Travelling to China with no knowledge of the Chinese language can be a daunting task. However, a simple phrase could certainly help you to find your way around, or make purchases from local Chinese merchants.
Remembering useful Chinese Mandarin phrases will make your travel experience in China more accessible and give you a greater understanding of the language and the fascinating Chinese culture. Although the Chinese language may be tricky to master without help from an experienced Chinese mandarin language tutor, we assure you that these ten phrases are simple to learn!
So, stretch your mouth, warm up your vocal cords, and get ready to dive into the top 10 useful Chinese phrases or words to know if you are going to China for a vacation.
Thank You: 谢 谢
Pin Yin: xièxie (sshyeah-sshyeah)
This Chinese phrase is the most basic and easy way to say “Thank you” in any circumstance.
After purchasing an item, end it with a "谢 谢". After collecting your food, leave them with a "谢 谢". As you leave the restaurant, end it with a "谢 谢". The locals will adore you and return some laughter and smiles when they hear it from a foreigner!
I'm Sorry: 对不起
Pin Yin: duì bu qǐ (dwae-boo-chee)
This Chinese phrase can be used to apologize to someone. It is also the Chinese equivalent of "Pardon me?".
If you happen to bump into a stranger by accident, say, "对不起". If a person is speaking too quickly for you to understand them, say, "对不起, 太快了 "(dwae-boo-chee， tai-kwai-ler)
“对” (duì) means 'correct'. This word can also be used as "yes" or "that's right" when you would like to agree to something.
Excuse Me: 不好意思/打扰一下
Pin Yin: bù hǎo yì sì / dǎ rǎo yì xìa (boo-how-eee-srr / da-raaow-eee-sshyah)
This Chinese phrase means "Excuse me" or "Sorry", and can also be used to express your embarrassment, although the literal translation of 不好意思 (bù hǎo yì sì) in English is "Not (a) good meaning."
不好意思 (bù hǎo yì sì) is also used as a simple apology. For example, the phrase could be used when you bump into someone on the streets or keep someone waiting. In those scenarios, 不好意思 (bù hǎo yì sì) means something akin to "Excuse me" or "Sorry".
Similarly, you can say 不好意思 (bù hǎo yì sì) when you need to interrupt a conversation to ask for the bathroom, directions, or any other question that you could ask. You can say “不好意思, 请问...” (bù hǎo yì sì, qǐng wèn), which means "Excuse me, but can I ask...".
If you are struggling to get the pronunciation right, consider finding online Chinese classes to help your pronunciation!
What Is This?: 这是什么?
Pin Yin: zhè shì shén me? (jer-shrr-shnn-muh?)
This is a fantastic approach to show interest in something, find out what an item is, or learn a lot of new terms.
The 3 important words are:
这 Zhè, which translates to: "This"
是 shì, which translates to: "Is"
什么 shénme, which translates to: "What"
Combine saying 这是什么（zhè shì shén me?) with pointing at an object and locals will understand that you're asking them what that object is.
是 (shì), which translates to "To be" as a verb, also means "Yes", making it somewhat of a synonym for 对 (duì) and 好 (hǎo). 是 (shì) can also be combined with 不 (bù) to say "It's not" or "No" (不是 bùshì).
This may seem extremely confusing. However, once you realize that each Chinese word has multiple meanings and can be paired with other words to form a whole other word, you will slowly but surely grasp the Chinese language.
Treat the Chinese language like a fun puzzle that you are trying to piece together! Can’t make sense of it? Find mandarin tuition on TUTOROO today!
How much is this?: 这个多少钱?
Pin Yin: zhè ge duō shǎo qián? (jer-gurr-dwor-sshaoww-cheeeanne)
Checking the price tag on items is always crucial while travelling, especially if you would like to avoid getting scammed. Despite China's rapid economic development, the cost of living is still meager (compared to Western countries). This indicates that there will be a lot of shopping opportunities for you.
"这个" (zhè ge) translates to: "This."
"多少" (duō shǎo) translates to: "How much?"
"钱" (qián) translates to: "Money"
Always use this Chinese phrase, "这个多少钱?" (zhè ge duō shǎo qián?), before purchasing anything to ask how much an item costs. This Chinese phrase will be handy to learn while travelling in China!
Too Expensive! 太贵了！
Pin Yin: tài ɡuì le (tie-guey-ler)
Upon receiving a reply from the phrase "这个多少钱?" (zhè ge duō shǎo qián?), reply back with this phrase "太贵了!" (tài ɡuì le) in the most confident tone that you can muster up. Need help practicing? Search for online mandarin classes on TUTOROO now!
