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Common Chinese phrases for your daily use

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Navigate the crowds like a local

请让一下

Qǐng rang yīxià.

Please let me pass.


Use this phrase politely but with confidence, and you’ll have no problem getting through the crowds.


不好意思

Bùhǎoyìsi

Pardon me / Excuse me


A polite phrase to draw on when you’re embarrassed, shy or sorry about something; use it to say “pardon me” if you bump into someone or make a mistake, or add it as an opening for when you need a favor: “不好意思, 可以帮忙……” / “Excuse me, could you please help me ……”


下(车)吗?

Xià (chē) ma?

Are you getting off (the train)?


Be ready to ask this to your fellow passengers on a crowded metro or bus. If they reply in the affirmative, “下”, you’ll know they’re getting off at the next stop and you won’t need to squeeze in front to get to the door…


Greet people like a native


喂?

wéi?

Hello?


Don’t say 你好 to answer your cell phone! Listen to the locals; they all say (or shout) “喂? 喂…?!”


忙什么呢? /最近忙什么呢?

Máng shénme me? / Zuìjìn máng shénme me?

“How are you doing?”


A common opening for greetings between friends and family. Literally: “(Recently) busy with what?”, you can just pick up the phone and say “喂, (最近) 忙什么呢?” / “Wéi, (zuìjìn) máng shénme me?”


Have a natural conversation


不错

búcuò

Nice / that’s great!


This catchy word literally means “not bad”. Draw on it when you’re impressed, and native speakers will in turn be impressed with your Chinese skills.


累死我了

lěsǐwǒle

I’m exhausted


It sounds a bit dramatic when you take this phrase literally (“I’m tired to death”), but sometimes it just fits so well!


真麻烦

Zhēn máfan

Such a bother/so troublesome


A common way to express frustration over lengthy, convoluted and bothersome situations. For example, you might feel like using this on a busy day in the bank when you’ve lost your bank card.


麻烦您了

Máfan nín le.

Sorry for troubling you, thanks for your help.


A polite way to acknowledge someone’s efforts and express gratitude.


等等

Děngděng

Wait a moment / hold on!


Doubling up the character “等” means one of two quite different things: either you’re asking a friend to wait, or you’re expressing “and so forth” or “etc.” at the end of a sentence. You choose.


应该没问题

Yīnggāi méiwèntí.

There ought to be no problem.


If you hear this, it could mean you’re probably fine… or it could mean there might be a big problem. So keep any eye on this one!


没办法 / 我真没办法

Měibànfǎ / Wǒ zhēn měibànfǎ.

No way / I really have no way (to solve this)


There’s nothing that can be done, no solution; I can’t help you with this. Let’s hope you don’t hear this too often…


Take your leave as the Chinese do


我有事先走了

Wǒ yǒu shì, xiān zǒu le.

I’ve got something to take care of, I’m off.


A polite way to make your exit, used when you’re leaving other(s) behind.


慢走

Mànzǒu

Take care / see you later


This is a nice phrase to pull out when a person leaves. Literally “slowly walk”, it just means “take care”. You might her a restaurateur or friendly shopkeeper saying this.


回头见

Huítóujiàn

Bye for now!

Literally “return head see”, this is a common way to say “see ya next time!” Try it instead “再见”which is more often found in textbooks.

2016-06-22

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