去) is ‘how to go’. Adding ‘ma’ () makes it into a yes/no simple question (see earlier section)

* ‘lí zhèlǐ yuǎn ma?’ (离这里远吗?) - Is it far from here? 

‘lí’ () is ‘from’, ‘zhèlǐ’ (这里) is ‘here’ and ‘yuǎn’ () is ‘far’.

* ‘zhègè (yīgòng) duōshǎo qián ?' (这个 (一共) 多少钱?) - How much is it(in total)?

‘zhègè’ (这个) is ‘this’, ‘duōshǎo’ (多少) is ‘how much’ and ‘qián’ () is ‘money’

* ‘tài guì le, piányi diǎn ba’ (太贵了,便宜点吧) - Very expensive, let’s make it cheaper

‘tài guì le’ (太贵了) is ‘very expensive’ and ‘piányi diǎn’ (便宜点) is ‘make it cheaper’. Adding ‘ba’ () makes it a suggestion.

* ‘zhè (nà) shì shénme?' ( () 是什么?) - What’s this (that)

* ‘qǐng gěi wǒ cāndān’ (请给我餐单) - May I have the menu please?

‘qǐng gěi wǒ’ (请给我) is ‘please give me’, literally, and ‘cāndān’ (餐单) is ‘menu’

* ‘wǒ bùdǒng’ (我不懂) - I don’t understand

‘dǒng’ () is the verb ‘to understand’

* ‘qǐng zài shuō yībiàn’ (请再说一遍) - please say again

‘shuō’ () is the verb ‘to speak’

* ‘wǒ yào huànqián’ (我要换钱) - I want (like) to change some money

‘yào’ () is the verb ‘to want’ and ‘huàn’ () is ‘change (money)’

Chinese Travellers Phrases Summary:

Chinese travellers phrases table

Funny Chinese phrases

Funny Chinese phrases

In Chinese vocabulary, there are some expressions that are not usually introduced in books, but they are very popular and widely used by Chinese people. These are often funny and the meaning is concise and vivid, convenient for communication, and very interesting. Let's take a look at a few of them:

* ‘chī huò’ (吃货) - someone who eats a lot, sometimes too much

* ‘shén shòu’ (神兽) - naughty kids, new words for kids getting naughty cooped up at home

* ‘sān bā’(三八) - refers only to a woman who gossips a lot and not in a nice way. It’s disrespectful, so careful, just recognise it when it’s said

* ‘xiǎo xiān ròu’ (小鲜肉) - young hunk, but literally ‘little fresh meat’, refers to boys and young men

* ‘lǜ màozi (绿帽子) - cuckold, literally ‘to wear a green hat’

* ‘chē dàpào’ (车大炮) - Means bragging, shooting off their mouth

* ‘yě shì zuì le’ (也是醉了) - Means I’m speechless, ‘I can’t say anything, like I’m drunk”

* ‘dǎ jiàngyóu de’ (打酱油的) - literally comes from ‘I’m just here to buy soy sauce’, but means today is not about me.

* ‘wǒ xiǎng jìng jìng’ (我想静静) - literally ‘ I miss (want) jing jing’ but really means leave me alone

‘wǒ xiǎng’ (我想) means I miss or want, and ‘ is a name that means peace or quiet, so ‘I want some peace, leave me alone!’

* ‘nǎ hú bù kāi tí nǎ hú’ (哪壶不开提哪壶) - ‘to drop a clanger’, do or say something that’s in appropriate in a situation.

Funny Chinese Phrases Summary:

Funny Chinese phrases table

Simple Mandarin Chinese Dialogue

In the previous article, we talked about greetings, let’s see what phrases you might need to go beyond the greeting and have a simple conversation. How do people speak conversational Chinese in real life?

