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20+ Questions and Phrases to Start a Conversation in Chinese


If you are an introvert like me, you might feel nervous in many social situations where you have to make conversations with total strangers. You might also be uncomfortable with the presence of awkward silence during conversations and struggle to find what to say next to keep the conversation going. As if it’s not challenging and nerve-racking enough, you have to start conversations in the Chinese language!

Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’ll show you how to start conversations in Chinese with more than 20 phrases to ask questions and make comments on basic conversation topics. In addition to the conversation starters, you’ll learn the most common responses to those starters, so you know what to say when asked these questions and will be more prepared for conversations and social interactions with Chinese native speakers.

Want to know how you can make the best use of this article? Pick your favorite phrases and questions from the list below, create your own Chinese conversation starter cheat sheets, and review them before you go!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. A Few Tips
  2. Mingling and Socializing
  3. First Day of School/Work
  4. First Date
  5. Reconnecting with a Friend
  6. Conclusion

1. A Few Tips

Here are some general tips on how to break the ice and get conversations going with people you don’t know or just met, regardless of which language you’re using. Rehearse the conversation starters at home and make sure you present them in the most natural way. It may also be helpful to tell them you just started to learn Chinese.

    ★ Ask people’s names and say them correctly and frequently.
    ★ Give specific and sincere compliments.
    ★ Ask questions and show genuine interest in the topic.
    ★ Mention something you may have in common.
    ★ Ask for help.

Just like Dale Carnegie reiterated in his famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People, the most important rule is to make other people feel important. Keep this golden rule in mind no matter what social setting you’re in, and you will benefit a lot from it.

Guy in Suit in Front of a Muscled Shadow

2. Mingling and Socializing

Imagine you’re invited to a party where you don’t know anybody but the host, but the host is busy entertaining all guests and can’t chat with you. How would you survive for the rest of the party? Striking up conversations with strangers is not easy and requires interpersonal and conversational skills. But once you get conversations started, you are on your way to winning new friends and starting new relationships!

People Talking and Laughing at a Party

Here are some basic Chinese conversation example phrases you can use to start a conversation with people around you at a party:

  • 你们是怎么认识[host] 的?
    Nǐmen shì zěnme rènshi [host] de?)
    “How did you meet/know the [host]?”

You might get the following responses:

    ❖ 我和他/她是同事。
    (Wǒ hé tā/tā shì tóngshì.)
    “He/She and I are colleagues.”
    ❖ 他/她是我同学。
    (Tā/tā shì wǒ tóngxué.)
    “He/She is (was) my classmate.”

Food is a great topic to talk about. An excellent choice for starting a conversation. 

  • 你吃的是什么?看上去很好吃。
    Nǐ chī de shì shénme? Kàn shàngqù hěn hào chī.)
    “What are you eating? It looks delicious.”

A few example responses include:

    ❖ 我吃的是墨西哥卷饼。
    (Wǒ chī de shì Mòxīgē juǎn bǐng.)
    “I’m eating a (Mexican) taco. “
    ❖ 这个是玛格丽特披萨。
    (Zhège shì mǎgélìtè pīsa.)
    “This is Margarita pizza. ”

Asking how long it takes for someone to get to this place is another common and small talk question in Chinese.

  • 你住的离这儿远吗?
    Nǐ zhù de lí zhèr yuǎn ma?)
    “Do you live far from here?”

You don’t have to give an accurate answer if you’re uncomfortable, simply replying with a 挺远的 (tǐng yuǎn de) “pretty far” or 不远 (bù yuǎn) “not far” is enough. 

To give a more specific answer to that question, you may say:

    ❖ 挺远的。坐地铁30分钟。
    (Tǐng yuǎn de. Zuò dìtiě sānshí fēnzhōng.)
    “Pretty far. It takes 30 minutes on the subway train. ”
    ❖ 还行。我打车10分钟就到了。
    (Hái xíng. Wǒ dǎchē shí fēnzhōng jiù dào le.)
    “It’s alright. I took a taxi and I got here in 10 minutes.”
    ❖ 很近。我走路来的。
    (Hěn jìn. Wǒ zǒulù lái de.)
    “Very close. I walked here.”

Asking someone what they do is not rude in Chinese culture. So you can start your conversation by asking:

    Nǐ shì zuò shénme gōngzuò de?)
    “What do you do?”

You don’t have to give a detailed report of what exactly you do and what organization you’re in. Here are some responses you might be able to use when asked this question.

    ❖ 我在外企工作。
    (Wǒ zài wàiqǐ gōngzuò.)
    “I work for a foreign company.”
    ❖ 我是教英语的。
    (Wǒ shì jiāo Yīngyǔ de.)
    “My job is teaching English.”
    ❖ 我是设计师。
    (Wǒ shì shèjìshī.)
    “I’m a designer.”

After you start a conversation with a couple of rounds of questions and answers, you can try to break the ice even more by offering help. 

  • 我去拿点儿吃的。你需要什么吗?
    Wǒ qù ná diǎnr chī de. Nǐ xūyào shénme ma?)
    “I’m going to get something to eat. Do you need anything?”

The other person might say:

    ❖ 不用了, 谢谢。
    (Bùyòng le, xièxiè.)
    “No, thanks.”
    ❖ 我跟你一起去吧。
    (Wǒ gēn nǐ yīqǐ qù ba.)
    “Let me go with you.”

3. First Day of School/Work

The first day at a new school or a new job can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. You’ll meet new people and familiarize yourself with a new environment. Knowing what questions to ask and how to approach people politely is the key to making a good first impression. In this section, you will learn some must-know phrases for Chinese beginners. 

Kid with Backpack Arriving at School

Don’t be embarrassed by the fact that you’re a newcomer and you don’t know everything. Start your conversations by introducing yourself and/or asking questions, such as:

  • 你好。我叫[name]。这是我第一天上班/上学。请问怎么称呼您?
    Nǐ hǎo. Wǒ jiào [name]. Zhè shì wǒ dì yī tiān shàngbān/shàngxué. Qǐngwèn zěnme chēnghu nín?)
    “Hi, my name is [name]. It’s my first day working/studying here. How should I address you?”

In just a few sentences, you greet the other person, tell them your name and your situation, and politely ask for their name. It is the perfect way to be part of the organization.

People may respond to your question as follows:

    ❖ 我姓王,你可以叫我小王。
    (Wǒ xìng Wáng, nǐ kěyǐ jiào wǒ Xiǎo Wáng.)
    “My last name is Wang. You can call me Little Wang. “
    ❖ 免贵姓周。
    (Miǎn guì xìng Zhōu.)
    “My last name is Zhou. “

Note: 免贵姓[last name] is a polite and formal set phrase to introduce your last name. 

  • 你好。我叫马克。
    (Nǐ hǎo. Wǒ jiào Mǎkè.)
    “Hi. My name is Mark. ”

You can also use a general greeting to get someone’s attention and ask your question right away.

  • 你好。请问[place/thing/person]在哪儿?
    Nǐ hǎo. Qǐngwèn [place/thing/person] zài nǎr?)
    “Hello. I’m new and don’t really know my way around here. Where can I find [place/thing/person]? ”

The next two questions are perfect conversation starters for lunchtime, which is a great opportunity to socialize with your classmates or coworkers:

  • 我可以坐这儿吗?
    Wǒ kěyǐ zuò zhèr ma?)
    “Can I sit here?”
  • 你要一起去吃午餐吗?
    Nǐ yào yīqǐ qù chī wǔcān ma?)
    “Would you like to go to lunch together?”

People may respond to the “may-I-sit-here” question with:

    ❖ 当然可以。
    (Dāngrán kěyǐ.)
    “Of course you can.”
    ❖ 不好意思,这里有人了。
    (Bù hǎoyìsi, zhè li yǒurén le.)
    “Sorry, someone took this seat.”

You may get responses to the “go-to-lunch-together” question such as:

    ❖ 好啊,走吧。
    (Hǎo a, zǒu ba.)
    “Sure, let’s go.”
    ❖ 我一会儿再去。你先去吧。
    (Wǒ yīhuǐr zài qù. Nǐ xiān qù ba.)
    “I’ll go later. You go ahead.”

Asking how long someone has been doing something is not only a good conversation starter but also a good way to get to know people.

  • 你在这儿工作/上学多久了?
    Nǐ zài zhèr gōngzuò/shàngxué duōjiǔ le?)
    “How long have you been working/studying here?”

Compliments work like a charm in most situations. You can make yourself sound more genuinely interested and impressed by following them up with questions such as “Where did you get it?”

  • 你这个裙子/衬衫真好看。在哪儿买的?
    Nǐ zhège qúnzi/chènshān zhēn hǎokàn. Zài nǎr mǎi de?)
    “Your dress/shirt looks really nice. Where did you get it?”

4. First Date

Nobody wants to spoil the first date! Doing some homework ahead of time will help calm your nerves and make your time together more enjoyable.

A Couple Having Dinner Together

Here are some safe and fun things to talk about on your first date:

  • 你今天真美/帅。我特别喜欢你的发型/项链/鞋子/香水。
    Nǐ jīntiān zhēn měi/shuài. Wǒ tèbié xǐhuān nǐ de fǎxíng/xiàngliàn/xiézi/xiāngshuǐ.)
    “You look so beautiful/handsome today! I especially like your hair/necklace/shoes/cologne.”

If your date looks like they’ve spent quite some time dressing up (or even if they don’t!), tell them how great they look! Find a particular item on them to make your compliment more meaningful.

If your date is Chinese, take into account that they may not take the compliments like Westerners do. Instead, they might say something to deny or disagree like:

  • 没有没有,我随便穿的。
    (Méiyǒu méiyǒu, wǒ suíbiàn chuān de.)
    “No no, I just picked something out quickly without thinking much about it.”

For the younger generations who are influenced by Western culture, they may thank you for the compliment with a shy smile.

Once the ice is broken, here are some great questions you can ask to get to know more about each other.

  • 你是在哪里长大的?
    Nǐ shì zài nǎlǐ cháng dà de?)
    “Where did you grow up?”
  • 你有宠物吗?
    Nǐ yǒu chǒngwù ma?)
    “Do you have any pets?”
  • 你最喜欢的演员/歌手/明星是谁?
    Nǐ zuì xǐhuān de yǎnyuán/gēshǒu/míngxīng shì shéi?)
    “Who’s your favorite actor/singer/celebrity?”
  • 你休息的时候喜欢做什么?
    Nǐ xiūxi de shíhòu xǐhuān zuò shénme?)
    “What do you like to do in your free time?”

5. Reconnecting with a Friend

As we settle into romantic relationships, new friendships, family, and careers, we seem to have less time for friends we already made. If you have friends that you’d like to keep, you need to have frequent and regular check-ins and interactions. Let’s say you haven’t talked to your friend Karen for a few months; what would you say in a text to reconnect with her?

Here are some ideas:

  • 这个周末有空聚一聚吗?
    (Zhège zhōumò yǒu kòng jù yī jù ma?)
    “Hey, do you have time to get together this weekend?”
  • 好久不见了。有空给我打电话!(
    Hǎojiǔ bùjiàn le. Yǒu kòng gěi wǒ dǎ diànhuà!)
    “It’s been a while. Give me a call when you have a chance.”
  • 什么时候出来吃饭?
    Shénme shíhòu chūlái chīfàn?
    “When can we go have dinner together?”

The sentences above are directly asking your friend to reconnect by seeing or talking to each other. You can also send a text out of the blue to ask for opinions. For example,

  • 你帮我看看哪个好看。蓝色的还是紫色的?
    (Nǐ bāng wǒ kàn kan nǎge hǎokàn. Lán sè de háishì zǐsè de?)
    “Help me choose which one looks better. The blue one or the purple one?”

You can also ask silly questions that will lead to a corny joke. Here’s an example (a good one!)

  • You: 请问,1和0谁比较节俭?
    Qǐngwèn,yī hé líng shéi bǐjiào jiéjiǎn?)
    “Who is more thrift? 1 or 0?”
      Karen: 谁啊?(Shéi a?)

    You: 1啊,因为零花钱。(
    Yī a, yīnwèi línghuāqián.)
      “1, because 0 spends money.”

Note: 零花钱 (línghuāqián) is a phrase that means “pocket money,” but it’s used as a pun in this joke with 零  (líng) “zero” being a person who 花钱 (huāqián)  “spends money.”

Chinese Money - 1 Yuan

6. Conclusion

I hope you have collected enough phrases for basic Chinese conversations from this article to make your own cheat sheet. The more you practice, the better you will get. The most important thing is to take the first step, and don’t worry too much about what other people think of you!

While preparing yourself for your next party and working on getting more fluent in Chinese, take advantage of the abundant amount of vocabulary lists on Practice with audio recordings and speak with more confidence. 

If you’d like to further boost your Chinese skills and learn with specific goals, you can always upgrade to Premium PLUS subscription and get 1-on-1 coaching from your own private teacher, who will customize a Chinese learning pathway just for you!

Ask your teacher about personalized exercises, assignments, and audio samples. They would be more than happy to find the right materials for you. On top of that, feedback and necessary corrections will always be ready for you within two business days. Find your private teacher now on!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese

Advanced Chinese Phrases and Four-Character Idioms


Let’s compare the following two sentences, which describe the same pretty girl:

  1. 这个女孩儿很漂亮。
    Zhège nǚháir hěn piàoliang.
    “This girl is very pretty.”
  1. 这位姑娘长发飘飘亭亭玉立,宛如仙女下凡
    Zhè wèi gūniang chángfà piāopiāo, tíngtíng yùlì, wǎnrú xiānnǚ xiàfán.
    “This girl, with her long hair flowing in the wind, is so slender and elegant that she is like a goddess descending to the earth.”

Which one has the WOW effect? 

The second one, without any doubt, thanks to those carefully chosen and beautifully stacked four-character phrases. 

A Surprised, Long-haired Asian Girl

Advanced Chinese phrases like these not only help depict vivid images and express deep meanings with few characters, but they also create a brisk and flowy rhythm. 

Being able to properly use advanced four-character phrases manifests your Chinese language abilities, which could lead you to more opportunities. In this article, you’ll find a list of 40 advanced Chinese phrases of four characters each for use in various situations. You’ll also find two sample sentences for each phrase.

Before we get to our list, here’s a friendly reminder: You may know that the majority of Chinese idioms, or 成语 (chéngyǔ), are made up of four characters; however, not all four-character phrases are idioms. Many four-character phrases are the combination of two two-character words that are often associated with each other and said together, like a set phrase. Idioms or set phrases, they’re both great for advanced learners. 我们来者不拒! (Wǒmen láizhě bújù!) “All are welcome!”

Note: The phrases below marked with an asterisk * are not 成语 (chéngyǔ) “idioms” but 固定用语 (gùdìng yòngyǔ) “set phrases.”  

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. 分析与推理 (fēnxī yǔ tuīlǐ) – Reasoning & Inference
  2. 推荐与自荐 (tuījiàn yǔ zìjiàn) – Recommendations & Self-recommendations
  3. 发言与领导力 (fāyán yú lǐngdǎo lì) – Public Speaking & Leadership
  4. 鼓励和赞扬 (gǔlì hé zànyáng) – Encouragement & Compliments
  5. Last But Not Least

1. 分析与推理 (fēnxī yǔ tuīlǐ) – Reasoning & Inference

Writing an essay or research paper is not an easy task. Choosing the right words and phrases for connecting facts and opinions is half the battle. Four-character phrases are perfect for this occasion due to their compact but profound nature. Here are some advanced-level Chinese phrases for making inferences and drawing conclusions for research papers, reports, and other formal texts.

Writing a Thesis on a Laptop
  • 显而易见 (xiǎn’éryìjiàn) – “obvious” / “obviously”

显而易见, 第二种方法比第一种更有效。
Xiǎn’éryìjiàn, dì èr zhǒng fāngfǎ bǐ dì yī zhǒng gèng yǒuxiào.
“Obviously, the second method is more efficient than the first one.”

Dì èr zhǒng fāngfǎ de yǒuxiào xìng shì xiǎn’ér yìjiàn de.
“The effectiveness of the second method is obvious.”

  • 相对而言 (xiāngduì éryán) – “comparatively” / “relatively speaking” *

Xiāngduì éryán, nǚháir de yǔyán nénglì bǐ nánháir de yāo qiáng yīxiē.
“Relatively speaking, girls show more talent in languages than boys.”

Xiāngduì éryán, dì yī gè yù’àn duì xiāofèizhě huì gèng yǒu xīyǐnlì.
“Comparatively, the first proposal could potentially attract more customers.”

  • 相辅相成 (xiāngfǔ xiāngchéng) – “to complement one another”

Zhīshi de xuéxí hé yìngyòng xiāngfǔ xiāngchéng, xiānghù cùjìn.
“The acquisition and application of knowledge complement and benefit each other.”

Zhè liǎng diǎn qíshí bìng bù máodùn, ér shì xiāngfǔ xiāngchéng de.
“These two points, in fact, don’t contradict each other; instead, they complement each other.”

  • 密不可分 (mìbù kěfēn) – “inseparable” / “closely related”

Yǐshàng liǎng gè yàosù mìbù kěfēn, quēyī bùkě.
“The above two factors are inseparable and indispensable.”

