Appendix:Basic Chinese phrases

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Here are common phrases in Chinese, a Sinitic language: This includes phrases in Cantonese, Mandarin, Shanghainese, and Taiwanese (Hokkien, Min Nan).

Cantonese (Sinitic language)[edit]

Note: Cantonese is a tonal language. Pronunciations provided below include numbers indicating tone. Tone 1 is high and level/falling; 2 is medium and rising; 3 is medium and level; 4 is low and falling; 5 is low and rising, 6 is low and level. The characters shown are traditional Chinese characters. Pronunciation is given using Jyutping and the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). However, non-use of the tones will not hinder comprehension for such simple phrases.

Translation Phrase Jyutping IPA
Cantonese: 廣東話 gwong2 dung1 waa2 /kwɔːŋ² tʊŋ¹ wɑː²/
hello 你好 nei5 hou2 /nei⁵ hou²/
good-bye 再見 zoi3 gin3 /tsɔːi³ kiːn³/
bye-bye 拜拜 baai1 baai3 /pɑːi¹ pɑːi³/
please 唔該 m4 goi1 /m̩⁴ kɔːi¹/
thank you (for gifts) 多謝 do1 ze3 /tɔː¹ tsɛː³/
thank you (for services rendered) 唔該 m4 goi1 /m̩⁴ kɔːi¹/
sorry 對唔住 deoi3 m4 zyu6 /dɵy³ m̩⁴ tsyː⁶/ invalid IPA characters (⁶)
this one 呢個 ni1 go3 or nei1 go3 /niː¹ kɔː³/ or /nei¹ kɔː³/
that one 嗰個 go2 go3 /kɔː² kɔː³/
how much/many? (ask for quantity) 有幾多個呀 yau5 gei2 do1 go3 aa3 /jɐu⁵ kei² tɔː¹ kɔː³ ɑː³/
how much? (ask for amount of money) 幾多錢呀 gei2 do1 cin2 aa3 /kei² tɔː¹ ts̚in² ɑː³/
yes hai6 /hɐi⁶/ invalid IPA characters (⁶)
no 唔係 m4 hai6 /m̩⁴ hɐi⁶/ invalid IPA characters (⁶)
correct/right am1 /aːm¹/
incorrect/wrong 唔啱 m4 am1 /m̩⁴ aːm¹/
I don’t understand 我唔明 ngo5 m4 ming4 /ŋɔː⁵ m̩⁴ mɪŋ⁴/
Where's the washroom (toilet, lavatory)? 洗手間喺邊度呀? sai2 sau2 gaan1 hai2 bin1 dou6 aa3 /sɐi² sɐu² kɑːn¹ hɐi² piːn¹ tou⁶ ɑː³/ invalid IPA characters (⁶)
Do you speak English? 你識唔識講英文呀? nei5 sik1 m4 sik1 gong2 jing1 man2 aa3 /nei⁵ sɪk¹ m̩⁴ sɪk¹ kɔːŋ² jɪŋ¹ mɐn² ɑː³/

Note: Cantonese, like most of the other Chinese languages, does not actually have words for “yes” and “no”. Translations for “yes” and “no” given above actually mean “it is” and “it is not” and can be used for questions asking for confirmation. However, for certain yes/no questions, one would normally respond with the verb or the negation of the verb. For instance, to respond to a question such as “do you want to go?” one would respond with “want” or “not want”.

Mandarin (Sinitic language)[edit]

Note: Mandarin Chinese is also a tonal language. Tone 1 (e.g. mā) is high and level; 2 (e.g., má) is rising; 3 (e.g., mǎ) is low dipping; 4 (e.g., mà) is falling. For more info, see pinyin. Also note that the first set of characters preceding the slashes are in simplified Chinese characters and the ones following the slashes are in traditional characters. If the simplified- and traditional-character versions of a phrase are identical, only one phrase is shown.