"太" (tài) translates to: "Too"
"贵" (ɡuì) translates to: "Expensive"
Bargaining is a must when you're shopping in China. Never feel ashamed to bargain prices in China because it's what almost all Chinese people do as well! Bargaining for goods is a part of Chinese culture.
More often than not, shop owners will you give a discount if you attempt to bargain with "太贵了!" (tài ɡuì le) a couple of times.
Can you lower the price?: 可以便宜一点吗？
Pin Yin: kě yǐ pián yí yī diǎn ma? (ker-eee-pien-eee-e-dien-ma)
Now that you know the item's price, this means that it is time to put your bargaining skills to the ultimate test! A fascinating fact about Chinese culture, which we mentioned earlier, is that bargaining is normal and an integral part of the shopping experience in their everyday lives. Yes, the Chinese bargain every day when they purchase something at the market!
When you want to make a bargain for an item, say these words "便宜" (pián yí: cheap), and "一点" yī diǎn (a little) to get the meaning across.
So, if you are exploring any market stalls, you can always bargain with the shopkeepers by saying that it is "太贵了!" (tài ɡuì le: too expensive) and ask "便宜一点可以吗?" (pián yí yī diǎn kě yǐ ma?: Could you do a lower price?) to see if the price can be lowered any further.
I want to go to…: 我想去…
Pin Yin: wǒ xiǎng qù (war-sshyang-chyoo)
"我" (wǒ) translates to: "I/Me"
"想" (xiǎng) translates to: "Want"
"去" (qù) translates to: "To go"
Add in the name of the destination you would like to go to after saying these 3 words "我想去" (wǒ xiǎng qù). This is extremely useful for times when you would like to purchase train tickets, take a taxi, or head to a specific location, as this phrase allows you to tell others where you want to go next.
Here are the names of some locations in Chinese that could come in handy:
我想去... (wǒ xiǎng qù)
- Airport: 机场 jī chǎng (gee-chang)
- Train Station: 地铁站 dì tǐe zhàn (dee-teeyeah-zhan)
- Bus Station: 巴士站 bā shì zhàn (baa-shhh-zhan)
- Toilet/Restroom: 厕所 cè suǒ (cher-swore)
This is one of the most useful words you should learn while travelling in China. Because when nature calls, you have got to go! There are many terms for the place where you relieve yourself in English, and the same goes for Chinese.
However, the most common word for the toilet or the restroom is "厕所" (cè suǒ).
Earlier on, we learned "我想去 (location)". Now, all you have to do is to fill in the blank for where "location" would be with the word "厕所" (cè suǒ). Simple, right?
Here are 2 ways to say it:
- 我想去厕所 (wǒ xiǎng qù cè suǒ) translates to: "I want to go to the toilet."
- 厕所在哪里? (cè suǒ zài nǎ lǐ) translates to: "Where is the bathroom?"
Or simply say "厕所" (cè suǒ) with some "I don't know" gestures and locals should understand what you mean! So now you can travel easily knowing what to say when you urgently require the toilet.
Can you speak English?: 你会说英语吗？
Pin Yin: nǐ huì shuō yīng yǔ ma? (nee-hwey-shhwore-ing-yoo-ma)
Although it is always a good idea to try your very best to speak Chinese while travelling in China, we all need a little more help every now and then.
If you're reading this article, the chances are that you're either a native English speaker or at the very least have a good command of the English language and most likely do not have much knowledge of the Chinese language. Learn from one of TUTOROO’s online Chinese tutors today!
This Chinese phrase can be used to inquire about someone's ability to communicate in English. Switching to English instead of talking to someone in English straight away is a friendlier and more courteous method to communicate with locals while travelling in China.
"你会" (nǐ huì) translates to: "Do you know how to"
"说" (shuō) translates to: "Speak"
“英语” (yīng yǔ) translates to: “English”
If you are having trouble pronouncing the whole phrase, you could also say "英语" (yīng yǔ) and gauge if their response is a "Yes" or a "No" based on their body gestures and mannerisms.
Body language could always do the trick, but nothing beats speaking the language itself as it will bring about a deeper connection. The Chinese locals will feel happy to know that you took the effort to learn their language!
We hope that these 10 Useful Chinese Phrases can help you in your travels through China. If you would like to learn Mandarin from a native Chinese speaker who is based in your country, feel free to check them out here on TUTOROO. It's so easy to find a private Chinese mandarin tutor online from anywhere around the world - Melbourne, Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, and more locations!
Start your language learning journey today and find Chinese tutoring or mandarin classes with TUTOROO.