Shāngjiā de chéngxìn hé kǒubēi yǒuzhe mìbù kěfēn de liánxì.
“The integrity of a business is closely linked to its reputation.”

  • 诸如此类 (zhūrú cǐlèi) – “things like this” *

Jìn jǐ nián yǒu bù shǎo zhūrú cǐlèi de yánjiū.
“There have been quite a few studies like this in recent years.”

Zhūrú cǐlèi de guāndiǎn zài zuòzhě de yǐngpíng zhōng yě kěyǐ zhǎodào.
“Views like this can also be found in the writer’s movie reviews.”

  • 与此同时 (yǔcǐ tóngshí) – “meanwhile” / “in the meantime” *

Yǔcǐ tóngshí, fángjià de shàngzhǎng wéichí zài píngjūn měinián 2.8% de shuǐpíng.
“At the same time, the increase in housing prices has remained at an average annual rate of 2.8%.”

Wǒmen chǎnpǐn de xiāoshòu liàng wěnbù zēngzhǎng, yǔcǐ tóngshí, wǒmen de tuánduì yě zhuàngdà le xǔduō.
“While the sales volume of our product has been growing steadily, our team has also grown a lot.”

  • 由此可见 (yóucǐ kějiàn) – “it can be seen that…”

Yóucǐ kějiàn, zhège jiélùn cúnzài jí dà de lòudòng.
“It can be seen that there are huge loopholes in this conclusion.”

Yīgè shūhū yǐnfāle zhěnggè xìtǒng de bēngkuì, yóucǐ kějiàn, xìjié shì duōme zhòngyào.
“An oversight triggered the collapse of the entire system, which shows how important details are.”

  • 总而言之 (zǒng’ér yánzhī) – “all in all”

Zǒng’ér yánzhī, diànzǐ chǎnpǐn gěi értóng de shēnxīn jiànkāng dàilái le fùmiàn yǐngxiǎng.
“All in all, electronic products have a negative impact on children’s physical and mental health.”

Zǒng’ér yánzhī, xīnguān bìngdú zài búduàn de biànyì.
“All in all, the new coronavirus is constantly mutating.”

  • 综上所述 (zòngshàng suǒshù) – “in summary” / “to conclude”

Zòngshàng suǒshù, réngōng zhǐ néng bùnéng tìdài zhēnrén fānyì.
“In summary, artificial intelligence cannot replace human translation.”

Zòng shàng suǒ shù, néng zhēnzhèng dádào jiǎn zhòng mùdì de fāngfǎ zhǐyǒu liǎng zhǒng.
“In summary, there are only two ways to truly achieve the goal of weight loss.”

2. 推荐与自荐 (tuījiàn yǔ zìjiàn) – Recommendations & Self-recommendations

Four-character phrases also help create highlights in resumes, application letters, and recommendation letters. Plus, they allow you to pack a lot more information into the documentation when there are limitations on the page number and word count. 

Below are some commonly used and powerful phrases describing personal and professional qualities that most Chinese employers look for.

Resume, Pen, and Glasses
  • 认真负责 (rènzhēn fùzé) – “conscientious and responsible” *

Huáng Hàorán gōngzuò rènzhēn fùzé, shì wǒmen gōngsī de bǎngyàng yuángōng.
“Haoran Huang is conscientious and responsible. He has been a model employee of our company.”

Rènzhēn fùzé shì wǒ duì zìjǐ de zuìdī yāoqiú.
“Being conscientious and responsible is the minimum requirement I have for myself.”

  • 勤奋好学 (qínfèn hàoxué) – “diligent and studious” 

Dì yī cì jiēchù Huáng Hàorán, wǒ jiù fāxiàn tā shì ge fēicháng qínfèn hàoxué de xuéshēng.
“When I met Huang Haoran for the first time, I noticed right away that he is a very hardworking student.”

Cóngxiǎo dàodà, qínfèn hàoxué dōu shì lǎoshī hé tóngxué men duì wǒ de yīzhì píngjià.
“Growing up, I was always known as a diligent student among my teachers and classmates.”

  • 谦虚谨慎 (qiānxū jǐnshèn) – “modest and cautious” *

Qiānxū jǐnshèn shì Huáng Hàorán zuì yōuxiù de pǐnzhí zhī yī.
“Modesty is one of Huang Haoran’s best qualities.”

Wǒ shǐzhōng rènwéi, qiānxū jǐnshèn shì wéirén chǔshì de jīběn yuánzé.
“I have always believed that being modest and cautious are the basic principles of dealing with people and situations.”

  • 乐观开朗 (lèguān kāilǎng) – “optimistic and cheerful” *

Huánghàorán lèguān kāilǎng, shēn shòu tóngshì hé kèhù de xǐ’ài.
“Huang Haoran is optimistic and cheerful, and he is popular among colleagues and customers.”

Lèguān kāilǎng de xìnggé ràng wǒ zài hángyè nèiwài jiéjiāo dào hěnduō péngyǒu.
“An optimistic and cheerful personality has allowed me to make many friends both inside and outside the industry.”

  • 爱好广泛 (àihào guǎngfàn) – “extensive hobbies” *

Àihào guǎngfàn de tā, zài tuán jiàn huódòng zhōng jīngcháng dānrèn cèhuà rén de juésè.
“With a wide range of hobbies, he often plays the role of planner in team-building activities.”

Wǒ de àihào guǎngfàn, bāokuò zúqiú, chángpǎo, jítā, shèyǐng děngděng.
“I have a wide range of hobbies, including soccer, long-distance running, guitar, photography, etc.”

  • 举一反三  (jǔyī fǎnsān) – “to deduce many things from one case” / “to learn by analogy”

Zhèng yīnwèi dǒngdé jǔyī fǎnsān, tā de xuéxí sùdù hé nénglì bǐ qítā rén gāo chū xǔduō.
“Just because he knows how to draw inferences, his learning speed and ability are much higher than others’. ”

Wǒ jiāo gěi xuéshēng de bùjǐn shì shūběn shàng de zhīshì, gèng shì jǔyī fǎnsān de xuéxí xíguàn.
“What I teach students is not only the knowledge in books but also how to learn by analogy.”

  • 善于沟通 (shànyú gōutōng) – “good at communication” *

Shànyú gōutōng shì tā zuìdà de shǎnguāng diǎn.
“Being good at communication is his strongest point.”

Tōngguò zhè cì péixùn, wǒ xuéhuì le shànyú gōutōng zài tuántǐ zhōng de zhòngyào zuòyòng.
“This training has taught me the importance of good communication in a team.”

  • 可塑性强 (kěsùxìng qiáng) – “flexible and adjustable” *

Tā suīrán shì xīnrén, dànshì shìyìng tiáozhěng dé hěn kuài, kěsùxìng qiáng.
“Although she is a newcomer, she adapts quickly and is very flexible.”

Wǒ de kěsùxìng qiáng, zhǐyào yǒu xūyào wǒ de bùmén, wǒ dū yuànyì xiàolì.
“I’m highly adaptable, and I am willing to work in any department that needs me.”

  • 团队精神 (tuánduì jīngshén) – “teamwork” / “team spirit” *

Tā bùjǐn qiānxū jǐnshèn, hái fùyǒu tuánduì jīngshén.
“Not only is she a professional, but she is also a great team player.”

Běnrén lèguān kāilǎng, shànyú gōutōng, jùyǒu qiángliè de tuánduì yìshí hé tuánduì jīngshén.
“I am optimistic and cheerful, good at communication, and have a strong sense of teamwork and team spirit.”

3. 发言与领导力 (fāyán yú lǐngdǎo lì) – Public Speaking & Leadership

Public speaking requires a higher level of language and communication skills. When giving a public speech, expressing opinions at a business meeting, or leading a team, you want to create connections, influence decisions, and motivate changes. At this point in your Chinese language learning, you’ll greatly benefit from picking up a few indispensable advanced phrases for these occasions.

Business Meeting
  • 齐心协力 (qíxīn xiélì) – “to work with a common purpose”

Zhǐyào wǒmen qíxīn xiélì, zài jiānjù de rènwù yě nàn bù dǎo wǒmen.
“As long as we work together with a common purpose, no task is too difficult for us.”

Suīrán shíjiān jǐn, rènwù zhòng, dàjiā jiā bǎ jìnr, qíxīn xiélì de bǎ zhège xiàngmù zuò chūlái.
“Although our schedule is tight and the task is enormous, let’s increase the momentum and work together to make this project happen.”

  • 同舟共济 (tóngzhōu gòngjì) – “collaborate and help each other” (literally: “cross a river in the same boat”)

Zài miànlín jùdà tiǎozhàn zhī shí, wǒmen bìxū tóngzhōu gòngjì, gòngdù nánguān.
“When faced with great challenges, we must help each other and overcome difficulties together.”

Zhè zhǒng tóngzhōu gòngjì de qíngyì shì nánnéng kěguì de.
“The friendship of helping each other in difficult times is rare and precious.”

  • 顾全大局 (gùquán dàjú) – “to take the big picture into consideration” 

Wǒ duì dàjiā xīshēng xiǎowǒ, gùquán dàjú de jǔdòng biǎoshì yóuzhōng de gǎnxiè.
“I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to everyone for sacrificing their individual needs for the benefits of all.”

Xiǎng yào zài shàng yīgè táijiē, nǐ děi xiān xuéhuì rúhé gùquán dàjú.
“If you want to climb up the ladder to a higher position, you have to learn how to take the overall situation into consideration.”

  • 有目共睹 (yǒumù gòngdǔ) – “for all to see” 

Wǒmen chǎnpǐn de shìchǎng jìngzhēng lì, dàjiā dōu shì yǒumù gòngdǔ de.
“The market competitiveness of our products is obvious to all.”

Wǒmen duìshǒu de shílì dàjiā yǒumù gòngdǔ, dànshì tāmen de duǎn bǎn dàjiā tóngyàng shì yǒumù gòngdǔ de.
“The strength of our opponents is obvious to all, but their shortcomings are also obvious to all.”

  • 万无一失 (wànwú yīshī) – “complete success” / “nothing goes wrong”

Wèile quèbǎo cǐ cì huódòng wànwú yīshī de shùnlì jìnxíng, wǒmen zhǔnbèi le yī tào zhèngshì fāng’àn hé liǎng tào yìngjí fāng’àn.
“In order to ensure the smooth progress and success of this event, we have prepared a formal plan and two emergency plans.”

Zhème zuò suīrán bùshì wànwú yīshī, dànshì jiùsuàn shībài yěshì zhídé de.
“It’s not guaranteed success, but it’d be worth the try even if you fail.”

  • 集思广益 (jísī guǎngyì) – “collecting opinions for great benefit” 

Zài zhè cì de yántǎo huì zhōng, gè bùmén tóngshì jísī guǎngyì, gěi wǒmen de xīn xiàngmù chūmóu huàcè.
“In this seminar, colleagues from all departments brainstormed ideas for our new project.”

Zuòwéi juécè zhě, wǒ shēn zhī jísī guǎngyì, qúncè qúnlì de zhòngyào xìng. Qǐng dàjiā chàngsuǒyùyán.
“As a decision-maker, I’m fully aware of the importance of brainstorming and teamwork. Please speak up freely.”

  • 见仁见智 (jiànrén jiànzhì) – “opinions differ” 

Zhè hé xiān yǒu jī háishì xiān yǒu dàn yīyàng, dá’àn dōu shì jiànrén jiànzhì.
“This is the same as the chicken or the egg. The answer will differ.”

Dàodǐ shénme shì měi? Wǒ xiāngxìn zhè shì yīdào jiànrén jiànzhì de yìtí.
“What is beauty anyway? I believe this is a matter of differing opinions.”

  • 精益求精 (jīngyì qiújīng) – “to perfect something that is already outstanding” 

Jīngyì qiújīng shì wǒmen yīzhí zhuīqiú de mùbiāo.
“Continuous improvement is the goal we have been pursuing.”

Mǎkè tóngzhì jīngyì qiújīng de gōngzuò tàidù shì zhídé wǒmen suǒyǒu rén xuéxí de.
“Comrade Mark’s work attitude of excellence is something we all learn from.”

  • 互惠互利 (hùhuì hùlì) – “mutual benefit”

Zhè cì hézuò cǎiyòng de shì jiàngdī chéngběn, hùhuì hùlì de shuāngyíng móshì.
“This cooperation adopts a win-win model of reducing costs and creating mutual benefit.”

Dāngrán, wǒmen qiāndìng de rènhé chéngnuò hé héyuē dōu shì yǐ hùhuì hùlì wéi qiántí de.
“Of course, any promises and contracts we sign are premised on mutual benefit.”

  • 重中之重 (zhòngzhōng zhīzhòng) – “of highest priority”  

Cǐ cì yuángōng péixùn de zhòngzhōng zhīzhòng shì ānquán shēngchǎn.
“The top priority of this employee training is safety in production.”

Rúguǒ shuō péiyǎng háizi liánghǎo dì xìnggé shì zhòngdiǎn, nàme jiào huì tāmen zhàn zài biérén de jiǎodù kàn wèntí zé shì zhòngzhōng zhīzhòng.
“If cultivating children’s good character is a priority, then teaching them to look at problems from the perspective of others is the highest priority.”

  • 或多或少 (huòduō huòshǎo) – “more or less”

Bùdé bù shuō, gōngsī de shēngyù huòduō huòshǎo dōu shòudào le zhè cì shìjiàn de yǐngxiǎng.
“I have to say that the company’s reputation has been more or less affected by this incident.”

Wǒmen huòduō huòshǎo dōu tīng dào le yīxiē bù tài yuè’ěr de shēngyīn.
“We’ve all heard some unpleasant sounds, although the amount may differ.”

4. 鼓励和赞扬 (gǔlì hé zànyáng) – Encouragement & Compliments

Giving compliments and encouraging words is an art. Four-character Chinese phrases can make your compliments and encouragements nice and brief while still keeping them specific.

  • 全力以赴 (quánlì yǐfù) – “to make an all-out effort”

Xīwàng zhè cì kǎoshì tóngxuémen dōu quánlì yǐfù, qǔdé lǐxiǎng de chéngjì.
“I hope that all the students in this exam will go all out to achieve ideal results.”

Suīrán wǒmen méi néng jībài duìshǒu, dànshì dàjiā quánlì yǐfù, wánqiáng pīnbó de jīngshén háishì fēicháng zhídé gǔlì de.
“Although we failed to beat our opponents, the fact that everyone went all out and fought to the very end deserves compliments and encouragement.”

  • 一鼓作气 (yīgǔ zuòqì) – “in a spurt of energy”

Wǒmen tuánduì yīgǔ zuòqì, liánxù 72 xiǎoshí gōngzuò, zài jiézhǐ rìqī qián tíjiāo le fāng’àn.
“Our team worked nonstop for 72 hours and submitted the proposal before the deadline.”

Liú gěi wǒmen de shíjiān bù duō le, wǒmen zhǐ néng yīgǔ zuòqì de fènzhàn dàodǐ.
“There is not much time left for us, and we can only fight to the end in one go.”

  • 再接再厉 (zàijiē zàilì) – “to persist”

Zhè cì kǎoshì chéngjī bùcuò, yào bǎochí zhège shìtóu, zàijiē zàilì.
“The test results are good; we must maintain this momentum and make persistent efforts.”

Wèi nǐ wánměi de biǎoxiàn diǎn zàn, qǐng zàijiē zàilì, gěi wǒmen gèng duō de jīngxǐ.
“Good job on your perfect performance; please make persistent efforts and give us more surprises.”

  • 卷土重来 (juǎntǔ chónglái) – “to make a comeback”

Méi xuǎn shàng yě bùyào huīxīn, yǒu jīhuì yīdìng kěyǐ juǎntǔ chónglái de.
“Don’t be discouraged that you didn’t get chosen; when there’s another chance, you can definitely make a comeback.”

Dàjiā ná chū juàntǔ chónglái de juéxīn hé qìshì, bùyào ràng duìshǒu xiǎo kàn wǒmen.
“Let us show our determination and momentum to make a comeback, and don’t let our opponents underestimate us.”

  • 笨鸟先飞 (bènniǎo xiānfēi) – “work hard to compensate for one’s limited abilities” (literally: “the clumsy bird flies early”) 

Nǐ yào dǒngdé zhǐyào nǔlì, jiù néng bènniǎo xiānfēi.
“You have to understand that as long as you work hard, you can still beat the others.”

Méiyǒu shénme hǎo dānxīn de, bènniǎo xiānfēi de lìzi yǒudeshì.
“There’s nothing to worry about. There are so many examples of clumsy birds flying early.”

  • 熟能生巧 (shúnéng shēngqiǎo) – “practice makes perfect”

Dōu shuō shúnéng shēngqiǎo, duō liànxí liànxí, shàngtái jiù bù jǐnzhāng le.
“People say that practice makes perfect; practice more, and you will not be nervous on stage.”

Fánshì dōu shì zhèyàng de, zuò dé duō le, jiù shúnéng shēngqiǎo le.
“Everything is like this: the more you do it, the better you will be.”

  • 顺其自然 (shùnqí zìrán) – “let nature take its course”

Méishìr, nǐ gāi zuò de dōu zuòle, zhǐ néng shùnqí zìrán, nàixīn děngdài le.
“It’s okay. You have done everything you need to do; you can only let the flow take its course and wait.”