Translation Phrase Pinyin IPA Pronunciation Remarks Literal meaning
Mandarin Chinese 普通話 / 普通话 / or
國語 / 国语
(guóyǔ)
(pǔtōnghuà)

[kwɔ̌ jỳ]
[pʰù tʰʊ̋ŋ xwɑ̂] || (gwo yu)
(poo-toong-hwa) || National

language
Common speech

hello 你好 (níhǎo) [nǐ xàw] (knee-how) You're good
good-bye 再見 / 再见 (zàijiàn) [tsâj t͡ɕjɛ̂n] (dzai-jyen) Meet again,

lit “to the next sighting”

please / (qǐng) [t͡ɕʰìŋ] (cheeng)
thank you 謝謝 / 谢谢 (xièxie) [ɕjɛ̂-ɕjɛ̂] (shyeh-shyeh)
that one 那個 / 那个 (nàge or nèige) [nêj ɡə] (nah guh or nay guh) See Usage Note

1

sorry 對不起 / 对不起 (duìbuqǐ) (dway boo chee)
how much? 多少 (duōshǎo) [twɔ̋ ʂàw] (dwo shahw) Many few
English 英文 (Yīngwén) [jɪ̋ŋ wə̌n] (ing wen)
yes (shì) /ʂɻ̂/ (sher as in sherpa) See Usage Note 2

[It] is

no () [pû] (boo)
correct/right / (duì) (dway)
incorrect/wrong 不對 / 不对 (búduì) (boo dway) Tone change occurs
I don’t understand 明白 or (wǒ bù míngbai or wǒ bù dǒng)
Do you speak English? 英語 / 英语 (nǐ huì shuō Yīngyǔ ma?)
where's the toilet? 廁所哪裡 / 厕所哪里 (cèsuǒ zài nálǐ?) [tsʰɤ̂ swɔ̀ tsâj nɑ̌ lì] (tsuh swo dzai nah lee?) Not the politest, but you'll get your point across! Bathroom at/in where
generic toast 乾杯 / 干杯 (gānbēi) [ka̋n pe̋j] (gahn bay) Dry glass/cup
  1. The second syllable of “nèige” is actually a generic measure word; it is replaced by the appropriate measure word for the noun it refers to. You may therefore hear a number of different syllables after the initial nèi. In many parts of southern China, nèi is also pronounced nà.
  2. This actually means “it is” and can only be used in an answer to a question with the verb “to be” (in casual speech, this can be neglected). Languages like Chinese, Portuguese, Irish, Toki Pona, and Welsh do not have words for “yes” or “no”. Instead you repeat the main verb of the question in your answer. Shaking your head in affirmation or negation works as expected, though speakers should ensure they are answering negative questions as literally asked – answering in the negative to “You don’t like him?” would indicate that you do like him.

Shanghainese (Sinitic language)[edit]

Note: Chinese characters for Shanghainese are not standardized and are provided for reference only. IPA transcription is for the Middle period of modern Shanghainese (中派上海话), pronunciation of those between 20 and 60 years old.

