I gave myself a little challenge. I approached foreigners, expats, and students and asked them one simple question: What is your most useful Chinese phrase here living in China?
Most Useful Chinese Phrases
This is one of my favorite phrases. Even if you have no idea about what the other person is saying you can use the phrase 是啊 and always get away with it. In this context, it means, mhmm, yep, uhuh, I’m agreeing with what you’re saying.
This is a great one to keep the conversation going. Say this whilst nodding your head in a positive, interested way.
mǎ mǎ hū hū
This is a commonly used colloquial phrase among expats to express ‘more or less’, ‘it’s okay’, ‘meh’, ‘so-so’. If you weren’t blown away by something but it also didn’t disappoint you you can use this phrase.
The is an interesting Chinese idiom. Word-for-word translation is horse horse tiger tiger. For more examples on how to use this phrase, read this article.
How much does this cost?
duō shǎo qián?
Oh, this simple phrase will change your life. Now, you just need to learn Chinese numbers so you understand their response. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
Ever heard of speakeverychinese.com? It’s the online course where you can learn real Chinese as it’s spoken here in China by Chinese folks. No longer do you need to stress about not being understood, or messing up your tones. This course teaches you everything you need to communicate your basic needs in China. Want to hop in a taxi? No problem. Ordering at restaurants becomes a breeze, and fully understand how to pay for items using WeChat or Alipay.
How are you?
nǐ hǎo ma
A little cheaper?
piān yí yī diǎn?
I love China
wǒ ài zhōng guó
I like saying 什么 too because it keeps the conversation going. Even if you don’t understand 什么 doesn’t shut the other person down, it gives them a chance to expand on what they are saying.
Other popular phrases:
I don’t want it
I don’t know what you’re saying (I don’t understand)
tīng bù dǒng
What does this mean?
zhè shì shí me yì si
Where is the _______?
________ zài nǎ èr？
Sorry / excuse me
bù hǎo yì si
If you want to learn more super useful phrases that foreigners use here in China, watch this video.
A quick and important disclosure:
Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. I recommend them because they are helpful and useful.
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