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10 essential Chinese phrases

Updated: May 18, 2020

大家好!我是 Everyday Easy Chinese的林老师。

Today, we will learn 10 essential Chinese phrases that can be used every day.

1. 怎么了?(Zěnme le)

This phrase means “what’s up?” or “what’s the matter?”. You would use this phrase when you see that someone is feeling down, upset or when they are not being themselves.

2. 真的吗?(Zhēn de ma?)

This phrase means “really?” or “seriously?". Use this phrase when you want to express surprise or doubt. Just like in English, the tone of your voice will matter here. For example, if it may sound like you are expressing surprise or expressing doubt depending on the way you see this (Watch the video below to hear the difference!).

3. 哪有?(Nǎ yǒu?)

This phrase is literally translated into “where” (哪) and “have” (有). This phrase has several meanings but one common meaning is “no” or “there isn’t or aren’t”. For example, Chinese people are very modest and if you compliment them and say "你很聪明." (You are very smart); they will most likely respond by saying "哪有?". This would mean “No, I’m not smart”. Even if they believe themselves to be! You can use this phrase when someone compliments you by saying 你的中文说的很好 (Your Chinese is very good). Respond with "哪有?" (No, not really). Yes, we know that your Chinese is great but you can still practice modesty here by using this phrase!

4. 加油 (Jiā yóu)

This phrase literally means to add (加) oil (油). But don’t take it too literally! They are not asking you to add fuel to your car. Instead, "加油" means "go on!" or "come on!" This phrase is used to encourage people to refuel themselves and power themselves along. That is why it is normally used to cheer on sporting teams who have to participate in long enduring games or simply just to encourage a friend or family. Try it next time by saying it to a friend in need!

5. 讨厌 (Tǎoyàn)

Use this phrase when there is something that is annoying you. You can use the word "讨厌" or "很讨厌". You can also use this to express genuine resentment. However, in many Chinese dramas and movies, you may hear the female characters say "讨厌!" towards their boyfriends to be seen as more playful and cute.

6. 真巧 (Zhēn qiǎo)

This means "what a coincidence!" and is literally used in the same way as in English. For example, if you bump into an old friend unexpectedly, you can say "真巧, 没想到能在这里遇到你."(Zhēn qiǎo,méixiǎngdào néng zài zhèlǐ yùdào nǐ." which means "What a coincidence! I never thought that I would bump into you here."

7. 算了 (Suàn le)

This phrase has several meanings depending on the way you use it. For example, when you say "算了" when someone is nagging you, it means “just forget it”. However, if a friend is trying to pay you back for lunch, you can also say "算了" to mean “forget about paying, it’s my treat.”

8. 死定了 (Sǐ dìngle)

This phrase means “I’m a goner”. Use this when you might have done something wrong. For example, when you have an exam the next day but haven’t studied, you can say "我死定了!" to express that you might not pass the exam. Additionally, you can say it to your friends playfully when they tease you. You can say "你死定了" to express that you will get them back or that they are dead!

9. 无所谓 (Wúsuǒwèi)

This phrase means “I don’t mind”. You can use this when you are going out with your friends and colleagues for food and they ask where you want to go. If you are fine with everything, you can say to them“我无所谓” to let them know that you will be fine with anything.

10. 谢谢 (Xièxiè)

Last but not least is the word 谢谢 which means "thank you".

...And on that note, thank you for reading this lesson and watching our video.

See you next time! 再见!

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