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Lesson Transcript


Hi everybody! Yinru here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Chinese questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: Does 你好 nǐhǎo really mean “Hi”?
你好 nǐhǎo! and “Hi!” Are these two greetings the same? Actually they aren’t.
你好 nǐhǎo in Chinese is a very formal greeting. It’s usually used when people meet for the first time. You can use it in self-introductions, such as:
你好,我叫玛丽. Nǐhǎo, Wǒ jiào Mǎlì. (“Hello, my name is Mary.”)
你好,很高兴认识你。Nǐhǎo, hěn gāoxìng rènshi nǐ. (“Hello, it is my pleasure to meet you.” )
Or, you can use 你好 nǐhǎo as a phrase to get a stranger’s attention, when you need to ask a question or a favor. For example, you need to get to someplace, so you may stop a passerby by saying:
你好,请问一下,电影院怎么走?nǐhǎo, qǐngwèn yíxià , diànyǐngyuàn zěnme zǒu? (“Excuse me, how do I get to the movie theater?”)
Or, when you’re ordering food in a restaurant, you can say:
你好,我要一份一号套餐。nǐhǎo , Wǒ yào yífèn yī hào tàocān. (“Hello, I’d like an order of Combo No.1.”)
Well, if 你好 nǐhǎo is used in formal situations with people you don’t really know, how do you greet people you do know? Well, it’s definitely not necessary to use 你好 nǐhǎo to your best friends when you bump into them on the street. You can simply say “Hi” to them in English, or the Chinese version: 嗨 hai. This is essentially a translation from English. 嗨 hai is a very popular greeting among young people, so feel free to use it as you do in English.
If you haven’t seen your friend for a while, you may say:
嗨,玛丽,好久不见!最近还好吗?Hài , Mǎlì , hǎojiǔbújiàn! Zuìjìn hái hǎo ma? (“Hi, Mary, long time no see! How have you been?”)
Or, you can simply say their name and then continue with some small talk. For instance, it’s around mealtime. You could say: 玛丽,吃了吗?Mǎlì, chī le ma? (“Hey Mary, have you eaten?”)
This is a very informal greeting, but SO commonly used. After all, eating is a big deal in Chinese culture!
What if you’re greeting someone you know, but they are your supervisor or your senior? To make it more polite, you can address them by their title, then add a 好 hǎo after the title. Say you see your teacher. It’s considered polite to greet them by saying:
某某老师好 mǒumǒu lǎoshī hǎo (“Hello, so-and-so teacher”)
If the teacher’s name is Li, you’ll say:
李老师好 Lǐ lǎoshī hǎo (“Hi Teacher Li”)
If you see your manager Li, you can say:
李经理好 Lǐ jīnglǐ hǎo (“Hi Manager Li”).
Many times, when at work, even if the person you’re greeting is the same level as you, or even at a lower level, it’s still common to address them by their surname followed by the title.


How was it? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below, and I’ll try to answer them!
我们下期再见!Wǒmen xià qī zàijiàn! Bye-bye!