Shùn qí zìrán tǐng hǎo de. Qiáng niǔ de guā bù tián.
“It’s good to let nature take its course. You can take a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink.” (literally: “The twisted melon is not sweet.”)

  • 画龙点睛 (huàlóng diǎnjīng) – “to add the vital finishing touch” (literally: “to dot the eyes of a painted dragon”)

Wa, nǐ jiā de zhè yījù cí jiǎnzhí shì huàlóng diǎnjīng, tài niú le.
“Wow, this sentence you added is the finishing touch. It’s awesome.”

Zuìhòu zhège tiáozhěng zhēnshi huàlóng diǎnjīng, zhěnggè huàmiàn dōu shēngdòng le qǐlái.
“The final adjustment is really the finishing touch, and the whole picture is vivid now.”

  • 耳目一新 (ěrmù yīxīn) – “a refreshing change”

Xiǎo lǐ de yǎnjiǎng ràng zàichǎng de zhūwèi dōu yǒu ěrmù yīxīn de gǎnjué.
“Xiao Li’s speech gave everyone present a refreshing feeling.”

Wǒ bùdé bù shuō, nǐ de zhège gǎibiàn tài ràng rén ěrmù yīxīn le.
“I have to say, this change of yours is so refreshing.”

  • 当之无愧 (dāngzhī wúkuì) – “fully deserving” 

Nǐ shì wǒmen xīnzhōng dāngzhī wúkuì de dì yī míng.
“You are the well-deserved number one in our hearts.”

Nǐ zhège zǔzhǎng shì quánpiào tōngguò de, dāngzhī wúkuì.
“You won all the votes and so deserve the title of group leader.”

  • 脱颖而出 (tuōyǐng érchū) – “to rise above others” 

Néng zài zhème duō yǒu shílì de xīnrén zhōng tuōyǐng érchū, nǐ de shílì shì yǒumù gòngdǔ de.
“Being able to stand out among so many capable newcomers, your capabilities are obvious to all.”

Gōngxǐ nǐ zài jǐ lún miànshì hòu tuōyǐng érchū, bèi wǒ sī shùnlì lùqǔ.
“Congratulations on standing out after a few rounds of interviews and successfully being accepted by our company.”

5. Last But Not Least 

For those of you who’d like to explore more content for the advanced level, be sure to check out Level 5 on This is a curated pathway designed for advanced Chinese learners, featuring level-appropriate content along with hand-graded assignments to recap what you’ve learned. 

Don’t forget that you’ll get your own personal tutor with a Premium PLUS subscription. This will help bring your Chinese to the native level at a much faster pace!

机不可失,赶快行动吧!(Jībù kěshī, gǎnkuài xíngdòng ba!) – Don’t miss the opportunity. Subscribe now! 

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35 Intermediate Chinese Phrases and Sentence Patterns


First of all, a virtual high five for your hard work in getting to the intermediate level! We know it’s not easy to get where you are, especially for those who are learning Chinese outside of China and without constant guidance from a teacher. But no need to worry—we’re here to help. In this article, you’ll find a list of the most common intermediate Chinese phrases and sentence patterns for a variety of situations: daily communication, business meetings, travel, and more. We hope this guide will help you move a few steps closer to speaking Chinese fluently and confidently.

Even though this article is meant for intermediate learners, beginners and advanced students can also get something out of it. You may want to get your pencil and paper (or your favorite >note-taking program) ready before we dive in, because you’ll use these phrases often in everyday life!

Taking Notes Under a Lamp

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Past Events and Completed Actions
  2. Plans and Permissions
  3. Reasons and Explanations
  4. Recommendations and Complaints
  5. Social Etiquette & Business Phrases
  6. Advanced Conversation Responses
  7. Last But Not Least

1. Past Events and Completed Actions

Many intermediate-level learners know that the word 了 (le) is used to describe things that happened in the past. And yet, many of these students complain that they’re just as confused by the usage of 了 as when they first started—sometimes 了 is seen in supposed “past tense” sentences, and sometimes it’s not. 

Well, it’s true that 了 (le) can indicate past events and completed actions, but you don’t need to add 了 (le) for everything that happened in the past. 

Let’s first look at a couple of everyday phrases with 了(le).

chī le shí ge jiǎozi
“ate ten dumplings”

liǎng ge yuè qián fēnshǒu le
“broke up two months ago”

In the two examples above, the purpose of 了 (le) is to emphasize that something has been completed or ended. However, many times there is no need to add 了 (le) when talking about past events and actions.

Xièxie nǐ de zhāodài, wǒ zuówǎn wán de hěn kāixīn.
“Thank you for your hospitality; I had fun last night.”

Shàngge zhōumò wǒ zài jiā xiūxi.
“Last weekend, I rested at home.”

Hmm. 了 (le) or no 了 (le)? That’s a valid question.

A Confused Look

Unfortunately, there’s no simple way to answer that question. But remember, Chinese is a highly contextual language. The best thing to do is ditch the concept of “tenses” and focus on the context. If you’re describing yourself having fun and enjoying yourself last night (as in #3), it wasn’t a past action; it was ongoing at that moment, so there’s no need to mark the completion of an action with 了 (le). Same thing with the scenario in #4: You’re describing something you were doing last weekend, so you shouldn’t mark it as completed. 

    Tip: Try to make some more sentences using the sentence stems of the above examples, and share them in the comments section below.

2. Plans and Permissions

Every day, we make plans with our family, friends, and colleagues. Below are some intermediate Chinese sentence patterns you can use to make plans or to ask for permission when doing so.

Checking the Daily Schedule

    Tip: If you already know some of the patterns, focus on the example sentences underneath them.

[time] 有空吗?
[time] yǒukòng ma?
“(Are you) free at [time]?”

    a. 下个月四号有空吗?
    Xià ge yuè sì hào yǒukòng ma?
    “(Are you) free next month on the fourth?”
    b. 晚上八点后有空吗?
    Wǎnshang bā diǎn hòu yǒukòng ma?
    “(Are you) free after eight p.m.?”

我想去 [place] [activity]。
Wǒ xiǎng qù [place] [activity].
“I’d like to go to [place] to do [activity].”

    a. 我想去工地看看。
    Wǒ xiǎng qù gōngdi kànkan.
    “I’d like to go to the construction site to take a look.”
    b. 我想去公园钓个鱼。
    Wǒ xiǎng qù gōngyuán diào ge yú.
    “I’d like to go fishing at the park.”

Note: The [verb][verb] pattern (in #6a) and the [verb]个(ge) [object] pattern (in #6b) are used quite often in colloquial language to make the speech more casual. 

去 [activity] 怎么样?
[activity] zěnmeyàng? 
“How about (we) go do [activity]?”

    a. 去尝尝那家新开的日本餐厅怎么样?
    Qù chángchang nà jiā xīn kāi de Rìběn cāntīng zěnmeyàng?
    “How about we try that newly opened Japanese restaurant?”
    b. 明天我们去喝手磨咖啡怎么样?
    Míngtiān wǒmen qù hē shǒu mó kāfēi zěnmeyàng?
    “How about we go drink >handground coffee tomorrow?”

可以带 [person/thing] 来吗?
Kěyǐ dài [person/thing] lái ma?
“Can (I) bring [person/thing]?”

    a. 我可以带我女朋友来吗?
    Wǒ kěyǐ dài wǒ nǚpéngyou lái ma?
    “Can I bring my girlfriend with me?”
    b. 可以带外卖来吗?
    Kěyǐ dài wàimài lái ma?
    “Can I bring takeout food?”

可以改成 [time] 吗?
Kěyǐ gǎichéng [time] ma?
“Can (we) change to [time]?”

    a. 可以改成上午九点二十吗?
    Kěyǐ gǎichéng shàngwǔ jiǔ diǎn èrshí ma?
    “Can (we) change to 9:20 a.m.?”
    b. 可以把我们的见面时间改成周四吗?
    Kěyǐ bǎ wǒmen de jiànmiàn shíjiān gǎichéng zhōusì ma?
    “Can we change our meeting time to Thursday?”

[time/event] 我可能来不了了。
[time/event] wǒ kěnéng lái bù liǎo le.
“(I) might not come at [time]/to [event].”

    a. 后天我可能来不了了。
    Hòutiān wǒ kěnéng lái bù liǎo le.
    “I might not come the day after tomorrow.”
    b. 你的生日聚会我可能来不了了。
    Nǐ de shēngrì jùhuì wǒ kěnéng lái bù liǎo le.
    “I probably can’t come to your birthday party.”

Note: The primary function of 可能 (kěnéng) is to soften the tone of voice when turning someone down or giving a negative response, not to express possibilities.  

3. Reasons and Explanations

It’s easier to convince someone or explain something more effectively when you present your ideas in a logical way. Here’s how you can do that in Chinese:

这么做是因为 [noun/clause]。
Zhè me zuò shì yīnwèi [noun/clause].
“I did this because [noun/clause].”

    a. 我这么做是因为我们这个家。
    Wǒ zhè me zuò shì yīnwèi wǒmen zhège jiā.
    “I did this because of our family.”
    b. 他们这么做是因为公司的预算有些紧张。
    Tāmen zhème zuò shì yīnwèi gōngsī de yùsuàn yǒuxiē jǐnzhāng.
    “They did this because the company’s budget is a bit tight.”

考虑到 [noun/clause]
kǎolǜ dào [noun/clause]
“considering [noun/clause]”

    a. 考虑到天气炎热,学校决定取消户外活动。
    Kǎolǜ dào tiānqì yánrè , xuéxiào juédìng qǔxiāo hùwài huódòng.
    “Considering the heat, the school decided to cancel outdoor activities.”
    b. 考虑到父母的身体状况,她搬回了老家。
    Kǎolǜ dào fùmǔ de shēntǐ zhuàngkuàng, tā bān huí le lǎojiā.
    “Considering the health condition of her parents, she moved back to her hometown.”

主要是因为 [clause 1], 其次是 [clause 2]
“Mostly because [clause 1]; next is [clause 2]”

    a. 我们不打算报名,主要是因为时间不合适,其次是费用有些高。
    Wǒmen bù dǎsuàn bàomíng , zhǔyào shì yīnwèi shíjiān bù héshì , qícì shì fèiyòng yǒuxiē gāo.
    “We don’t plan on signing up, mostly because the time doesn’t work out well; next is that the fees are a little high.”

原因有以下几点:第一 [clause 1]。第二 [clause 2]。第三 [clause 3]。最后 [clause 4]。
Yuányīn yǒu yǐxià jǐdiǎn: dì yī [clause 1]. Dì èr [clause 2]. Dì sān [clause 3]. Zuìhòu [clause 4].
“The reasons are listed as follows: Firstly [clause 1]. Secondly [clause 2]. Thirdly [clause 3]. Lastly [clause 4].”

    a. 原因有以下几点:第一, 人手不够。 第二,设备不齐。 第三,时间不多。
    Yuányīn yǒu yǐxià jǐdiǎn: dì yī, rénshǒu bù gòu. Dì èr, shèbèi bù qí. Dì sān, shíjiān bù duō.
    “The reasons are listed as follows: Firstly, not enough help. Secondly, not enough equipment. Thirdly, not enough time.”

4. Recommendations and Complaints

Living in the era of the internet and technology, we deal with comments and reviews every day. Next are some of the common phrases you’ll read or write in product reviews. However, keep in mind that these phrases are like internet slang expressions: they tend to get outdated and replaced by new ones quickly.

Shopping in the Virtual World

qiángliè tuījiàn
“strongly/highly recommend”

    a. 这款电扇太好用了,强烈推荐。
    Zhè kuǎn diànshàn tài hǎoyòng le, qiángliè tuījiàn.
    “This fan is so great to use. (I) highly recommend it.”
    b. 这个APP太牛了,墙裂推荐。
    Zhège APP tài niú le, qiángliè tuījiàn.
    “This app is so awesome. (I) highly recommend it.”

Note: #15b is a play on words. 墙裂 (qiángliè) – “wall cracking” has the same pronunciation as 强烈 (qiángliè) – “strongly.” Younger internet users prefer to use >homophones for online communications.

bì mǎi

    a. 喜欢吃辣的童鞋必买。
    Xǐhuān chī là de tóng xié bì mǎi.
    “For those of you who like spicy food, this is a must-buy.”

wúxiàn huígòu
“(worth) repurchasing endlessly”

    a. 这个牌子的蕃茄酱值得无限回购。
    Zhège páizi de fānjiājiàng zhíde wúxiàn huígòu.
    “This brand of ketchup is worth buying again and again.”

làngfèi qián
“a waste of money”

    a. 一点用也没有。简直是浪费钱。
    Yì diǎn yòng yě méiyǒu. Jiǎnzhí shì làngfèi qián.
    “Doesn’t work at all. It’s literally a waste of money.”

fúwù tàidu chà
“bad service attitude

    a. 不仅价格高,而且服务态度差。
    Bùjǐn jiàgé gāo, érqiě fúwù tàidu chà.
    “Not only are the prices high, but the servers’ attitudes are bad.”

túpiàn yǔ shíwù bù fú
“pictures don’t match the product”

    a. 图片与实物严重不符。谨慎购买。
    Túpiàn yǔ shíwù yánzhòng bù fú. Jǐnshèn gòumǎi.
    “Product is way different from the pictures. Think twice before you buy it.”

A Lady Disappointed with Her Purchase

5. Social Etiquette & Business Phrases

Business and etiquette phrases are often used in formal situations and in writing. At this stage, you could definitely benefit from learning some of these intermediate-level Chinese business phrases and social niceties by heart. 

    Tip: Remember the following as set phrases for accurate reproduction.

qǐng màn yòng
“please enjoy (food/meal)” / (Literally: “please slowly use”)

    a. 菜上齐了。请慢用。
    Cài shàng qí le. Qǐng màn yòng.
    “All the dishes are on the table. Please enjoy.”

qǐng zhǐjiào
“please kindly advise”

    a. 有需要修改的地方,请指教。
    Yǒu xūyào xiūgǎi de dìfang, qǐng zhǐjiào.
    “If there’s any place that needs revision, please kindly advise.”

qǐng duō tí bǎoguì yìjiàn
“please give valuable comments and advice”

    a. 写得不好,请多提宝贵意见。
    Xiě de bù hǎo, qǐng duō tí bǎoguì yìjiàn.
    “(I) didn’t write it well. Please give valuable comments and advice.”

bāo nín mǎnyì
“satisfaction guaranteed”

    a. 您放心, 包您满意。
    Nín fàngxīn, bāo nín mǎnyì.
    “I’d like to reassure you that your satisfaction will be guaranteed.”

Gǎnxiè nín de lǐjiě hé zhīchí.
“Your understanding and support are greatly appreciated.”

Yǒu wèntí qǐng suíshí liánxì.
“If there’s a question, contact us anytime.”

qídài nín de huífù
“look forward to your reply”

6. Advanced Conversation Responses

Knowing how to give natural and authentic responses puts you at a different proficiency level. In this section, we’ll look at a few intermediate Chinese phrases you could respond with in real-life situations. We’ll give you the basic ways to respond (which you probably know) to a line taken from the examples above, and then show you their more advanced variations.

Suppose someone tells you:

Tāmen liǎng ge yuè qián fēnshǒu le.
“They broke up two months ago.”

    ➢ Basic response to express surprise:

Zhēnde ma?

    ➢ Variations:

Zhēn de jiǎ de?
“Are you serious?” (Literally: “Real or fake?”)

Nǐ dòu wǒ de ba?
“Are you kidding/teasing me?”

Now suppose someone says something you don’t fully agree with:

Tāmen zhème zuò shì yīnwèi gōngsī de yùsuàn yǒuxiē jǐnzhāng.
“They did this because the company’s budget is a bit tight.”

    ➢ Basic response to express slight disagreement or doubt:

Bú duì ba?
“That’s not right, is it?”

    ➢ Variations:

Hǎoxiàng búshì zhèyàng ba.
“Seems like this is not the case.”

Nǐ quèdìng ma? Jù wǒ suǒ zhī…
“Are you sure? As far as I know…”

Next, suppose someone tells you a story, and you’d like to learn more:

Shàngge zhōumò wǒ zài jiā xiūxi.
“Last weekend, I rested at home.”

    ➢ Basic response to prompt for more information:

Hái yǒu ne?

    ➢ Variation:

Nǐ xiángxì jiǎng jiǎng.
“Tell me in detail.”

7. Last But Not Least

Our list of intermediate Chinese phrases could go on and on. If you’d like to learn more, make sure to explore for additional resources and tools. 

For those of you who are not sure whether you’re at the intermediate level, take our diagnostic assessments to see which level you’re really at. Or simply pick Level 3, which is in line with HSK levels 2-3 and level B1 of the CEFR, and move up from there. Don’t forget you can get 1-on-1 coaching from your personal teacher with a Premium PLUS subscription. We look forward to seeing you there! 

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Learn Chinese Anywhere: The 10 Best Chinese Podcasts


Chinese isn’t the easiest language to learn. Maybe you’re tired of studying Chinese from your lengthy and grammar-heavy textbooks. Maybe you want to speed up your Chinese learning but can hardly find the extra time to study in your busy day-to-day life. Or maybe you’re running out of Chinese learning materials and don’t know where to find more resources.

