When I first got to China, I didn’t know how to greet people. I wanted to just say “good morning” in Chinese to my co-workers, and didn’t know how!
Saying “Good evening” in Chinese was a rarer necessity, but an important one when I was meeting clients.
If you learn the textbook way of saying “good morning” in Chinese, you might be surprised with how different it is from how it’s spoken in everyday life.
Update in 2023 — Added audio files for your convenience.
Note: this article is about how to say “good morning” and “good evening” in Chinese (by which we mean Mandarin, as it’s spoken in Mainland China and Taiwan).
The umbrella term “Chinese” includes many other languages, including Cantonese as the major other spoken dialect.
For a discussion of the meaning of the word “Chinese” see Being and Speaking Chinese.
Summary Table of Good Morning in Chinese
Here’s a brief summary table of the main ways of wishing someone a good morning in Chinese.
|Casual to colleagues / people you know||早！||早！(zǎo)|| 早！(zǎo) |
|Formal||早上好||zǎoshàng hǎo||早上好 (zǎoshàng hǎo)|
|Generic (can’t go wrong)||你好||你好 (nǐ hǎo)|| 你好 (nǐ hǎo) |
你好 (nǐ hǎo)
The Swiss-Army Knife of Ni Hao (你好, nǐ hǎo)
The first word anyone learns in Chinese is 你好 (nǐ hǎo) , which means “hello”.
The greatest thing about the phrase nǐ hǎo is just how versatile it is. You can use nǐ hǎo in just about any greeting situation!
You can use it to say
- How are you? (Which people don’t often ask)
- How’s it going (ditto)
It’s formal, informal, casual… everything. You can use it at work, with dignitaries, and with friends. It works everywhere.
Good Morning in Chinese: Two ways
The formal way to say “good morning” in Chinese is 早上好 (zǎoshàng hǎo) .
But in practice, people often simplify this to just one character: 早！(zǎo) . This just means “morning”.
It’s a little like in English how you may just say “‘Mornin!” rather than the full “Good morning!”. Other languages do this too — in Spanish, people say “Buenas” rather than “Buenos días”, and in German people are more likely to say “Morgen” rather than “Guten Morgen”.
When starting a day at a school or workplace in China, it’s rarer to hear someone saying zǎoshang hǎo unless they’re speaking quite formally. You might greet the school headmistress that way. Or she might greet you that way.
There’s nothing wrong with wishing someone a good morning in Chinese the formal way. It just skews formal; it’s not actually formal.
But you’ll usually use the informal way, zǎo, as you pass by people in the corridor, nodding and saying zǎo, zǎo, zǎo, to everyone they pass.
Good Evening in Chinese (but does anybody say it?)
In theory, “good evening” in Chinese is 晚上好, wǎnshàng hǎo.
But in practice, the expression “good evening” is used very rarely in Chinese. People just don’t often say “good evening” in Chinese unless they’re starting a formal presentation.
That’s why the example in Speechling ends with “sir”. That’s the kind of situations in which you say “good evening”!
In most social situations greeting people in Chinese in the evening you normally just say nǐ hǎo. It’s really useful!
Some situations in which you might hear “good evening” in Chinese include in restaurants or hotels when being greeted by an attendant, or in formal addresses.
Want to learn more useful phrases? Try Speechling!
Speechling is one of our favourite language-learning apps. It’s a really awesome way of learning sentences instead of words in isolation.
Try Speechling – It’s Free (for one language)
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