How to Start a Conversation in Chinese

You will not be surprised if someone is asking whether or not you've eaten (你吃了吗? nǐ chī le mɑ ?), because you learned from your skype Chinese classes or from a Chinese friend that it is a Chinese way to start a conversation.

You can always start a conversation with 你吃了吗?, but this phrase is more commonly used among people who are familiar with each other. How do you start conversations with Chinese people on initial stage?

This article will teach you how to start a conversation with Chinese people on initial stage, on topics of common greeting, asking about names, ages, nationalities, jobs, hobbies, etc. After knowing these phrases, you will also be able to make a nice self-introduction in mandarin Chinese!

How to Start a Conversation in Chinese

你好 means "Hello" in Chinese

Greetings

Questions Answers

Nǐ hǎo!

你好!

Hello!

Nǐ hǎo!

你好!

Hello!

Nǐ hǎo mɑ?

你好吗?

How are you?

wǒ hěn hǎo, nǐ ne?

我很好,你呢?

I am good. What about you?

Asking and Replying Names

Questions Answers

Nín ɡuì xìnɡ?

您贵姓? (“贵ɡuì” means honorable here )

What’s your honorable last name?

Miǎn ɡuì xìnɡ Lǐ.

免贵姓李。

My last name is Li.

Nǐ jiào shénme mínɡzi?

你叫什么名字?

What’s your name?

Wǒ jiào Lǐ fēi.

我叫李飞。

I am Li fei.

Asking and Replying Ages

Questions Answers

Nǐ duō dà le?

你多大了?

How old are you?

Wǒ sānshí suì.

我30岁。

I’m thirty years old.

Nǐ jǐ suì le?

你几岁了?(When asking children under 10 years old.)

How old are you?

wǒ liù suì le.

我6岁了。

I am six years old.

Asking and Replying Nationalities

Questions Answers

Nǐ shì nǎ ɡuó rén?

你是哪国人?

What’s your nationality?

Wǒ shì Měiɡuó rén.

我是美国人。

I am an American.

Nǐ láizì nǎlǐ?

你来自哪里?

Where are you from?

Wǒ lái zì Yīnɡɡuó.

我来自英国。

I’m from UK.

Asking and Replying Jobs

Questions Answers

Nǐ de ɡōnɡzuò shì shénme?

你的工作是什么?

What’s your job?

Wǒ de ɡōnɡzuò shì lǎoshī.

我的工作是老师。

My job is a teacher.

Nǐ shì zuò shénme de?

你是做什么的?

What do you do?

Wǒ shì yīshenɡ

我是医生。

I am doctor.

Asking and Replying Hobbies

Questions Answers

Nǐ xǐhuɑn zuò shénme?

你喜欢做什么?

What do you like to do?

Wǒ xǐhuɑn chànɡɡē.

我喜欢唱歌。

I like singing.

Nǐ de àihào shì shénme?

你的爱好是什么?

What’s your hobby?

Wǒ de àihào shì tán jíta.

我的爱好是弹吉他。

My hobby is playing the guitar.

There should be many more topics in your conversation. The easiest way to learn Chinese for a foreigner is to learn lots of themed Chinese vocabulary lists about a topic you are interested in. For instance, if you love sports, you can learn list of sports words in Chinese. It will likely be easier for you to pick up the conversation if you have these words stored in your mind.

Always bear in mind, however, when having small talks with Chinese, it's better to avoid personal or sensitive topics such as salary, weight (especially a girl), and whether or not having a house or car, etc, unless you have a very close relationship with the person you are speaking with!

Quiz

Can you make a self-introduction like the following example?

Nǐhǎo! Wǒ shì Martha. Wǒ 25 suì. Wǒ shì Yìdàlì rén. Wǒ shì yīshenɡ. Wǒ xǐhuɑn tán ɡānɡqín.

你好!我是Martha。我25岁。我是意大利人。我是医生。我喜欢弹钢琴。

Hello! I am Martha. I am 25 years old. I am an Italian. I am a doctor. I like playing the piano.

(Let us know you in the comment section!)

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