Look no further: It’s time to try Chinese podcasts!  

Not only are podcasts easy to access, but they also make learning convenient, mobile, and fun! Better still, there’s something for everyone: beginners, intermediate learners, and even more advanced students. Keep reading to find the right Chinese podcast for you!

Tablet User with Headphones

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Best Chinese Podcasts for Beginners
  2. Best Chinese Podcasts for Intermediate Learners
  3. Best Chinese Podcasts for Advanced Learners
  4. The Best Chinese Podcast for All Levels
  5. Last, But Not Least

1. Best Chinese Podcasts for Beginners

The best Chinese podcasts for beginners possess certain features, such as clear pronunciation and the use of common daily expressions. Some podcasts also come with downloadable transcripts so you can follow along. 

Living Chinese 实景汉语 (shíjǐng Hànyǔ)

This is a great podcast series for people with zero Chinese speaking experience who plan to travel to or live in China. Additionally, we recommend this series for those who haven’t yet decided whether they’re ready to learn Chinese, but would like a sneak-peek of the language and culture. 

The series focuses on real-life situations with short dialogues, giving you a glimpse of China and the everyday lives of Chinese people. These Chinese podcast lessons cover common everyday topics such as shopping, taking a taxi, going to the hospital, hunting for an apartment, and so on. 

Unfortunately, this series only has 23 lessons available. However, it’s still an excellent place to get a headstart in your Chinese learning, especially if you’re an absolute beginner. If you’re interested, check out their lesson Taking a Taxi

Beginners’ Chinese

This series was designed by The Open University. The best part of this podcast is that each lesson is no longer than two minutes. The dialogues primarily focus on everyday life, though there are also some lessons explaining the basics of Chinese pronunciation as well as the tones. Each lesson is designed to give you a taste of the Chinese language and culture. Along with the short dialogue tracks, you’ll find transcripts to download for free. 

You can find all 46 lessons (with transcripts) on iTunes

You Can Learn Chinese

Unlike many other Chinese learning podcasts for beginners—which are structured with vocabulary lists, dialogue, and explanation sections—each episode of You Can Learn Chinese is formatted as a casual conversation between two Chinese learners. In this podcast, they share their experiences with learning Chinese and suggest tricks & tips for making the acquisition process smoother. They also discuss frequently asked questions from Chinese learners.

Created in 2019, this popular Chinese learning podcast is still actively publishing two episodes every month. Want to get a feel for what to expect? Then we recommend heading over to this lesson, where they talk about when you should start learning Chinese characters.

2. Best Chinese Podcasts for Intermediate Learners

As learners approach an intermediate level, variety is key. When it comes to practicing your listening comprehension, try to find materials related to history, culture, and current topics. It’s also recommended to listen to podcasts that are in Chinese only.

Great Wall of China

Speak Chinese Naturally 自然而然说中文 (zìránérrán shuō Zhōngwén)

This podcast actively uploads content on a bimonthly basis. It’s perfect for people who have some knowledge of the Chinese language and culture and want to go deeper. Each episode is recorded in Chinese, and transcripts are available for download.

There really is a lot of content for intermediate-level learners to explore here. For example, the episodes cover topics such as popular Chinese cities to visit and the stories behind some fascinating aspects of Chinese culture:

  • 成语 (chéngyǔ) – “idioms” 
  • 俗语 (súyǔ) – “sayings” 
  • 传说 (chuánshuō) – “folklore” 

Curious to learn more? We recommend checking out their lesson on the weird habits of Chinese people on Apple Podcast.

Learning Chinese Through Stories 听故事学中文 (tīng gùshi xué Zhōngwén)

Another active Chinese-language podcast series for intermediate learners, Learning Chinese Through Stories is all about stories and discussions. Topics include Chinese history, traditional Chinese holidays, work-life balance, celebrities from all around the world, Chinese songs, and difficult Chinese grammar points. The two native Chinese hosts speak in a relatively slow and clear manner, occasionally repeating key words and phrases

This intermediate-level podcast is perfect for those who would like to bring their Chinese to the next level. The podcast transcripts are available for download by donating $3-$5 per month on Patreon. 

To get a taste, listen to this episode where they introduce the Chinese influencer 李子柒 (Lǐ Zǐqī), who has over 15 million subscribers on YouTube.  

Slow Chinese 慢速中文 (mànsù Zhōngwén)

Just as the name suggests, the podcast episodes in this series are narrated at a slow speed by native Chinese speakers. Instead of everyday phrases and conversations, you’ll hear about widely discussed and highly controversial topics such as “political correctness in China” and “sexual scandal of a professor from Beihang University.” Because of the slow speed, it’s a great audio resource for pronunciation or writing practice; you can easily repeat phrases after the speakers or write down the Chinese characters you hear.  

Here’s an episode that talks about a popular Chinese photo-editing app called 美图秀秀 (Měi tú xiù xiù) – “Meitu.” 

3. Best Chinese Podcasts for Advanced Learners

Advanced learners will benefit from more in-depth discussions containing vocabulary that’s used mainly in writing or formal situations—truly ambitious learners might even want to try their ear at classical Chinese! To really improve your Chinese with podcasts at this stage, we recommend trying to translate each episode you listen to and focusing on podcasts that meet your interests. 

Below are some podcasts that are great for more advanced learners, mostly focusing on news and history. 

MandarinPod 中文特高级 (Zhōngwén tè gāo jí)

MandarinPod is a conversational Chinese language learning podcast. You’ll hear current and engaging content designed for advanced learners. This podcast will help you improve your listening skills, dive deeper into Chinese culture, discover the opinions of Chinese people on different topics, and even learn about expats’ experiences living in China. 

MandarinPod is actively producing new content every month. To get started, we recommend listening to this episode, where an expat shares his experience of being gay in China.

China: As History is My Witness 

This BBC Chinese podcast is narrated in English, but it still offers a panoramic view of the history of China and the notorious people behind it. If you’re serious about studying China’s history, we recommend you give this podcast a try.

Here’s an episode about 秦始皇 (Qínshǐhuáng), or “Qin Shi Huang,” the first emperor of China following its unification.

Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang

Story FM 故事 FM (gùshi FM)

This is a 100% native Chinese podcast that tells the stories of ordinary Chinese people. People are invited to share their stories, struggles, thoughts, and outlooks on life.

We recommend this podcast series for advanced Chinese language learners because the narrators often have heavy accents and speak in local dialects. The podcast’s slogan is, after all: 

用你的声音,讲述你的故事。(Yòng nǐ de shēngyīn, jiǎngshù nǐ de gùshi.) – “Use your own voice to tell your own story.” 

This also makes this podcast the closest to reality.

Male Farmer

New content is uploaded every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If you’re curious about the life of a multimillionaire’s wife, check out this episode on 故事 FM.

Searching for more native Chinese podcasts like this one? Head on over to the popular Chinese podcast sites 蜻蜓 FM (qīngtíng FM) and 喜马拉雅 (xǐmǎlāyǎ). Here, you can find different types of Chinese audiobooks, music, news, talk shows, traditional crosstalks (相声 xiàngsheng), and so on—all meant for native Chinese speakers.  

4. The Best Chinese Podcast for All Levels 

Now it’s time to introduce the podcast we’ve all been waiting for—the best Chinese podcast for any level!

Happy Students Jumping


What makes the ChineseClass101 podcast so amazing for learners? 

We regularly upload new lessons, each one featuring world-class content created by language experts and presented by native Chinese speakers. We provide podcast lessons for learners at every level—beginner, intermediate, and advanced—so that you’ll always have access to useful and engaging content that’ll help you level up faster.

In case you love our podcast but feel it’s not quite enough, we recommend creating your free lifetime account on today. Here, you’ll find: 

Consistent Lesson Structure

Every audio and video lesson is structured with a lesson introduction, everyday dialogue (read by native speakers at normal speed and then slow speed), vocabulary explanations, grammar explanations, and cultural insights. Most audio lessons are hosted by a Chinese teacher and a Chinese learner, who together provide insights from both a Chinese and non-Chinese perspective. 

On your smartphones, tablets, or computers, you can download complete transcripts and lesson notes. 

Curated Pathways

An exciting new feature on is our curated pathways. After you log in for the first time, you’ll find a guided pathway for your current level that takes you from lesson to lesson, interwoven with assessments. The five levels are closely in line with the CEFR  (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages), which helps to measure your learning progress. 

Growing Sprouts

Useful Study Tools

There are so many useful tools on our website, such as flashcards, vocabulary lists, and assessments.

In particular, we highly recommend that our learners take advantage of the voice recorder. Imagine, for instance, that you find yourself really struggling to master the four tones. With the recording feature, you can easily record and play back your pronunciation and compare it with a native speaker’s. You’ll be surprised how fast your tones and pronunciation improve. Just look for the microphone icon next to the dialogue lines and vocabulary words in every lesson. 

Different Plans to Choose From

Of course, you can listen to our podcast for free and even create your free lifetime account on our website for access to a few lessons each month. But if you decide that ChineseClass101 is the best learning platform for you, we recommend upgrading to a Basic account for just $4/month (for a 24-month subscription). This will give you complete access to our lessons and downloadable lesson notes. 

If you love our content, upgrade to the Premium subscription for just $6 more a month. This will allow you to use many more study tools like those we mentioned above.

For those who would like to study intensively and get faster results, take advantage of a Premium PLUS subscription for just $23 a month. You’ll get all the features, plus access to your own personal teacher. 

5. Last, But Not Least

Learning Chinese doesn’t have to be painful. With podcasts, you can be entertained and get educated at the same time. If you’re determined to conquer Chinese, it’s time to set your goals, find your level, and get a little forward motion every day with the help of Chinese podcasts! There are so many wonderful resources out there to help you succeed.

Start now by logging in to!

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The 30+ Most Helpful Phone Phrases in Chinese


For beginners with limited speaking and listening skills, answering the phone in Chinese can be a scary thing

While phones allow us to communicate across great distances, they do have their drawbacks. For example, you cannot read body language or see changes in facial expression when talking on the phone with someone. 

These inconveniences can make it even more difficult for you to come up with the right Chinese phone conversation phrases when you need them. 

If this is something you’re worried about, this guide will be your savior. 

There’s a very limited number of Chinese phone phrases you’ll need to learn. As long as you put in the effort, you’ll start seeing improvements before you know it. 

In this perfect collection of phone phrases in Chinese, we’ll teach you how to answer the phone, how to properly end a phone conversation, and everything in between.

Once you pick up these formulas, you’ll be prepared to pick up your phone with great confidence whenever a ringtone strikes. 😉

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Picking up the Phone
  2. Communicating in Business Contexts
  3. Explaining Your Reason for the Call
  4. Asking to Speak to Someone
  5. Asking Someone to Wait
  6. Leaving a Message
  7. Asking for Clarification
  8. Ending the Phone Call
  9. Other Occasions
  10. Sample Phone Conversations
  11. Conclusion

1. Picking up the Phone

There are a few different ways you could answer the phone in Chinese, each with its own nuance. Take a look: 


In Chinese: 喂?
Pinyin: Wéi?
In English: “Hello?”

This is a special phrase that Chinese people say when picking up the phone, though some people think it’s disrespectful. It sounds more respectful when we use it together with other expressions. For example, we can say: 

(Wéi? Nín nǎ wèi?
“Hello? Who is this?”


(Wéi? Nín hǎo.)


In Chinese: 你好。(Informal) / 您好。(Formal)
Pinyin: Nǐ hǎo. / Nín hǎo.
In English: “Hi.”

您 is for elders or people you want to show respect to; 你 is typically used toward friends and younger people.


In Chinese: 请问您哪位?
Pinyin: Qǐng wèn nín nǎ wèi?
In English: “Who is this?”


In Chinese: 你/您打错电话了。
Pinyin: Nǐ/Nín dǎ cuò diàn huà le. 
In English: “You’ve got the wrong number.”

2. Communicating in Business Contexts

A Woman Sitting at Her Work Desk Late at Night Talking on the Phone

Show your professionalism next time you answer the phone.


In Chinese: 这里是[公司名字], 很高兴为您服务。
Pinyin: Zhè lǐ shì [gōng sī míng zì], hěn gāo xìng wéi nín fú wù. 
In English: “It’s [Company Name], I’m very happy to assist you.”


In Chinese: 希望能尽快听到您的回复。
Pinyin: Xī wàng néng jìn kuài tīng dào nín de huí fù. 
In English: “I hope to hear from you soon.”

3. Explaining Your Reason for the Call

When making a phone call in Chinese, you should know how to explain your reason for calling. Here are a few sentence patterns you could use: 


In Chinese: 我想跟[名字]讲一下关于……的事。
Pinyin: Wǒ xiǎng gēn [míng zì] jiǎng yī xià guān yú …de shì.
In English: “I’d like to speak to someone about…”


In Chinese: 抱歉,刚才没来得及接你电话。
Pinyin: Bào qiàn, gāng cái méi lái de jí jiē nǐ diàn huà. 
In English: “Sorry, I wasn’t able to answer your call.”


In Chinese: 我是打电话来预约……的。
Pinyin: Wǒ shì dǎ diàn huà lái yù yuē …de. 
In English: “I’m calling to make a reservation for…”

4. Asking to Speak to Someone

A Woman Lying on Her Stomach and Chatting on the Phone with Someone

Phone calls are a great way to connect.


In Chinese: 请问[名字]在吗?
Pinyin: Qǐng wèn [míng zì] zài ma? 
In English: “Is [name] there to answer the phone?”


In Chinese: 可以让[名字]来接一下电话吗?
Pinyin: Kě yǐ ràng [míng zì] lái jiē yī xià diàn huà ma? 
In English: “May I speak to [name]?”

5. Asking Someone to Wait

Especially in formal or business contexts, it’s common to keep someone on the line while you transfer them or find out information. Here are some useful Chinese phone call phrases you can use to politely ask the other party to wait: 


In Chinese: 稍等,我去看一下。
Pinyin: Shāo děng, wǒ qù kàn yī xià. 
In English: “Wait a moment, let me check.”


In Chinese: 请您在线稍候。
Pinyin: Qǐng nín zài xiàn shāo hòu. 
In English: “I will put you on hold for a second.”


In Chinese: 我会为您连线他的办公室电话,请在线等候。
Pinyin: Wǒ huì wéi nín lián xiàn tā de bàn gōng shì diàn huà, qǐng zài xiàn děng hòu. 
In English: “Let me transfer you to his office. Stay on the line, please.”

6. Leaving a Message

Sometimes, the person we’re trying to reach is not available. In situations like this, the person we’re speaking to may offer to relay a message for us. Here are some key phrases: 


In Chinese: 请转告他
Pinyin: Qǐng zhuǎn gào tā
In English: “Please let him know that…”


In Chinese: 我可以留言吗?
Pinyin: Wǒ kě yǐ liú yán ma? 
In English: “Can I leave a message?”


In Chinese: 可以麻烦你告诉他给这个号码回个电话吗?
Pinyin: Kě yǐ má fán nǐ gào sù tā gěi zhè gè hào mǎ huí gè diàn huà ma? 
In English: “Can you tell him to call me back at this number?”

7. Asking for Clarification

A Guy in a Business Suit Holding a Card with a Question Mark in Front of His Head

Sometimes, asking for clarification is necessary during a phone call. Never feel embarrassed to ask!

As a non-native speaker of the language, every time you make a phone call in Chinese you run the risk of not understanding everything you hear. But this is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about! Below are some phrases you can use to ask for clarification when needed. 


In Chinese: 抱歉,能麻烦你再说一遍吗?
Pinyin: Bào qiàn, néng má fán nǐ zài shuō yī biàn ma? 
In English: “Sorry, could you say that again?”


In Chinese: 您的名字怎么写?
Pinyin: Nín de míng zì zěn me xiě? 
In English: “Could you spell your name for me, please?”


In Chinese: 我想再确认一下
Pinyin: Wǒ xiǎng zài què rèn yī xià 
In English: “Just to double check…”


In Chinese: 抱歉,我网络信号不太好。这边听不太清。
Pinyin: Bào qiàn, wǒ wǎng luò xìn hào bú tài hǎo, zhè biān tīng bú tài qīng. 
In English: “I’m sorry, I’m having a hard time hearing you. I think my connection is bad.”


In Chinese: 可以麻烦你说慢一点吗?
Pinyin: Kě yǐ má fán nǐ shuō màn yī diǎn ma? 
In English: “Can you please speak slower?”

8. Ending the Phone Call

A Smiling Woman Holding a Blue Phone to Her Ear

Hope you can always end the phone call with a smile!

When learning how to make Chinese phone calls, you can’t forget to study the appropriate ending phrases. Here are a few examples for you: 


In Chinese: 请问您有其他需要帮助的吗?
Pinyin: Qǐng wèn nín yǒu qí tā xū yào bāng zhù de ma? 
In English: “Anything else I can help you with?”


In Chinese: 谢谢你的帮助。
Pinyin: Xiè xie nǐ de bāng zhù.
In English: “Thank you for your help.”


In Chinese: 回头聊。
Pinyin: Huí tóu liáo. 
In English: “Talk to you later.”


In Chinese: 祝您拥有愉快的一天。
Pinyin: Zhù nín yōng yǒu yú kuài de yī tiān.
In English: “Have a great day.”


