Hello in Chinese — Chinese Greetings in Daily Life and in Written Letters

How to Say Hello in Chinese in Daily Life

How to Say Hello in Chinese in Daily Life?

 

Asking Obvious Questions

In China today, between acquaintances, the commonest way to say hello is to ask obvious or inferred questions about the thing one's doing at the moment.

 

To answer these types of questions, the other can simply answer "yes", ask the same question back, or add something else if they want to continue the conversation.

 

  • Seeing someone in the supermarket, one can greet "shopping?";

 

  • Seeing someone in the neighborhood, one can ask "going to work/school?" or "coming home?", based on the specific time;

 

  • Seeing someone running, one can ask "exercising?".

It's also ok to greet by asking:

 

  • Where are you going? — 去哪?

  • What are you doing? — 干嘛呢?

  • Have you eaten? — 吃了吗?

 
Chinese Bean Cakes and Tea

Chinese Bean Cakes and Tea, Picture from Lingchuan Meishisheying.

Using the Word "Good"

 

Another common way to say hi in Chinese is by using the letter "good" (好).

 

Title or Name + Good

 

  • Hello and Hi usually are translated as 你好, 你 means "you".

 

  • The title can be one's occupation, and it's more common to use one's family name + (occupational) title, such as:

 

经理 (manager) 好

叔叔 (uncle) 好

张 (family name Zhang) 老师 (teacher) 好

赵(family name Zhao) 总 (manager) 好

 

This is the most formal means to greet someone professionally.

 

  • The name can be one's full name (for acquaintances), given name (to show closeness), 老 + family name (to greet older people), or 小 + family name (to greet younger people).

It's also ok to leave out the word "good" and just simply call one's title or name to greet.

 

This is less formal but shows a casual and close atmosphere.

flowers and trees in pleasant spring

Time + Good

 

This is simply the same way as in English, such as:

 

Good Morning — 早上好

Good Afternoon — 下午好

Good Evening — 晚上好

 

Traditional Phrases to Say Hello in Chinese

 

Besides modern greetings mentioned above, there are some phrases that have been frequently used in history, some of which are still used by people nowadays.

 

  • 久仰 — Heard a lot about you, usually say to people that met for the first time.

  • 久仰大名 — Heard a lot about your good reputation, usually say to people that met for the first time.

  • 幸会 — Lucky/nice to meet you.

  • 许久不见 — Long time no see.

  • 别来无恙 — Hope you are well since the last time I saw you.

sunflowers

Using Body Language to Say Hi in Chinese

Nodding, smiling, and waving hands are also frequently used ways to say hi in China today, usually for people who are not very close, or when someone is in a hurry.

 

In ancient China, the hierarchy had been strictly followed, and people from different social statuses or even genders usually won't talk at will.

 

Therefore, the use of body language to greet had been quite often, to show respect without bothering others (usually those from higher classes or the elder generation) to answer verbally.

 

However, today those body languages, such as Kowtow, Bow, Fist and Palm Salute, are generally replaced by nodding, smiling, and waving hands.

 
Bow or Yi Li of Man and Woman of the Same Age and Social Status

Bow or Yi Li of Man and Woman of the Same Age and Social Status, Picture from TV Show "Dream of the Red Chamber".

How to Say Hello in Chinese in Writing Letters?

 

When it comes to writing letters, more formal phrases have been used to greet instead of simply saying hello or hi.

Some Common Greetings to Start A Letter in Chinese

 

展信佳 — Hope this letter finds you well.

 

见信安 — Hope this letter finds you in good health.

 

见字如晤 — Seeing the handwriting in your letter is like meeting you in person.

 

见字如面 — Seeing the handwriting in your letter is like seeing your face.

 

展信开颜 — Hope you are happy opening this letter.

 
letter

Some Common Greetings to End A Letter in Chinese

To greet people from the elder generations

 

敬扣金安 — Respectfully kowtow and wish honorable you good health.

 

恭扣慈安 — Respectfully kowtow and wish virtuous you good health.

 

敬请福安 — Respectfully wish you happy and good health.

 

恭请福安 — Wish you happiness and good health with great respect.

 

敬请钧安 — Respectfully wish honorable you good health.

 

谨祝荣寿 — Respectfully wish you good health and longevity.

Letter and Envelope

To greet people from the same generation

 

此颂近祺 — Wish you good luck.

 

即侯日祉 — Wish you are happy every day.

 

顺颂时祺 — Wish you luck and good health every day.

 

顺颂商祺 — Wish you good luck in your career or business.

 

纸短情长,伏惟珍重。— The paper is too short to carry my deep feelings, sincerely wish you take good care of yourself.

Letter with love

Some Fun Ways to Say Hello in Chinese Culture Today.

Today, in both daily lives and written letters, among very close friends, there are some funnier and more casual ways to say hello in Chinese.

 

  • Most interjections, such as 呀 (ya), 嘿 (hei), 哎 (ai), 喂 (wei), 哟 (you), 哈 (ha),  or any other sounds, as long as it can attract the other's attention.

 
Cats greeting
  • Nicknames and modern titles, such as:

 

帅哥 — Handsome guy;

美女 — Pretty, beautiful woman;

大哥 — Big brother, usually to call someone who's much older. or to show respect;

大姐 — Big sister, usually to call someone who's much older, or to show respect;

小妞 — Girl, only used to call very close friends, otherwise sounds offensive.

 

小哥哥 — Little older brother, usually to call someone who's a little bit older but still very young and cute.

小姐姐 — Little older sister, usually to call someone who's a little bit older but still very young and cute.

小仙女 — Little fairy, usually to say a girl is very beautiful and cute.

Beautiful girl