Lesson 3 of 360

Today's Chinese characters:


The other Chinese characters contained in this lesson have already been studied previously. You can just click on them and go back to the corresponding lesson.

Maybe you think you know the meaning of the Chinese expression "Ni hao ma?".

In Chinese, "Ni hao ma?" is written * It means "How are you?" But, be careful, it might not be the "How are you" you think!

In this lesson, first we are going to see what ("Ni hao") means, then we will add ("ma") at the end...

Character Knowledge Meter
Today with this lesson your knowledge of Chinese characters will reach 4.52% of all the Chinese language usage!

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Good, fine
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Used at the end of a declarative sentence to transform it into a question

Description and Examples

The meaning of: 你好!(Ni hao!)

It means "Hi!", "How do you do?", "Hello!" It is an everyday greeting and is used at any time, on any occasion and by a person of any social status. The reply should also be "! (Ni hao!)".

How to say: How are you?—Part 1

Just add (ma) to the greeting formula "!" (Ni hao!) changing it into a question!

How are you? ? (Ni hao ma?)

literally: You good

"?" (Ni hao ma?) actually differs from the English greeting "How are you?" in the way it is used. While the English "How are you?" is also an everyday greeting, in Chinese you should ask "?" (Ni hao ma?) only if you really want to ask about the state of health or condition of a friend.

If you just want to greet a person, in this free Chinese course we will study how to do that the Chinese way. In the meantime, it's fine if you just say ! (Ni hao!)

A little preview: In Chinese, a very common expression used to greet someone is "Did you eat?" (你吃了吗?Nǐ chī le ma?) that, I know, would sound strange if asked in English. The answer, in the English speaking world, maybe would be a surprised "Why?"

Well, it's the same if we greet a Chinese person saying "?" (Ni hao ma?) The reaction would be something like "Sorry, I don't understand, I was not ill, I didn't survive any car accident, why are you asking me how I am?!?"

Anyway, again, if we really want to ask a friend about her state of health or condition, "?" (Ni hao ma?) is the proper question to ask. Maybe we just need to move this expression from the "greetings" list to the "empathy" one.

You're now ready to learn by heart your first dialogue—the simplest ever!

Dialogue 1


* "?" is simplified Chinese, while the equivalent traditional Chinese is "你好嗎?". For the difference between simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese, please click here.

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Lesson 3 of 360

Thank you! - By Giuseppe Romanazzi
Biaoyu Business Consulting Services LTD
Shanghai, China
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