In Chinese: 回头有时间再聊。
Pinyin: Huí tóu yǒu shí jiān zài liáo. 
In English: “Talk to you later when you are free.”


In Chinese: 感谢你的致电,再见。
Pinyin: Gǎn xiè nǐ de zhì diàn, zài jiàn. 
In English: “Thank you for calling, goodbye.”


In Chinese: 那我挂电话了,拜拜。
Pinyin: Nà wǒ guà diàn huà le, bái bái. 
In English: “Then I will hang up, bye-bye.”

9. Other Occasions


In Chinese: 这个电话号码打不通。
Pinyin: Zhè gè diàn huà hào mǎ dǎ bu tōng. 
In English: “This phone number doesn’t work.”


In Chinese: 他不接电话。
Pinyin: Tā bù jiē diàn huà.
In English: “He’s not picking it up.”


In Chinese: 请问能借用一下电话吗?
Pinyin: Qǐng wèn néng jiè yòng yī xià diàn huà ma?
In English: “Can I please borrow your phone for a second?”

10. Sample Phone Conversations

Four Friends Chatting and Laughing with Coffee Drinks

It’s good to call your old friends to ask for a reunion once in a while.

Finally, let’s look at two sample Chinese phone call conversations. Below, you’ll find one informal dialogue and one formal dialogue. 

Scenario #1: 

Informal phone conversation: Two friends are setting up a time to meet for dinner on a weekend.

A: “Hey, how are you?”
嘿,最近怎么样啊 ?(Hei, zuì jìn zěn me yàng a?)

B:”Same old. How about you?”
还是老样子。你呢?(Hái shì lǎo yàng zi. Nǐ ne?)

A: “I’m pretty good. Are you free any day soon? Let’s dine out.”
我挺好的。最近有时间吗,咱们一起吃个饭吧?(Wǒ tǐng hǎo de. Zuì jìn yǒu shí jiān ma, zán men yī qǐ chī gè fàn ba?)

B: “Sure. But I’m a bit busy this week, I have a test coming up.”
好啊。不过我这周有点忙,有个考试。 (Hǎo a. Bú guò wǒ zhè zhōu yǒu diǎn máng, yǒu gè kǎo shì.)

A: “How about next week?”
下周怎么样?(Xià zhōu zěn me yàng?)

B: “No problem. I’m pretty free next week.”
没问题。我下周有空。(Méi wèn tí. Wǒ xià zhōu yǒu kōng.)

A: “How about lunch?”
一起吃午饭怎么样?(Yī qǐ chī wǔ fàn zěn me yàng?)

B: “Dinner is better for me.”
晚餐时间可能更好一些。(Wǎn cān shí jiān kě néng gèng hǎo yī xiē.)

A: “Sounds good. What date and time?”
那好。什么时候?(Nà hǎo. Shén me shí hòu?)

B: “How about Saturday at six p.m.?”
下午六点可以吗?(Xià wǔ liù diǎn kě yǐ ma?)

A: “That works for me. I will see you at the old place where we always ate then?”
我可以。那咱们老地方见?(Wǒ kě yǐ. Nà zán men lǎo dì fang jiàn?)

B: “Deal. See you there at six p.m. next Saturday.”
成。那就下周六下午六点老地方见。(Chéng. nà jiù xià zhōu liù xià wǔ liù diǎn lǎo dì fang jiàn.)

Scenario #2:

Formal phone conversation: After they’ve set the time and place, one of the friends calls the restaurant to reserve a table. 

A: “Hi, is this Restaurant C?”
你好。请问这里是餐馆C吗?(Nǐ hǎo. Qǐng wèn zhè lǐ shì cān guǎn C ma?)

Restaurant Employee: “Yes. Is there anything I can help you with?”
是的。请问您有什么需要帮助的吗?(Shì de. qǐng wèn nín yǒu shén me xū yào bāng zhù de ma?)

A: “I would like to make a reservation next Saturday at six p.m.”
我想订一下下周六下午六点的餐位。(Wǒ xiǎng dìng yī xià xià zhōu liù xià wǔ liù diǎn de cān wèi.)

Restaurant Employee: “May I know how many people are attending, please?”
请问会有多少人到场呢?(Qǐng wèn huì yǒu duō shǎo rén dào chǎng ne?)

A: “Just two people.”
就两个人。(Jiù liǎng gè rén.)

Restaurant Employee: “Next Saturday at six p.m. for two people. You got it.”
下周六下午六点两个人的餐位预订。没问题。(Xià zhōu liù xià wǔ liù diǎn liǎng gè rén de cān wèi yù dìng. Méi wèn tí. )

A: “Thank you so much.”
非常感谢。(Fēi cháng gǎn xiè.)

Restaurant Employee: “You are welcome. We look forward to seeing you here at Restaurant C then. Goodbye.”
客气了。期待在餐厅C见到您。再见。(Kè qì le. Qī dài zài cān tīng Cjiàn dào nín. Zài jiàn.)

A: “Sure. Bye.”
好的。再见。(Hǎo de. Zài jiàn.)

11. Conclusion

See? Talking on the phone in Chinese wouldn’t be so hard, would it? If you ever plan to actually go to China, save this guide and it will save you some valuable time. 

Chinese phone conversation phrases are one of the basic things you need to learn as a beginner. Once you master this skill—congratulations! You’re one step closer to mastering the language as a whole. 

If there are any other phone phrases in Chinese you would like to know, please share them with us in the comments below. A curious mind is always more likely to succeed!

ChineseClass101 has a rich variety of learning resources and study materials. Anything you need, we have it in store for you: everything from vocabulary and grammar lessons to those covering advanced conversations and idioms. In addition, our lessons combine language studies with practical information about Chinese culture. You’ll be amazed by how much real-life Chinese you can acquire! 

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200+ Commonly Used Chinese Words for Beginners


If you’ve just started learning Chinese from scratch, you’re probably still adjusting to the learning curve. At this point in your studies, memorizing basic vocabulary should be one of your top priorities. 

You may have already sniffed out some basic Chinese words for beginners from other sources, but some of the words you’ve come across may not be that helpful in real life.

In this guide, we’ve collected over 200 important Chinese words for beginners tailored for your needs. Look no further, and start mastering these basic Chinese words right away!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Pronouns
  2. Numbers 1-10
  3. Nouns
  4. Verbs
  5. Adjectives
  6. Conjunctions
  7. Classifier
  8. Conclusion

1. Pronouns

Pronouns are an essential component of Chinese vocabulary, so learning them early on is a great idea. Here are the personal, interrogative, and demonstrative Chinese pronouns you should know: 

1 – Personal Subject Pronouns

In ChineseRomanizationIn English
1st person singular“I”
2nd person singular你 / 您 (casual / formal)nǐ / nín“You”
3rd person singular¹他 / 她 / 它“He” / “She” / “It”
1st person plural²我们 / 咱们wǒ men / zán men“We”
2nd person plural你们nǐ men“You”
3rd person plural他们 / 她们 / 它们tā men“They” (He / She / It)

¹ Note that the third person singular pronouns all have the same pronunciation.
² 咱们 is a little different from 我们 as it specifies that the listener is a part of “we” as well.

2 – Interrogative Pronouns

A Woman Thinking with Question Marks above Her Head

If you have a question, you gotta ask!

In Chinese: 哪个
Pinyin: nǎ gè 
In English: “Which”

In Chinese: 谁的
Pinyin: shuí de 
In English: “Whose”

In Chinese: 什么时候 / 何时 (casual / formal)
Pinyin: shén me shí hòu / hé shí
In English: “When”

In Chinese: 怎样 / 如何 (casual / formal)
Pinyin: zěn yàng / rú hé
In English: “How”

In Chinese: 哪里
Pinyin: nǎ lǐ 
In English: “Where”

In Chinese: 谁
Pinyin: shuí 
In English: “Who”

In Chinese: 什么
Pinyin: shén me 
In English: “What”

3 – Demonstrative Pronouns

In Chinese: 这个
Pinyin: zhè gè 
In English: “This”

In Chinese: 那个
Pinyin: nèi gè / nà gè (casual / formal)
In English: “That”
Additional notes: The official pronunciation in dictionaries is nà gè, but for easier pronunciation in daily life, native Chinese speakers tend to pronounce it as nèi gè.

In Chinese: 这些
Pinyin: zhè xiē 
In English: “These”

In Chinese: 那些
Pinyin: nèi xiē / nà xiē (casual / formal)
In English: “Those”

2. Numbers 1-10

Painted Wooden Blocks Representing Numbers and Mathematical Signs

Numbers are essential in many daily-life conversations.

In Chinese: 一
Pinyin: yī 
In English: “One”

In Chinese: 二 / 两
Pinyin: èr / liǎng 
In English: “Two”
Additional notes: 二 is used more for numbers, while 两 is generally used for specifying quantities (such as “two of something”).

In Chinese: 三
Pinyin: sān 
In English: “Three”

In Chinese: 四
Pinyin: sì 
In English: “Four”

In Chinese: 五
Pinyin: wǔ 
In English: “Five”

In Chinese: 六
Pinyin: liù 
In English: “Six”

In Chinese: 七
Pinyin: qī 
In English: “Seven”

In Chinese: 八
Pinyin: bā 
In English: “Eight”

In Chinese: 九
Pinyin: jiǔ 
In English: “Nine”

In Chinese: 十
Pinyin: shí 
In English: “Ten”

3. Nouns

Nouns are perhaps the most important part of speech to learn as a beginner. A noun can represent a person, a place, a thing, or even an idea. You need nouns in order to make a complete sentence, and in a pinch, you can communicate an immediate need using nouns alone! Following are several simple Chinese nouns in different categories.

A Clock Using Roman Numerals and a Calendar

Time is precious.

1 – Time

In Chinese: 时间
Pinyin: shí jiān 
In English: “Time”

In Chinese: 小时
Pinyin: xiǎo shí 
In English: “Hour”

In Chinese: 分钟
Pinyin: fēn zhōng 
In English: “Minute”

In Chinese: 早晨 / 上午
Pinyin: zǎo chén / shàng wǔ 
In English: “Morning”

In Chinese: 中午
Pinyin: zhōng wǔ 
In English: “Noon”

In Chinese: 下午
Pinyin: xià wǔ 
In English: “Afternoon”

In Chinese: 天
Pinyin: tiān 
In English: “Day”

In Chinese: 月
Pinyin: yuè 
In English: “Month”

In Chinese: 年
Pinyin: nián
In English: “Year”

In Chinese: 周一 / 星期一 (formal / casual)
Pinyin: zhōu yī / xīng qī yī 
In English: “Monday”

In Chinese: 周二 / 星期二
Pinyin: zhōu èr / xīng qī èr
In English: “Tuesday”

In Chinese: 周三 / 星期三
Pinyin: zhōu sān / xīng qī sān 
In English: “Wednesday”

In Chinese: 周四 / 星期四
Pinyin: zhōu sì / xīng qī sì 
In English: “Thursday”

In Chinese: 周五 / 星期五
Pinyin: zhōu wǔ / xīng qī wǔ
In English: “Friday”

In Chinese: 周六 / 星期六
Pinyin: zhōu liù / xīng qī liù
In English: “Saturday”

In Chinese: 周日 / 星期日
Pinyin: zhōu rì / xīng qī rì 
In English: “Sunday”

In Chinese: 周末
Pinyin: zhōu mò 
In English: “Weekend”

In Chinese: 工作日
Pinyin: gōng zuò rì 
In English: “Workday”

2 – People 

In Chinese: 先生
Pinyin: xiān sheng 
In English: “Mr.”

In Chinese: 女士
Pinyin: nǚ shì 
In English: “Ms.”

In Chinese: 爸爸 / 父亲
Pinyin: bà ba / fù qin 
In English: “Dad” / “Father”

In Chinese: 妈妈 / 母亲
Pinyin: mā ma / mǔ qin 
In English: “Mom” / “Mother”

In Chinese: 阿姨
Pinyin: ā yí
In English: “Aunt”
Additional notes: In China, young people often have to call their elders “Aunt” / “Uncle” even if they’re not related. Thus, these are important people-related words to learn.

In Chinese: 叔叔
Pinyin: shū shu
In English: “Uncle”

In Chinese: 家人
Pinyin: jiā rén 
In English: “Family”

3 – Places

Several Locations Pinpointed on a Map

What is your destination in life?

In Chinese: 地点
Pinyin: dì diǎn 
In English: “Place”

In Chinese: 医院
Pinyin: yī yuàn 
In English: “Hospital”

In Chinese: 学校
Pinyin: xué xiào 
In English: “School”

In Chinese: 市中心
Pinyin: shì zhōng xīn 
In English: “Downtown”

In Chinese: 厕所
Pinyin: cè suǒ 
In English: “Bathroom”

In Chinese: 餐厅
Pinyin: cān tīng 
In English: “Restaurant”

In Chinese: 宾馆
Pinyin: bīn guǎn 
In English: “Hotel”

4 – School/Office Essentials

In Chinese: 办公室
Pinyin: bàn gōng shì
In English: “Office”

In Chinese: 钢笔
Pinyin: gāng bǐ 
In English: “Pen”

In Chinese: 笔记本
Pinyin: bǐ jì běn 
In English: “Notebook”

In Chinese: 电脑
Pinyin: diàn nǎo 
In English: “Computer”

In Chinese: 书桌
Pinyin: shū zhuō 
In English: “Desk”

5 – Body Parts

In Chinese: 身体
Pinyin: shēn tǐ 
In English: “Body”

In Chinese: 眼睛
Pinyin: yǎn jīng 
In English: “Eyes”

In Chinese: 鼻子
Pinyin: bí zi
In English: “Nose”

In Chinese: 脸
Pinyin: liǎn 
In English: “Face”

In Chinese: 手臂
Pinyin: shǒu bì 
In English: “Arm”

In Chinese: 耳朵
Pinyin: ěr duo 
In English: “Ear”

In Chinese: 手
Pinyin: shǒu
In English: “Hand”

In Chinese: 腿
Pinyin: tuǐ 
In English: “Leg”

In Chinese: 脚
Pinyin: jiǎo
In English: “Foot”

In Chinese: 手指
Pinyin: shǒu zhǐ 
In English: “Finger”

6 – Food

In Chinese: 食物
Pinyin: shí wù 
In English: “Food”

In Chinese: 果汁
Pinyin: guǒ zhī 
In English: “Juice”

In Chinese: 鸡蛋
Pinyin: jī dàn 
In English: “Egg”

In Chinese: 牛奶
Pinyin: niú nǎi 
In English: “Milk”

In Chinese: 肉
Pinyin: ròu 
In English: “Meat”

In Chinese: 水果
Pinyin: shuǐ guǒ 
In English: “Fruit”

In Chinese: 蔬菜
Pinyin: shū cài
In English: “Vegetable”

In Chinese: 米饭
Pinyin: mǐ fàn 
In English: “Rice”

In Chinese: 面条
Pinyin: miàn tiáo 
In English: “Noodles”

In Chinese: 蛋糕
Pinyin: dàn gāo 
In English: “Cake”

In Chinese: 超市
Pinyin: chāo shì
In English: “Supermarket”

In Chinese: 快餐
Pinyin: kuài cān 
In English: “Fast food”

In Chinese: 汉堡
Pinyin: hàn bǎo 
In English: “Hamburger”

In Chinese: 薯条
Pinyin: shǔ tiáo 
In English: “French fries”

In Chinese: 勺子
Pinyin: sháo zi
In English: “Spoon”

In Chinese: 筷子
Pinyin: kuài zi
In English: “Chopstick”

In Chinese: 碗
Pinyin: wǎn
In English: “Bowl”

In Chinese: 盘子
Pinyin: pán zi
In English: “Plate”

In Chinese: 零食
Pinyin: líng shí 
In English: “Snack”

In Chinese: 海鮮
Pinyin: hǎi xiān 
In English: “Seafood”

In Chinese: 面包
Pinyin: miàn bāo
In English: “Bread”

4. Verbs

Another set of essential beginner words in Chinese are verbs. Used together with nouns, they allow you to form complete sentences and better express yourself. To give you a headstart, here are the most commonly used verbs in Chinese

1 – Daily Routine Verbs:

In Chinese: 起床
Pinyin: qǐ chuáng 
In English: “Get up”

In Chinese: 吃
Pinyin: chī 
In English: “Eat”

In Chinese: 喝
Pinyin: hē 
In English: “Drink”

In Chinese: 去
Pinyin: qù 
In English: “Go”

In Chinese: 工作
Pinyin: gōng zuò 
In English: “Work”

In Chinese: 学习
Pinyin: xué xí 
In English: “Study”

In Chinese: 驾驶
Pinyin: jià shǐ 
In English: “Drive”

In Chinese: 骑
Pinyin: qí 
In English: “Ride”

In Chinese: 睡觉
Pinyin: shuì jiào 
In English: “Sleep”

In Chinese: 休息
Pinyin: xiū xī
In English: “Rest”

In Chinese: 做饭
Pinyin: zuò fàn 
In English: “Cook”

2 – Other Commonly Used Verbs

In Chinese: 给
Pinyin: gěi 
In English: “Give”

In Chinese: 获得
Pinyin: huò dé 
In English: “Get”

In Chinese: 制作
Pinyin: zhì zuò 
In English: “Make”