translation Northern Wu Lumazi IPA Simplified Chinese
Shanghainese (language): Zanheghaewo Zanheireiwo [zɑ̃.ˈhe.ɦɛ.ɦʊ] 上海咸话
Shanghainese (people): Zanhegnin Zanheinin [zɑ̃.ˈhe.ɲɪɲ] 上海人
I ghoo, gnou wo, ngu [ŋu]}}
we or I álá aelae [ɐˑ.lɐʔ] 阿拉
he/she ji yi [ɦi]
they jila yila [ɦi.la] 伊拉
you (sing.) non non [noŋ]
you (plural) na na [na] 人那
hello: non ho non ho [noŋ hɔ] 侬好
good-bye: tsewe tzeiwei [ ˈtse.ɦue] 再会
thank you: ziaja non zhaya non [ʑ̻ia.ja noŋ] 谢谢侬
sorry: tevéchi teivechi [te.vəˑ.t͡ɕʰi] 对勿起
but, however: daezu, daezu ne deizi, deizi nei [dɛ.zz̩.ne]}} 但是, 但是呢
please: tshin chin [t͡ɕʰɪɲ]
that one: etsá, itsá eitzae, itzae [i.tsɐʔ]}} 哎只, 伊只
there: etá, itá eitae, itae [i.tɐʔ]}} 哎耷, 伊耷
over there: emitá, imitá eimitae, imitae [i.mi.tɐʔ]}} 哎米耷, 伊米耷
here: gétá getae [ɡəˑ.tɐʔ] 搿耷
to have jeuté youte [ɦiɤɯ.təʔ] 有得
to exist, here, present: láhe laehei [lɐˑ.he] 辣海
now, current: jieze yizei [ɦi.ze] 现在
what time is it?: jieze citie tson? yizei citi tzon? [ɦi.ze t͡ɕi.ti ˈtsoŋ] 现在几点钟?
where: ghalitá, sadifan ralitae, sadifan [ɦa. ɺi.tɐʔ], [sa.di.fɑ̃] 何里耷, 啥地方
what: sa sa [sa]
who: sagnin sanin [sa.ɲɪɲ] 啥人
why: wesa weisa [ɦue.sa] 为啥
when: sazencuan sazenkuan [sa.zəɲ.kuɑ̃] 啥辰光
how: nanen, nana, nanenca nanen, nana, nanenka [na.nəɲ], [na.na], [na.nəɲ.ka] 哪能, 哪哪, 哪能家
how much?: cidie a? cidi a? {[t͡ɕi.di ˈa] 几钿啊?
yes: eh ei [ˈe]
no: m, vézu, mmé, vio m, vezi, mme, vio [m̩], [vəˑ.zz̩], [m̩məʔ], [viɔ] 呒、勿是、呒没
telephone number: diewo ghodeu diwo rodou [di.ɦʊ ɦɔ.dɤɯ] 电话号头
home: ólihian oelishan [oˑ.ɺi.ɕiã] 屋里向
Come to our house and play. to álá ólihian le bésian. to aelae oelishan lei beshan. [tɔ ɐˑ.lɐʔ oˑ.ɺi.ɕiɑ̃ lebəˑ.ɕiã] 到阿拉屋里向来孛相(白相)!
Where's the restroom?: daseucae lélá ghalitá? dasoukei lelae ralitae? [da.sɤɯ.kɛ ɺəˑ.ɺɐʔ ɦa.ɺi.tɐʔ] 汏手间勒勒何里耷?
Have you eaten dinner?: javae chícoulé va? yavei chiekule va? [ɦia.vɛ t͡ɕʰɪˑ.ku.ləʔ va] 夜饭吃过了伐?
I don’t know: ghoo véhioté. wo veshote. [ɦʊ vəˑ.ɕiɔ.təʔ] 我勿晓得
Do you speak English?: non Inven weté can va? non Inven weite kan va? [noŋ ˈɪn.vəɲ ɦue.təʔ kã va] 侬英文会得讲伐?
I love you: ghoo e non! wo ei non. [ɦʊ e noŋ] 我爱侬!
I adore you: ghoo emó non. wo eimoe non. [ɦʊ e.moʔ noŋ] 我爱慕侬
I like you a lot: ghoo lo huoehi non ghé! wo lo hueushi non re. [ɦʊ ɺɔ ˈhuø.ɕi noŋ ɦəʔ] 我老欢喜侬个!
news sinven shinven [ɕɪɲ.vəɲ] 新闻
dead sithélé shithele [ɕi.tʰəˑ.ləʔ] 死脱了
alive wéláhe welaehei [ɦuəˑ.lɐˑ.he] 活辣海

Unlike Mandarin, Shanghainese actually has the direct “yes” (eh/ei) similar to English.

Taiwanese (Hokkien, Min Nan, Sinitic language)[edit]

The Han characters provided below are for reference only. They are not necessarily standard.

Translation Characters Romanization Remarks
Min Nan 閩南語 Bân-lâm-gú
Taiwanese 臺灣話 Tâi-oân-oē
Hokkien 福建話 Hok-kiàn-oē
Hello. 食飽未? Chia̍h pá boeh? (literally, Eaten full yet? Note: This greeting came about at a time when most of Taiwan was in poverty, so to say that one has had enough to eat would be to imply that the person is “doing well”.)
Goodbye. 再會 tsài-huē 平安 (pêng-an), literally, Peace, can also be used as a greeting; primarily Christian usage.
Please 拜託 Pài-thok
Thank you 勞力 Ló·-la̍t 感謝 (Kám-siā) (literally, "be grateful for, praise") or 感恩 (Kám-ún) is more common in Taiwan. 多謝 (to-siā) is also used.
That one 彼個 Hit-ê
how much? 若濟? goā choē?
is
not 毋是 m̄-sī (literally, "not is")
Sorry 失禮 Sit-le 對不住 (tuì-put-chū) is also used.
Embarrassed! 歹勢! Pháiⁿ-sè! (often used in response when offered/given something by a host)
I don't understand. 我聽無. Goá thiaⁿ bô. (literally, "I hear not")
Where's the bathroom? 便所佇叨? Piān-só· tī toh? (literally "bathroom is where?")
Cheers! 呼乾啦! Hō· ta lah! (literally, Let it [the cup/glass] be dry

[empty]!)

Do you speak English? 你咁講英語? Lí kám kóng Eng-gú?