Let’s imagine two neighbours who know each other quite well, unexpectedly meeting in the street. In this case, it’s two married women. In Chinese, ‘tài tai’ (太太) is commonly used as a respectful way of referring to a married woman or often used by a man to refer to his wife. So in this dialogue, a married woman with the family name ‘lǐ’ () is greeted as ‘lǐ tài tai’ (李太太) which can be translated as Mrs Li. The same goes for her neighbour, ‘wáng tài tai’ (王太太), Mrs Wang. ‘yō’ () is an exclamation used to draw the attention of the other person, so the first part of the conversation goes like this:

‘yō, lǐ tàitai chī le ma?’ (, 李太太, 吃了吗?) - "Hi! Mrs Li, how are you?"

‘chī le,wáng tàitai, nín ne?' (吃了, 王太太, 您呢?) - "I’m fine, Mrs Wang, and you?"

The modal particle ‘ne’ () is added at the end of the reply to make it into a question

The next part of the conversation will likely consist of Mrs Wang’s reply and an enquiry as to where her neighbour is going:

‘wǒ yě chǐ le. nín zhèshì qù nǎ'er ne?’ (我也吃了。您这是去哪儿呢?) - "I’m also fine. Where are you going?"

‘yě’() means also. ‘wǒ’ () is I, or me. Here the verb ‘qù’ (), to go, is used with ‘zhè shì’ (这是), ‘this’, zhè, and the verb to be, ‘shì', to make an interrogative question with ‘nǎ'er’ (哪儿) as ‘where’ and ‘ne’ () to make it into a question.

Mrs Li’s reply might look like this:

‘wǒ qù cài shì chǎng mǎi diǎn cài. nín ne?’ (我去菜市场买点菜。您呢?) - "I’m going to the vegetable market to buy some vegetables. And you?"

‘cài’ () is vegetables and ‘cài shì chǎng’ (菜市场) is vegetable market, ‘mǎi’ () is the verb to buy and ‘cài’ () here means some vegetables.

So now Mrs Wang tells her neighbour where she’s going:

‘wǒ qù gōngyuán sànbù’ (我去公园散步。) - "I’m going to the park for a walk."

‘gōngyuán’ (公园) means park and ‘sàn bù’ (散步) means walk

Mrs Li’s reply might be:

‘zhěn hǎo. xià cì hé nín yīqǐ qù sànbù’ (真好。下次和您一起去散步) - "That’s good. Next time we go together."

‘zhěn hǎo’ (真好) literally means ‘really good’. ‘xiàcì’ (下次) means next time. In Mandarin Chinese, ‘xià’ () means below but also yet to come, like a date on a calendar in the future. ‘yìqǐ’ (一起) means together. In English we might say ‘next time maybe we can go together’ but Mandarin Chinese is more direct, just ‘we go together’ with any uncertainty implied.

Mrs Wang’s reply could now be:

‘hǎo a. wǒ suíshí dōu kěyǐ. nín gěi wǒ dǎ diànhuà.’ (好啊。我随时都可以。您给我打电话) - "Ok! I’m available anytime. Give me a call."

a () is a modal particle added for emphasis, to make ‘good’ into ‘good!’. The expression ‘suíshí dōu kěyǐ’ (随时都可以) means ‘available at anytime’ and ‘nín gěi wǒ dǎ diànhuà’ (您给我打电话) literally means ‘you have a call with me’, ‘gěi’ () here means to me and ‘dǎ diànhuà’ (打电话) means phone call.

So now the two ladies have finished their brief greeting and conversation, having made arrangements to meet again for a walk together. Now it’s time to say goodbye:

Mrs Wang: ‘hǎo a. yì yán wéi dìng. zài jiàn.’ (好啊。一言为定。再见) - "Ok! It’s a deal. Bye Bye."

‘yì yán wéi dìng.'(一言为定) literally means let’s do it, or it’s a deal, without committing to a time, which will be arranged with the phone call. ‘zài jiàn’ (再见) means goodbye or see you again.

Mrs Li: ‘huí tóu jiàn’ (回头见)- "see you later."

Now you can see that everyday Chinese talk is quite simple and that Mandarin Chinese grammar is quite straightforward, not as complicated as some languages. This dialogue is summarised in the table below to review easily. To learn how to pronounce the words correctly, follow this dialogue and others in this blog in our YouTube video or sign up for one of our courses.

Chinese simple conversation table
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