In Chinese: 做
Pinyin: zuò 
In English: “Do”

In Chinese: 让
Pinyin: ràng 
In English: “Let”

In Chinese: 问
Pinyin: wèn 
In English: “Ask”

In Chinese: 笑
Pinyin: xiào 
In English: “Smile”

In Chinese: 找
Pinyin: zhǎo
In English: “Find”

In Chinese: 哭
Pinyin: kū 
In English: “Cry”

In Chinese: 坐
Pinyin: zuò
In English: “Sit”

In Chinese: 站
Pinyin: zhàn 
In English: “Stand”

In Chinese: 喜欢
Pinyin: xǐ huān 
In English: “Like”

In Chinese: 爱
Pinyin: ài 
In English: “Love”

In Chinese: 告诉
Pinyin: gào sù 
In English: “Tell”

In Chinese: 希望
Pinyin: xī wàng 
In English: “Hope”

In Chinese: 看
Pinyin: kàn 
In English: “Look”

In Chinese: 忘记
Pinyin: wàng jì 
In English: “Forget”

In Chinese: 失去 / 丢失 (something / someone)
Pinyin: shī qù / diū shī 
In English: “Lose” / “Lost”

In Chinese: 记住
Pinyin: jì zhù 
In English: “Remember”

In Chinese: 离开
Pinyin: lí kāi 
In English: “Leave”

In Chinese: 发生
Pinyin: fā shēng 
In English: “Happen”

In Chinese: 认为 / 思考
Pinyin: fā shēng 
In English: “Think”

In Chinese: 完成
Pinyin: wán chéng 
In English: “Finish”

In Chinese: 变化
Pinyin: biàn huà 
In English: “Change”

In Chinese: 感激
Pinyin: gǎn jī 
In English: “Thank”

In Chinese: 走
Pinyin: zǒu 
In English: “Walk”

In Chinese: 跳舞
Pinyin: tiào wǔ 
In English: “Dance”

In Chinese: 唱歌
Pinyin: chàng gē 
In English: “Sing”

In Chinese: 走
Pinyin: zǒu 
In English: “Walk”

In Chinese: 跑
Pinyin: pǎo 
In English: “Run”

In Chinese: 读
Pinyin: dú 
In English: “Read”

In Chinese: 听
Pinyin: tīng 
In English: “Listen”

In Chinese: 写
Pinyin: xiě 
In English: “Write”

In Chinese: 回答
Pinyin: huí dá 
In English: “Answer”

In Chinese: 问
Pinyin: wèn 
In English: “Ask”

In Chinese: 说
Pinyin: shuō 
In English: “Speak”

In Chinese: 买
Pinyin: mǎi 
In English: “Buy”

In Chinese: 卖
Pinyin: mài
In English: “Sell”

In Chinese: 观察
Pinyin: guān chá 
In English: “Observe”

5. Adjectives

Our list below is a great place to start, but make sure to visit our list of 100 Chinese adjectives for even more vocabulary! 

1 – Describing Objects

In Chinese: 大的
Pinyin: dà de 
In English: “Big”

In Chinese: 小的
Pinyin: xiǎo de 
In English: “Small”

In Chinese: 长的
Pinyin: cháng de
In English: “Long”

In Chinese: 短的
Pinyin: duǎn de 
In English: “Short”

In Chinese: 苗条的
Pinyin: miáo tiáo de
In English: “Skinny”

In Chinese: 强壮的
Pinyin: qiáng zhuàng de 
In English: “Strong”

2 – Describing People

In Chinese: 好看的
Pinyin: hǎo kàn de 
In English: “Pretty”

In Chinese: 英俊的
Pinyin: yīng jùn de
In English: “Handsome”

In Chinese: 高的
Pinyin: gāo de 
In English: “Tall”

In Chinese: 矮的
Pinyin: ǎi de 
In English: “Short”

In Chinese: 疑惑的
Pinyin: yí huò de
In English: “Confused”

3 – Describing Emotions

In Chinese: 开心的
Pinyin: kāi xīn de
In English: “Happy”

In Chinese: 难过的
Pinyin: nán guò de
In English: “Sad”

In Chinese: 害怕的
Pinyin: hài pà de
In English: “Scared”

In Chinese: 感动的
Pinyin: gǎn dòng de
In English: “Touched”

In Chinese: 惊喜的
Pinyin: jīng xǐ de
In English: “Surprised”

In Chinese: 激动的
Pinyin: jī dòng de
In English: “Excited”

In Chinese: 失望的
Pinyin: shī wàng de
In English: “Disappointed”

In Chinese: 骄傲的
Pinyin: jiāo ào de
In English: “Proud”

In Chinese: 轻松的
Pinyin: qīng sōng de
In English: “Relaxed”

In Chinese: 生气的
Pinyin: shēng qì de
In English: “Angry”

In Chinese: 沮丧的
Pinyin: jǔ sàng de
In English: “Upset”

In Chinese: 忧伤的
Pinyin: yōu shāng de
In English: “Depressed”

In Chinese: 冷静的
Pinyin: lěng jìng de
In English: “Calm”

In Chinese: 释然的
Pinyin: shì rán de
In English: “Relieved”

In Chinese: 乐观的
Pinyin: lè guān de
In English: “Optimistic”

In Chinese: 悲观的
Pinyin: bēi guān de
In English: “Pessimistic”

4 – Describing the Weather

In Chinese: 下雨的
Pinyin: xià yǔ de
In English: “Rainy”

In Chinese: 多云的
Pinyin: duō yún de
In English: “Cloudy”

In Chinese: 多风的
Pinyin: duō fēng de
In English: “Windy”

In Chinese: 晴朗的
Pinyin: qíng lǎng de
In English: “Sunny”

In Chinese: 下雪的
Pinyin: xià xuě de
In English: “Snowy”

6. Conjunctions

In Chinese: 并且
Pinyin: bìng qiě
In English: “And”

In Chinese: 但是
Pinyin: dàn shì
In English: “But”

In Chinese: 然后
Pinyin: rán hòu
In English: “Then”

In Chinese: 因为
Pinyin: yīn wèi
In English: “Because”

In Chinese: 所以
Pinyin: suǒ yǐ
In English: “So”

In Chinese: 因此
Pinyin: yīn cǐ
In English: “Thus”

In Chinese: 还有
Pinyin: hái yǒu
In English: “Also”

In Chinese: 之前
Pinyin: zhī qián
In English: “Before”

In Chinese: 之后
Pinyin: zhī hòu
In English: “After”

In Chinese: 从此
Pinyin: cóng cǐ
In English: “Since”

7. Classifier

In Chinese: 只
Pinyin: zhī
Example objects to use for: Cats

In Chinese: 头
Pinyin: tóu
Example objects to use for: Cows

In Chinese: 个
Example objects to use for: People

In Chinese: 条
Pinyin: tiáo
Example objects to use for: Fish

In Chinese: 支
Pinyin: zhī
Example objects to use for: Pens

8. Conclusion

Now that you’ve learned over 200 Chinese words for beginners, the vocabulary may seem overwhelming at first. However, as long as you keep practicing them every day, everything will fall into place. Using these basic Chinese words will eventually become second nature. 

You’ll soon find yourself passing the beginner stage and moving forward to the intermediate and advanced stages. If you feel like there aren’t enough learning resources available to you, ChineseClass101 is always here to be your greatest helper.

ChineseClass101 has professional, entertaining materials for Chinese learners at every stage of their language learning journey, and you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for here. Become a member today and experience all that our website has to offer! 

What other basic Chinese words do you want to know? Are there any you’re confused about? Comment below to let us know!

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The Top 10 Chinese Filler Words to Flavor Your Speech


As dedicated a language learner as you are, there are probably still situations where you don’t have your next sentence prepared during a conversation. 

The question is: What should you do? 

On the one hand, you don’t want to pause for so long that the conversation becomes awkward. But on the other hand, it’s only natural to pause and think sometimes, even in your mother tongue. 

Chinese filler words are a magical set of tools that will empower your conversations and help you sound more like a native speaker. Using them will definitely make it feel easier to organize and share your thoughts. 

Today, we’re going to introduce you to the top 10 most useful Chinese filler words. However, remember not to overwhelm your conversation partner with too many of them—after all, they’re used to smoothen a conversation, not to abuse one. 

Now without further ado, let’s dive straight into it!

A Woman Trying to Comprehend What a Man Is Saying

Sometimes, taking a proper pause to organize your thoughts is the right thing to do.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. What are filler words and why do we use them?
  2. Top 10 Common Chinese Filler Words
  3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words
  4. Conclusion

1. What are filler words and why do we use them?

Hmmm…let me think about it… What exactly is a filler word and how do we use it? 

Well, that’s a pretty difficult question to answer, but I believe you’re smart enough to have guessed after reading this far. 😉 

At one point or another, we all use filler words in our conversations. They can be used to buy us some time as we search for the right expression or figure out what to say next. Even in your native language, it’s likely that you sprinkle your daily convos with the occasional filler word. It’s just natural. 

Although filler words might not sound important, they indeed play a major role in the Chinese language. We use them in several different contexts and for a variety of reasons, such as adding emphasis or showing that we’re embarrassed or hesitant to say something out loud. 

If you’re familiar with Chinese culture, you may have heard that Chinese people greatly value the concept of “face.” Well, having filler words at your disposal can encourage you to speak up and help you do so with grace.

2. Top 10 Common Chinese Filler Words

A Group of Four Friends Chatting with Drinks

Use your words properly and make everyone happy during a conversation!


In Chinese: 那个…
Pinyin: nà gè…
Literal meaning in English: “That…”

You can use this Chinese filler word when you’re speaking about something difficult or awkward, or when you’re thinking about what to say next. 

Keep in mind that although the official pronunciation is nà gè, native Chinese speakers prefer to pronounce it nèi gè in their everyday conversations because it’s easier to say.


A: “那个……我想跟你说个秘密,你能不能不要告诉别人?”
B: “当然了,放心吧。”

A: “Nà gè …wǒ xiǎng gēn nǐ shuō gè mì mì, nǐ néng bu néng bú yào gào sù bié rén.” 
B: “Dāng rán le, fàng xīn ba.” 

A: “Uh… I want to let you in on a secret, can you please not tell anyone else?”
B: “Of course, just rest assured.”


In Chinese: 然后…
Pinyin: rán hòu…
Literal meaning in English: “Then…”

This filler can be used to connect a series of events that happened in a more natural way.  然后 is actually a pet phrase for many Chinese people, especially when it comes to describing a long sequence of events, so feel free to use it as needed.


“我没想到事情发生的这么突然,然后我就一下子愣住了, 再然后我就晕过去了。”
“Wǒ méi xiǎng dào shì qíng fā shēng de zhè me tū rán, rán hòu wǒ jiù yī xià zi lèng zhù le, zài rán hòu wǒ jiù yūn guò qù le.”
“I didn’t expect it to happen so fast, then I just froze from the shock, and then I passed out.”


In Chinese: 就是…
Pinyin: jiù shì…
In English: “It’s like…” / “Actually…”

This is a great filler to use if you’re talking about something difficult or awkward, especially if you need to make your point clear. 


A: “你到底想和我说什么?”
B: “就是吧……我其实一直都很喜欢你,你愿意和我在一起吗?”

A: “Nǐ dào dǐ xiǎng hé wǒ shuō shén me?” 
B: “Jiù shì ba …wǒ qí shí yī zhí dōu hěn xǐ huān nǐ, nǐ yuàn yì hé wǒ zài yī qǐ ma?”

A: “What do you exactly want to tell me?”
B: “Actually… I have always had a crush on you. Do you want to be with me?”


In Chinese: 对了…
Pinyin: duì le… 
In English: “By the way…”

Like its English equivalent, you would use this filler in case you wanted to add something to a previous conversation or if you wanted to say something that just came to mind. 


A: “早上好。”
B: “早上好。对了,今天要不要一起吃午饭?”

A: “Zǎo shàng hǎo.” 
B: “Zǎo shàng hǎo. Duì le, jīn tiān yào bú yào yī qǐ chī wǔ fàn?”

A: “Good morning.”
B: “Good morning. By the way, do you want to have lunch with me today?”


In Chinese: 呃…
Pinyin: e…
In English: “Hm…”

You can use this Chinese filler when you’re hesitant or unsure about what to say.


A: “你想和我结婚吗?”
B: “呃……我觉得我们应该再考虑一段时间。”

A: “Nǐ xiǎng hé wǒ jié hūn ma?” 
B: “E …wǒ jué de wǒ men yīng gāi zài kǎo lǜ yī duàn shí jiān.”

A: “Do you want to get married?”
B: “Hmm… I think we should take a little bit more time.”


In Chinese: 另外…
Pinyin: lìng wài…
In English: “Also…”

This filler is most often used when you’re thinking of something to add to a conversation you’ve just had. 


A: “今天和我出去逛街怎么样?”
B: “我今天不想出去逛街。另外……我肚子有些不舒服。”

A: “Jīn tiān hé wǒ chū qù guàng jiē zěn me yàng?” 
B: “Wǒ jīn tiān bù xiǎng chū qù guàng jiē. Lìng wài …wǒ dù zi yǒu xiē bù shū fú.”

A: “How about going shopping today?”
B: “I don’t really want to go shopping. Also…my stomach is a little upset.”


In Chinese: 还有就是…
Pinyin: hái yǒu jiù shì…
In English: “What’s more…”

This is another filler you can use when you’re thinking of something to add to the conversation. 


“Wǒ yǒu diǎn bù hǎo yì sī gào sù nǐ, hái yǒu jiù shì …wǒ bà mā bù xiǎng yāo qǐng nǐ lái wǒ de shēng rì pài duì.”
“I feel a little embarrassed to tell you, what’s more is that…my parents don’t want you to come to my birthday party.”

A Woman Making a Phone Call while Holding a Hand to Her Head

Certain topics are embarrassing to talk about, which is where filler words come into play!


In Chinese: 那什么…
Pinyin: nà shén me…
Literal meaning in English: “About that…”

You can use this filler to ease into a topic that may be awkward to speak about, or when you need time to think of what to say next. 


A: “你可以把欠我的钱还给我吗?”
B: “那什么……我最近手头有点紧,下星期可以吗?”

A: “Nǐ kě yǐ bǎ qiàn wǒ de qián huán gěi wǒ ma?” 
B: “Nà shén me …wǒ zuì jìn shǒu tóu yǒu diǎn jǐn, xià xīng qī kě yǐ ma?”

A: “Can you give me back the money you owed me?”
B: “Talking about that… My pocket has been a little empty recently, can we please do it next week?”


In Chinese: 这个…
Pinyin: zhè gè…
In English: “Well…”

This filler is used in much the same way as the previous one. 


A: “你可以把这本书借我吗?”
B: “这个……可能不行。我已经答应借给另一个朋友了。”

A: “Nǐ kě yǐ bǎ zhè běn shū jiè wǒ ma?”  
B: “Zhè gè …kě néng bù xíng. Wǒ yǐ jīng dā yìng jiè gěi lìng yī gè péng yǒu le.”

A: “Can you lend this book to me?”
B: “Well…probably not. I already agreed to lend it to another friend.”


In Chinese: 怎么说呢…
Pinyin: zěn me shuō ne…
In English: “How do I put this…”

This phrase is best used in situations where you’re talking about something awkward or you aren’t sure of the proper way to say something. 


A: “你喜欢我吗?”
B: “怎么说呢……我只当你是朋友。”

A: “Nǐ xǐ huān wǒ ma?” 
B: “Zěn me shuō ne …wǒ zhī dāng nǐ shì péng yǒu.”

A: “Do you like me?”
B: “How do I put this… I only see you as a friend.”

3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words

7 People Standing Side-by-side with Speech and Thought Bubbles in Their Hands

Speak to people in your unique way with sincerity.

Just as a coin has two sides, so do words. Filler words can only be effective when used properly. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of using these words, and think about how we can use this information to maximize their effectiveness. 

1 – Pro: Filler words will make your conversations smoother and more natural. 

Each language has its own filler words that only native speakers or advanced learners would know. For this reason, using filler words appropriately will help you sound more fluent and make locals who talk to you feel more comfortable.

In addition, just imagine having a conversation without filler words before you’re completely fluent in a language…wouldn’t a long pause seem a bit awkward? These little words buy us time to think and organize our thoughts before speaking, and they also help the listener understand that we aren’t done talking yet. 

All in all, using filler words in Chinese correctly can help make your conversations flow.

2 – Con: It can become overwhelming if not used properly.

Now it’s time to talk about the disadvantages. 

Hold on, don’t get upset too fast! Chinese fillers can still be your best friends, as long as you use them in the right contexts without overdoing it.

Although filler words in Chinese can help you better structure your conversation, you should avoid using them in formal or professional contexts. If you have a job interview or business presentation coming up, you may want to consider preparing everything in advance in order to avoid overusing Chinese filler words. Otherwise, you may appear to be unprepared and lacking in confidence, which your listeners may also find disrespectful. 

To avoid situations like this, simply practice your speech before the occasion at hand. Remember: Success always comes for those who are prepared! 

Of course, using a couple of filler words in your speech shouldn’t be too much of a problem. So just relax and be confident!

Two Students Chatting Beside a Blackboard that Has Sticky Notes on It

Happy learning with ChineseClass101!

4. Conclusion

How are you handling these filler words in Chinese? They’re not as difficult as you thought, are they? Just remember to practice them often and to start using them naturally as you think of what to say. They can come in very handy in your conversations. 

Keep in mind that each filler word is unique, so try your best to use them properly. If you have any trouble implementing them into your daily conversations, don’t hesitate to ask the ChineseClass101 team for some help! 

We provide advanced learning tools and entertaining educational materials to keep you motivated on this language learning journey. Here, you’ll be a happy Chinese learner with access to up-to-date info on grammar, culture, slang, and so much more…all in one place! 

What are you waiting for? Register your free account today and start learning with us!

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Basics of Chinese Negation Every Beginner Should Know


There’s certainly a need for sentences of positivity and affirmation in our everyday lives, but what about the negative ones?

Unsurprisingly, they’re actually an essential part of human expression in every language. Knowing how to form negative sentences and answers can improve the effectiveness of our communication with others and help us set healthy boundaries. 

As a beginner, you should definitely start learning about negation in Chinese as early on as possible. I get that it can sometimes be tough to say no, but as long as you find the appropriate way to express your rejection, you have nothing to worry about! As a matter of fact, learning how to say no can actually save time for all parties involved.

Even for something as basic as negation, there’s a lot to map out. But don’t worry—you’ll find all the information and examples you need right here in this guide! We’ll cover not only the basic negative phrases and answers, but also some unique phrases for expressing negation in Chinese like a native.

Let’s get straight to it!

A Woman Holding Her Palms Out in Front of Her to Say No or Stop

We have to learn to say NO to things we don’t want.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. How to Negate a Statement
  2. Giving a Negative Response to a Question
  3. Ten Negative Words You Need to Know
  4. Special Ways to Say No
  5. Double Negatives
  6. Bonus: Polite Ways of Saying No in Chinese
  7. Conclusion

1. How to Negate a Statement

Chinese negation really just boils down to two basic words: 不 () and 没 (méi). While 不 is often used to negate things in the present or future tense, 没 is used to negate things in the past tense.

Learning how to correctly use these two Chinese negation words is half the battle. Once you have this down, you’ll have little difficulty grasping variants based on them. 

There are a few different patterns you can use to convey negation in Chinese: 

1. 不 () + Verb + Object

In Chinese: 我不喜欢吃香蕉。
Pinyin: Wǒ bù xǐ huān chī xiāng jiāo. 
In English: “I don’t like eating bananas.”

2. 不 () + Adjective

In Chinese: 我觉得这件衣服不好看。
Pinyin: Wǒ jué de zhè jiàn yī fú bù hǎo kàn. 
In English: “I think this piece of clothing isn’t good.”

3. 不 () + Proposition

In Chinese: 邻居不在家。
Pinyin: Lín jū bú zài jiā. 
In English: “My neighbor is not at home.”

4. 没 / 没有 (méi / méi yǒu) + Verb

In Chinese: 我没有偷东西。
Pinyin: Wǒ méi yǒu tōu dōng xi.
In English: “I didn’t steal anything.”

2. Giving a Negative Response to a Question

Now that you’re familiar with the basics, let’s cover another topic of interest: How to reply to a question with a negative answer. 

The following patterns and phrases are easy to learn, but you need to be mindful when using them. Depending on the context, they might sound a bit rough in Chinese. If you want to express negation in a more secure and polite way so as not to offend anyone, check out the bonus section at the end of this article for a little treat!

1. The Simplest Way to Deny Something

A Woman Making an X with Her Arms in Order to Reject Something or Someone

It’s not as hard as you think to deny something. Just say it!


Question: 是你把我的芝士蛋糕吃了吗?
Pinyin: Shì nǐ bǎ wǒ de zhī shì dàn gāo chī le ma? 
In English: “Did you eat my cheesecake?”

#1. To say that something did not happen the way it was described: 不是 (bú shì)
#2. To say that something didn’t happen at all: 没有 (méi yǒu)

2. Other Negative Responses


In Chinese: 不是这样的。
Pinyin: Bú shì zhè yàng de. 
In English: “It’s not like that.”


In Chinese: 不行。 
Pinyin: Bù xíng.
In English: “No way.”


In Chinese: 不可以。
Pinyin: Bù kě yǐ. 
In English: “That’s not allowed. ”

3. Ten Negative Words You Need to Know

Do you feel confident with the two basic words described earlier? Then you should go ahead and try to memorize the following words for negation in Mandarin Chinese!

A Man Speaking Out Loud with Letters Coming Out of His Mouth

Sometimes we just have to speak out loud what we truly think.

#1. 不能 / 不可以 (bù néng / bù kě yǐ) – “can’t”

In Chinese: 你不能/不可以 这么做。
Pinyin: Nǐ bù néng / bù kě yǐ zhè me zuò. 
In English: “You can’t do it. ”

#2. 不会 (bú huì) – “won’t”

In Chinese: 我不会离开你的。
Pinyin: Wǒ bú huì lí kāi nǐ de. 
In English: “I won’t leave you.”

#3. 从不 (cóng bù) – “never”

In Chinese: 我从不撒谎。
Pinyin: Wǒ cóng bú sā huǎng.
In English: “I never lie.”

#4. 很少 (hěn shǎo) – “hardly”

In Chinese: 她很少吃甜点。
Pinyin: Tā hěn shǎo chī tián diǎn. 
In English: “She hardly eats dessert.”

#5. 没有人 (méi yǒu rén) – “nobody”

In Chinese: 这里没有人。
Pinyin: Zhè lǐ méi yǒu rén. 
In English: “Nobody is here.”

#6. 别 / 不要 (bié / bú yào) – “don’t”

In Chinese: 不要这样做。
Pinyin: Bú yào zhè yàng zuò
In English: “Don’t do this.”

#7. 不再 (bú zài) – “no longer”

In Chinese: 我终于长大了,不再是那个年幼无知的小女孩了。
Pinyin: Wǒ zhōng yú zhǎng dà le, bú zài shì nà gè nián yòu wú zhī de xiǎo nǚ hái le. 
In English: “I finally grew up and am no longer that naive little girl.”

#8. 无处 (wú chù) – “nowhere”

In Chinese: 从此这架飞机便无处可寻了,哪里都找不到。
Pinyin: Cóng cǐ zhè jià fēi jī biàn wú chù kě xún le, nǎ lǐ dōu zhǎo bú dào.
In English: “Ever since then, the airplane went nowhere and no one ever found it.”

#9. 否则 (fǒu zé) – “otherwise”

In Chinese: 你真该庆幸有我在,否则你就完蛋了。
Pinyin: Nǐ zhēn gāi qìng xìng yǒu wǒ zài, fǒu zé nǐ jiù wán dàn le.
In English: “You should be glad I’m here, otherwise you would be screwed.”

#10. 也不 (yě bù) – “either” / “neither”

In Chinese: 我也不想出去吃饭。
Pinyin: Wǒ yě bù xiǎng chū qù chī fàn. 
In English: “I don’t want to dine out either.”

4. Special Ways to Say No

Restricted Area

We have to stop ourselves from doing the wrong things when needed.

#1. 非 (fēi) – negation for illegal things

In Chinese: 你所做的属于非法行为。
Pinyin: Nǐ suǒ zuò de shǔ yú fēi fǎ xíng wéi. 
In English: “What you did was illegal.”

#2. 无 () – “none of…” [formal]

In Chinese: 我只想在一个无人打扰的地方度过余生。
Pinyin: Wǒ zhǐ xiǎng zài yī gè wú rén dǎ rǎo de dì fang dù guò yú shēng. 
In English: “I just want to spend the rest of my life in a place where no one can disturb me.”

#3. 否 (fǒu) – “not” [formal]

In Chinese: 你是否愿意和我在一起?
Pinyin: Nǐ shì fǒu yuàn yì hé wǒ zài yī qǐ?
In English: “Do you or do you not want to be with me?”

#4. 勿 () – “don’t” [formal]

In Chinese: 请勿践踏草坪。
Pinyin: Qǐng wù jiàn tà cǎo píng. 
In English: “Please do not step on the grass.”

5. Double Negatives

Ready to move on to a more fun topic? Below are some examples of Chinese double negation, where two negators are used in the same sentence and cancel each other out. 

1. Subject + 不是 (bú shì) + 不 () / 没 (méi) + Predicate


In Chinese: 她不是不知道这件事的严重性。
Pinyin: Tā bú shì bù zhī dào zhè jiàn shì de yán zhòng xìng.
In English: “It’s not like she doesn’t know how serious this is.”

[She knows how serious this is.]


In Chinese: 我不是没提醒过他。
Pinyin: Wǒ bú shì méi tí xǐng guò tā. 
In English: “It’s not like I didn’t remind him.”

[I reminded him.]


In Chinese: 你不是不知道他有多喜欢你。
Pinyin: Nǐ bú shì bù zhī dào tā yǒu duō xǐ huān nǐ. 
In English: “It’s not like you don’t know how much he likes you.”

[You know how much he likes you.]

2. Subject + 不 () + 会 (huì) / 能 (néng) / 可能 (kě néng) + 不 () / 没 (méi) + Predicate


In Chinese: 父母是不会不疼爱孩子的,只是有时候方法不对。
Pinyin: Fù mǔ shì bú huì bù téng ài hái zi de, zhǐ shì yǒu shí hòu fāng fǎ bú duì.
In English: “It’s impossible that parents don’t love their children, it’s just that sometimes they are not doing it in the right way.”

3. (Subject) + 没有 (méi yǒu) + [Singular Noun] + 不 () / 没 (méi) + Predicate + 的


In Chinese: 这里面没有一个人不是单身。
Pinyin: Zhè lǐ miàn méi yǒu yī gè rén bú shì dān shēn. 
In English: “There is no one that is not single.”

[Everyone is single.]


In Chinese: 这个超市里没有一个东西是不贵的。 
Pinyin: Zhè gè chāo shì lǐ méi yǒu yī gè dōng xi shì bú guì de. 
In English: “There is nothing in this supermarket that is not expensive.”

[Everything in this supermarket is expensive.]

6. Bonus: Polite Ways of Saying No in Chinese

A Couple being Led to a Table by a Waiter in a Suit

Stay polite and reject offers in the proper way.

Unlike in some Western cultures where people are used to being straightforward, there are a lot of expressions in Chinese culture that show one’s opinion in a vague way in order to be polite. This also gives the other party 面子 (miàn zi), meaning “face,” which refers to the “dignity” you’re giving to the other person by not rejecting them outright.

There are certain words used this way that might not indicate a strong will, but you should still heed them. Instead of forcing the answer you want, realize that the other person has probably made up his or her mind despite giving a “soft” rejection. 


In Chinese: 要不算了吧。
Pinyin: Yào bu suàn le ba. 
In English: “Just let it go.”

You can use this phrase if you feel that you can’t help something. For example, imagine your friends ask you to tell the girl you like about your feelings, but she’s just gotten a new boyfriend.


In Chinese: 这个忙我可能帮不了。
Pinyin: Zhè gè máng wǒ kě néng bāng bu liǎo. 
In English: “I probably won’t be able to help you with this.”

You could use this phrase after someone asks a favor of you, assuming you either can’t help them or don’t want to. For example, imagine a friend asks you to take care of his child when he’s gone, but you’re too busy to babysit.


In Chinese: 还是别这样了。
Pinyin: Hái shì bié zhè yàng le. 
In English: “Don’t be like this.”

This phrase is used to warn someone who has done something inappropriate. For example, you could say this if your friend wants to have a party at your house, but your parents need to work quietly at home and cannot be disturbed.


In Chinese: 我不是很想去。
Pinyin: Wǒ bú shì hěn xiǎng qù. 
In English: “I don’t really want to go.”

This is a polite way to reject an invitation. For example, you might use this phrase if your friend asks you to go for a drink at night, but you don’t like the taste of alcohol.


In Chinese: 改天再说吧。
Pinyin: Gǎi tiān zài shuō ba. 
In English: “Let’s talk about it another day.”

This phrase is often used to postpone rejecting an invitation (or to put off giving a specific reason for your rejection). You could say this, for example, if a friend asks you to dine out and you just don’t feel like it. 

7. Conclusion

Chinese negation isn’t as difficult as you thought, right? Learning about negation in Chinese grammar early on can help increase your confidence as a beginner and make the rest of your studies much easier! 

Always keep in mind that Chinese people are very polite in some ways, so you should be careful with your tone and the way you phrase your rejections. 

If you still have any confusion about Chinese negation, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments. Asking questions is the only way to really improve! 

Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced Chinese learner (or are anywhere in between), ChineseClass101 has customized content and convenient tools for efficient learning. 

Can’t wait to see your growth in your Chinese-learning journey? Join ChineseClass101 today to boost your language skills like a pro.

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Chinese Tenses: A New Way to View Past, Present, and Future


We all want to deliver the most accurate information when having a conversation, right? While building up a solid vocabulary base and learning proper syntax are important in this regard, there’s another key step: learning how to indicate the correct tense. 

If you’re a native English speaker (or a speaker of any other alphabet-based language), you’re probably used to changing the form of a verb to express tense. 

However, Chinese is a unique language that does not depend on verb conjugation. You heard that right: There is no verb conjugation in Chinese! Instead, one indicates different tenses in Chinese by adding different time adverbs based on the context. This method can be quite ambiguous and it requires a strong sense of understanding in a conversation. 

Of course, there are also advantages to learning Chinese tenses and once you get used to how it works, it will begin to flow very naturally. You’ll soon realize it can be quite convenient compared to memorizing several different verb conjugations.

In this article, we’ll let you in on all the tricks you’ll need to learn Chinese tenses. You’ll be integrating them into your daily conversations before you know it!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Present
  2. Present Continuous
  3. Past
  4. Future
  5. Past / Future Continuous
  6. Past / Present Perfect
  7. Conclusion

1. Present

Signs with Now, Tomorrow, and Yesterday on Them

Time is always flying between now, the past, and the future.

The Chinese present tense is one of the simplest tenses to learn. All you need to do is add a time adverb to the sentence in order to indicate an habitual action.

A- Time Phrases

  • 总是/老 (zǒng shì / lǎo)  – “Always”
  • 经常 (jīng cháng) – “Often”
  • 现在 (xiàn zài) – “Now” 
  • 每次 (měi cì) – “Every time”
  • 天天/每天 (tiān tiān /měi tiān) – “Every day”
  • 一般情况下 (yī bān qíng kuàng xià) – “In general”
  • 有时 (yǒu shí) – “Sometimes”

B- Example Sentences

In Chinese: 父母不在家的时候,总是由姐姐照顾我。
Pinyin: Fù mǔ bú zài jiā de shí hòu, zǒng shì yóu jiě jie zhào gù wǒ.
In English: “When my parents are not home, it is always my older sister who takes care of me.”
Phrase used: 总是 (zǒng shì)

In Chinese: 他通常一个人去看电影。
Pinyin: Tā tōng  cháng yī gè rén qù kàn diàn yǐng. 
In English: “He often goes to the movie theater by himself.”
Phrase used: 通常 (tōng cháng)

2. Present Continuous

The present continuous tense in Chinese is one of the more complicated Chinese tenses to learn. This is because we must introduce Chinese auxiliary verbs that have no literal English translation. 

For example, we can use 在 (zài), 正 (zhèng), 正在 (zhèng zài), and 着 (zhe) to express the present continuous tense. They all mean something along the lines of “be doing” in English, indicating that the action is currently in progress. However, they are used differently and are not interchangeable with each other. Here are a couple of examples:

Structure #1: Subject + 在 / 正 / 正在 + Verb + Object
Structure #2: Subject + Verb + 着

A- Time Phrases

  • 正在/正/在… (zhèng zài /zhèng/ zài) – “Be doing”
  • 着… (zhe) – “Be doing”
  • 此时此刻 / 此刻 (cǐ shí cǐ kè / cǐ kè) – “At this moment”
  • 目前 (mù qián) – “Currently”
  • 现在 (xiàn zài) – “Right now”

B- Example Sentences

In Chinese: 我正在忙着写作业呢,不能陪你出去。
Pinyin: Wǒ zhèng zài máng zhe xiě zuò yè ne, bù néng péi nǐ chū qù. 
In English: “I am busy doing my homework and cannot go out with you right now.”
Phrases used: 正在 (zhèng zài), 着 (zhe)

In Chinese: 妈妈正在做一顿大餐,而我则在一旁帮她打下手。
Pinyin: Mā ma zhèng zài zuò yī dùn dà cān, ér wǒ zé zài yī páng bāng tā dǎ xià shǒu.
In English: “My mom is preparing a feast right now, and I am helping her by her side.”
Phrase used: 正在 (zhèng zài)

3. Past 

Again, we’re going to introduce some new “friends” for the past tense in Chinese. The particle 了 (le) is a suffix that can indicate things that happened in the past and those that will happen in the immediate future, so be careful and try to get a good understanding of both functions.

Another verb suffix is 过 (guò), which is used often for the past tense in Chinese. It’s usually (though not always) paired with 已经 (yǐjīng), meaning “already” in English. Check below for details on how to use them. 

Structure #1: Subject + Verb + Object + 了
Structure #2: Subject + 已经 + Verb + 过 + Object + 了

A- Time Phrases

  • 了 (le) – Indicating that something happened in the past
  • 过 (guò) – Indicating that something happened in the past
  • 已经 (yǐ jīng) – “Already”
  • 曾经 (céng jīng) – “Once”
  • 以前 (yǐ qián) – “Before”
  • 昨天 (zuó tiān) – “Yesterday” 
  • 去年 (qù nián) – “Last year”
  • 上周 (shàng zhōu) – “Last week” 

B- Example Sentences

In Chinese: 他昨天和朋友出去喝酒了。
Pinyin: Tā zuó tiān hé péng yǒu chū qù hē jiǔ le. 
In English: “He went drinking with his friends yesterday.”
Phrases used: 昨天 (zuó tiān), 了 (le)

In Chinese: 我曾经去过这家餐厅吃饭。
Pinyin: Wǒ céng jīng qù guò zhè jiā cān tīng chī fàn. 
In English: “I went to eat at this restaurant in the past.”
Phrases used: 曾经 (céng jīng), 过 (guò)

4. Future

A Road with Forward Arrows Drawn on It

Do you look forward to the future?

Clear time phrases such as “tomorrow” and “next year” are great indicators for the future tense in Chinese, but you may still need some special Chinese verbs and particles to complete the sentence and make it smoother. For instance, as mentioned above, the particle 了 (le) can be used not only for the past tense, but also for the future tense.

A- Time Phrases

  • 将 (jiāng) – “Will”
  • 打算/计划 (dǎ suàn /jì huà) – “Plan to…”
  • 会/要 (huì /yào) – “Intend to…”
  • 即将 / 马上 / 快 (jí jiāng / mǎ shàng / kuài) – “Soon”
  • 明天 (míng tiān) – “Tomorrow”
  • 下周 (xià zhōu) – “Next week”
  • 明年 (míng nián) – “Next year”

B- Example Sentences

In Chinese: 我打算明年去英国旅游。
Pinyin: Wǒ dǎ suàn míng nián qù Yīng guó lǚ yóu.
In English: “I plan to go to England for a trip next year.”
Phrases used: 打算 (dǎ suàn), 明年 (míng nián)

In Chinese: 妈妈的生日快到了,我计划给她办一场生日派对。
Pinyin: Mā ma de shēng rì kuài dào le, wǒ jì huá gěi tā bàn yī chǎng shēng rì pài duì. 
In English: “My mom’s birthday is coming up; I plan to throw her a birthday party.”
Phrases used: 快 (kuài), 计划 (jì huá)

5. Past / Future Continuous

For the past/future continuous tense in Chinese, simply combine the time phrases provided above with a proper past or future time indicator. The magic here is all in the coordination, nothing complex.

A- Time Phrases


  • 正在 / 正 / 在… (zhèng zài / zhèng / zài) – “Be doing”
  • 着… (zhe) – “Be doing”
  • 此时此刻 / 此刻 (cǐ shí cǐ kè / cǐ kè) – “At this moment”
  • 目前 (mù qián) – “Currently”
  • 现在 (xiàn zài) – “Right now”

Example Past Indicators

  • 昨天 (zuó tiān) – “Yesterday” 
  • 去年 (qù nián) – “Last year”
  • 上周 (shàng zhōu) – “Last week”

Example Future Indicators

  • 明天 (míng tiān) – “Tomorrow”
  • 下周 (xià zhōu) – “Next week”
  • 明年 (míng nián) – “Next year”

B- Example Sentences

Past Continuous

In Chinese: 昨天你给我打电话的时候,我正在刷牙呢。
Pinyin: Zuó tiān nǐ gěi wǒ dǎ diàn huà de shí hòu, wǒ zhèng zài shuā yá ne. 
In English: “I was brushing my teeth yesterday when you called me.”
Phrases used: 昨天 (zuó tiān), 正在 (zhèng zài)

Future Continuous 

In Chinese: 明天你休息的时候,我可能正在和客户谈工作。
Pinyin: Míng tiān nǐ xiū xi de shí hòu, wǒ kě néng zhèng zài hé kè hù tán gōng zuò. 
In English: “I will probably be discussing business with my client when you take a break tomorrow.”
Phrases used: 明天 (míng tiān), 正在 (zhèng zài)

6. Past / Present Perfect

A Woman Looking Up from Her Homework and Thinking

Are you struggling with the Chinese tenses right now?

Congratulations! Now you’ve made it to the advanced tenses in Chinese. 

However, don’t become too perplexed by these so-called advanced tenses. There’s really not much to it! You just need to use the time phrases provided below and combine them with some time adverbs according to the tense. 

For example, for the past perfect tense, you should use one of the time phrases provided below and combine it with something like 上周 (shàng zhōu), meaning “last week.”

Additionally, most of these time phrases can also stand alone without the help of any other time indicators. It all depends on the context.

A- Time Phrases

  • 已经 (yǐ jīng) –  “Already”
  • 自从 (zì cóng) – “Since”
  • ……完 (wán) – “Finish”
  • 到……为止 (dào…wéi zhǐ) – “Until” 

B- Example Sentences

Past Perfect

In Chinese: 截止到上周五,我才完成了该完成的工作的一半。
Pinyin: Jié zhǐ dào shàng zhōu wǔ, wǒ cái wán chéng le gāi wán chéng de gōng zuò de yī bàn.
In English: “I had only finished half of the assigned work by last Friday.”
Phrases used: 截止到… (jié zhǐ dào), 上周五 (shàng zhōu wǔ)

Present Perfect

In Chinese: 我们已经是认识十年的好朋友了。
Pinyin: Wǒ men yǐ jīng shì rèn shi shí nián de hǎo péng yǒu le. 
In English: “We have already known each other and been good friends for ten years.”
Phrase used: 已经 (yǐ jīng)

7. Conclusion

A Man Studying in a Library

The language-learning journey is never easy, but at least we’re all in this together.

It may take a while to digest what you’ve learned today about Chinese-language tenses, but it shouldn’t take too long! Remember, Chinese is not only an ambiguous language but also a flexible one. Just follow the rules and then make sense of it; you’ll soon be amazed at your progress!

ChineseClass101 is everything you’ve ever wanted as a Chinese learner. Our uniquely designed learning system can help trigger your language-learning acumen, while our fun lessons will allow you to enjoy your studies at the same time!

Our lessons are personalized for every level. Whether you’re a clueless beginner, an intermediate learner who has gained some knowledge already, or a proud advanced learner, our materials are designed to suit your needs!

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How Long Does it Take to Learn Chinese?


How long will it take me to achieve the desired level in my target language? Will I ever get there? 

These can be excruciating questions for any diligent language learner, but knowing the answers can give you a sense of security and motivate you to work even harder toward your goal

Today, we’re going to answer that pressing question: How long does it take to learn Chinese? We’ll give you the best possible answer for each of the three major levels in Chinese learning (beginner, intermediate, and advanced). Moreover, we’ll provide you with a few secret tips on how to learn Chinese effectively! 

But first: Have you ever wondered why some people can learn Chinese quickly, and others learn it more slowly? Well, there are many contributing factors. Your language learning progress can be affected by any number of things, such as…

  • …the kind of environment you’re in. 
  • …the amount of time and effort you dedicate to learning. 
  • …your own gift or knack for languages. 

After reading this article, I believe you’ll have a much better idea of how long it will take you to master Chinese based on these and other factors.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. The Factors Involved in Your Learning Progress
  2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Beginner Level?
  3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Intermediate Level?
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Advanced Level?
  5. Conclusion

1. The Factors Involved in Your Learning Progress

As mentioned, there are a few different things that can affect how long it takes to learn Chinese. Here’s a quick breakdown of those factors for you. 

Your Native Language vs. Chinese

All of the time estimates in this guide are based on the assumption that your native language is English or one of the Romance languages, which are very different from the Chinese language. But if you happen to know one or more Asian languages already (such as Korean or Japanese), congratulations! This will definitely give you a major advantage and make the learning process a lot faster for you, because these languages share many similarities with Chinese. 

Your Study Method

Everyone has his or her own way of learning and adapting to things. The first thing you should do is become aware of your personal strengths and weaknesses, and then find the best way to utilize or tackle them. 

Secondly, determine your goal and main reason for learning the language. Do you want to become a fluent Chinese speaker so you can have fulfilling conversations while traveling? Or would you like to read a book in Chinese? Your answers to these questions will determine how much time you should assign to learning different parts of the language, such as reading comprehension/vocab memorization and speaking/pronunciation practice. 

Once you pinpoint your goals, it’s time to take real action! Are you going to self-teach or learn the language systematically at an institution or convenient online class? To figure this out, ask yourself whether you thrive in people-oriented environments, or whether you have enough discipline to study by yourself. Either way, find the learning methods that best suit your interests and preferences. 

From there, it’s all about dedication! 

Your Own Dedication

A Man Studying Late at Night

If you want to achieve something, then you’ll have to pour your sweat and tears into it.

Have you established your goals and put a systematic learning system in place for yourself? Great! But that’s just the start. Learning a language is a daily practice that requires consistency; if you ever break that consistency, your progress may go downhill. 

You need to always keep your motivation in mind and push yourself forward in this long journey, little by little. You might get upset sometimes, but remember that this happens to everyone. It may take a long time for the progress to reveal itself, so it’s normal to become frustrated. The important thing is that you don’t give up. 

The Environment Around You

If you’re planning to move to China for work, study, or even just a short trip, take advantage of the opportunity and talk to people. Pay attention to the way they talk and never feel afraid to speak, even if you have limited proficiency. 

If you were raised in a bilingual environment, this is another huge plus for learning a third language. This is because your brain has already adapted to language learning and switching between languages—one less factor to worry about! 

Of course, it’s possible that you’re stuck in your own place for now and have no native Chinese speakers around. No worries! Try your best to create an immersive environment for yourself, whether that means listening to local Chinese audio sources, watching Chinese shows, or even trying to make a Chinese friend online. All of these things may boost your language speaking ability dramatically!

2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Beginner Level?

Regardless of your goals, it’s important to start strong as you enter the beginner level. Here’s some useful information on how long you can expect this to take, what the “beginner level” looks like, and how to get there quickly! 

What a Chinese Beginner Needs to Know

A Man with Steam Coming Out of His Ears in Frustration

The beginning part of the learning process is always the hardest!

HSK, also known as 汉语水平考试 (hàn yǔ shuǐ píng kǎo shì) in Chinese, is the only official Mandarin Chinese proficiency exam for non-native speakers in China. It includes six levels across the beginner, intermediate, and advanced stages. 

As a beginner in the Chinese language, you should first start by learning the Pinyin system. Once you have that down, you can move on to learning phrases for basic daily greetings, self-introductions, telling the time, and asking for help and directions, as well as other everyday vocabulary. 

Of course, your proficiency is very limited at this point. Chinese is a tonal language, a concept that is difficult for speakers of English and Romance languages to grasp. In addition, the writing system is quite different and thus complicated to learn. Don’t worry about those things just yet; try your best to master the basics first and the harder aspects will become easier as you progress.

Required Time to Achieve the Beginner Level

Because Chinese is one of the most difficult languages in the world, it usually takes more time to grasp the fundamentals than it would for other languages. Assuming a student is studying consistently on a daily basis and putting in quality effort, it should take around 30-50 hours to achieve a beginner level. 

Secret Tips for Beginners

Are you feeling overwhelmed already, and wondering how to learn Chinese from scratch in the most efficient way possible? Don’t worry! These tips from will help you make the most of your study time. 

Tip #1

Take advantage of your free time or time between tasks! You can keep a stack of flashcards in your pocket to review throughout the day or repeat vocabulary in your head while waiting in line, doing chores, or even taking a shower. Don’t underestimate these precious moments; once they accumulate, they can become pretty powerful.

Tip #2

Watch some Netflix shows or YouTube videos in Chinese with the help of English or Chinese subtitles, and never let a new vocab word slip past you again! Once you catch a word you don’t know, pause the video and look it up. It can be excruciating to pause the video over and over again, but trust me: you’ll learn more this way than you would just being entertained!

Tip #3

Chinese is a flexible language. As a beginner, you should start by mastering the Pinyin and trying to get a hang of the tones. Once you grasp the pronunciation aspect, it’s time to learn the most frequently used vocabulary and practice using those words in sentences. Don’t worry about the writing just yet—after all, learning how to converse is the most important part of learning a language.

Sample Lesson from ChineseClass101 – “How are you?”

Language points: Common daily phrases
Highlight: Learn how to use Chinese adjectives and how to negate them.
Estimated time to study: An hour
Tips: Try to read out loud along with the video, doing so several times until you get used to reading the new phrases. Try reading them by yourself while thinking about the meaning.

3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Intermediate Level?

Depending on your goals, the next logical step is probably to begin working toward an intermediate level. But what exactly does this look like and how long will it take to get there? 

What an Intermediate Chinese Learner Needs to Know

Two Twin Girls Sitting on the Couch and Raising Their Arms

You’re getting better and better now after so much practice! Congratulations!

It takes about 1-3 years to become fluent in daily conversations in Chinese. At this level, you’ll be able to talk about what you’ve done and express your feelings, which are considered intermediate-level topics. Additionally, you should be able to articulate the different tones most of the time and be able to read any Chinese character with the help of Pinyin. 

The writing system may still seem complicated to you as an intermediate learner, but you should be able to write some basic Chinese characters. In addition, you should be able to read most of the commonly used sentences and have a good understanding of how they’re structured. 

Required Time to Achieve the Intermediate Level

I suggest you spend at least two hours a day studying, which will ensure you can achieve the intermediate level within three years. These two hours should be spent effectively, studying all aspects of the language: active reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

Secret Tips for Intermediate Chinese Learners

Tip #1

Instead of flashcards, you should now have a handbook of all the new and old vocabulary you’ve learned. You should form the habit of reviewing and updating it daily to keep track of your progress.

Tip #2

As you approach the intermediate level, you should try to start thinking like a Chinese speaker. This will pave the way for your upcoming advanced-level studies. Namely, you should actively learn Chinese like a native speaker and try to memorize vocabulary without translating it to your own language.

Sample Lesson from ChineseClass101 – “Chinese Study Abroad”

Language points: Vocabulary and grammar
Highlight: Learn how to stand up for yourself.
Estimated time to study: An hour and a half
Tips: Take advantage of the “Vocabulary” part of the lesson, because it will introduce you to the Chinese spelling, Pinyin, and pronunciation of the most commonly used words for daily conversations.

4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Advanced Level?

If your goal is to become completely fluent in Chinese, then let us congratulate you! That will be a huge accomplishment that will change your life for the better. To help you out, here’s everything you need to know about how to reach this level and how long it will take. 

What an Advanced Chinese Learner Needs to Know

Two People with Cardboard Boxes on Their Head Giving the Thumbs-up Sign

Gotta give yourself a thumbs-up if you ever achieve this level!

An advanced Chinese learner should be able to express things in depth and in a more elaborate manner. Prior to reaching this level, you should have started to learn more like a native speaker, meaning that you’re now able to speak, write, read, and listen without translation to your native language (most of the time).

Required Time to Achieve the Advanced Level

It takes about 4-7 years (roughly 2200 to 4000 hours) to become fluent in every aspect of the language, if you spend at least an hour and a half to study every day. However, it’s quite common for learners to become more fluent in some areas than others depending on how they allotted their study time. For example, you might have excellent Chinese speaking skills but have limited reading and writing ability. 

Secret Tips for Advanced Chinese Learners

Tip #1

You should try to create the best possible language learning environment for yourself as possible. To do this, try to think and talk to yourself in Chinese whenever you can; this will enhance your ability to learn the language like a native speaker would. If you’ve experienced any struggles with thinking in Chinese, you should actively look for a solution to this problem while you continue to pick up useful vocabulary and expressions. 

Tip #2

You should now challenge yourself by reading simple Chinese books and trying to keep a journal in Chinese. This will improve your skills in both reading and writing, as well as speaking. Above all, you should shift your goal from simply being able to converse to enriching the conversation.

Sample Lesson from ChineseClass101 – “The Joy of Being Busy”

Language points: Grammar, structure of sentences, and vocabulary
Highlight: Listen to our Chinese host talk about what she does in her spare time to relax in China.
Estimated time to study: Two hours
Tips: Try to learn the sentence patterns and common phrases used here. You can use them for your journal to make your writing sound more natural.


A ChineseClass101 Image

ChineseClass101 has the ultimate Chinese learning resources for you!

How long does it take to learn Chinese? By now, you should have a much clearer picture of the time commitment you’re looking at based on your goals. No matter what those goals are or where you are right now, there are two important things you should do to maximize your progress: 

  • Know your personal strengths and weaknesses.
  • Build your own unique learning system.

ChineseClass101 has established a unique learning system customized for our dedicated members. Our approach allows students to learn Chinese in the fastest and easiest way possible. We provide thousands of practical, immersive lessons that will guide you through daily Chinese conversations with up-to-date vocabulary and colloquial language—and the fun doesn’t stop there! 

You’ll also get a chance to experience Chinese culture and local life. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, you can be sure to find your perfect fit as we have lessons for every level of proficiency. Join now and you’ll get much more than learning materials. You’ll be getting the language learning experience of a lifetime!

How likely are you to start (or continue) learning Chinese after reading this article? Do you still have any questions or concerns? Let us know in the comments!

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