57 Basic Chinese Phrases 🗣 LTL’s Complete Guide to Chinese for Beginners

57 Of The Most Useful Basic Chinese Phrases To Learn In Minutes

  • New to learning Chinese?
  • Want to learn some basic Chinese phrases for your trip to China?
  • Need some Chinese beginner flashcards?

If you fit just one of these questions, you are in the right place. It’s time to learn some hugely useful, basic Chinese phrases which will provide extremely helpful even if you have just a few hours in China!

Before diving in if you wish to download the below flashcards, please visit our Pinterest page where all our images/flashcards and pictures are there for you, in one place!

LTL Mandarin School Pinterest

Let’s take it away…

Basic Chinese Phrases – What Time Is It?

What time is it – 现在几点(种)

Pinyin 拼音 – Xiànzài jǐ diǎn (zhǒng)

Literally translated this becomes – Now, How Many, Hours

Speaking of time, China is big, we all know that, but did you know how many times zones are in China? You might be surprised by the answer!

Basic Chinese Phrases – How Far Is…?

How far is – — 有多远

Pinyin 拼音 – — yǒu duō yuǎn

If you are in a taxi or walking the streets and unaware how far away your accommodation is you can use this to get an idea of how lost you really are!

In Chinese, rather than saying how far is… my hotel, the subject (my hotel) actually comes first so the translation becomes, hotel how far is.

How to write to 20 in Chinese

Basic Chinese Phrases – How Much Does It Cost?

How much does it cost – 它的价格是多少

Pinyin 拼音 – Tā de jiàgé shì duōshǎo

As you browse through the (night) markets and streets there will be many opportunities to use this phrase. Check out our video on numbers above to make sure you are clued up on the likely responses from the locals.

There is actually a simplified way of using this phrase which is simply:

多少钱 – Duōshǎo qián

Easier to remember?

This translates literally to much, little, money. Use either or, and you will be good to go.

Basic Chinese Phrases – Where is…?

Where is – —在哪里

Pinyin 拼音 – —zài nǎlǐ

As essential as phrases can come.

  • Where is the toilet? 卫生间在哪里
  • Where is the stadium? 体育场在哪里
  • Where is the bar? 酒吧在哪里

Something we use everyday, even every hour if we are new to a city!

Again, as with the HOW FAR IS example, the subject goes first so we don’t state “Where is the toilet”, we are actually asking “Toilet, where is”.

QUICK NOTE – Not to scare you or anything, but Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language so it’s worth your time quickly spending a couple of minutes watching this video to understand how they work. Our colleague, Amy, is here to help you out!

Ready?
Understanding/How to say tones in Chinese

Basic Chinese Phrases – What is this?

What is this – 这是什么

Pinyin 拼音 – Zhè shì shénme

Want to brush up on your Chinese whilst you travel/visit China? Keep asking people what is this, what is that. A very easy way to build your Chinese skills.

One of the most used words you will hear, and potentially use, is 这个zhè ge.

这个 means this one. It’s a great tool for ordering from a menu, picking your coffee cup size, choosing the item of clothing you want… the list goes on.

So when you ask 这是什么, the response will likely start with 这个, for example, 这个是牛肉面 (this is beef noodles).

BY THE WAY – if you want to see just how useful 这个 can be, watch this video through to the end, Campbell, from our Marketing team, has a little hack for ordering a subway in Chinese!
Is it possible to order a Subway using just 这个?

Basic Chinese Phrases – Can You Show Me On A Map?

Can you show me on a map – 你能在地图上给我看看吗

Pinyin 拼音 – Nǐ néng zài dìtú shàng gěi wǒ kàn kàn ma

A little bit more of a mouthful this one, but worth investing time remembering if you are going to be buzzing around China a lot on your travels.

Lets break it down for you

  • 你能 – Can you
  • 在地图上 – On the Map
  • 给我 – Give me
  • 看看 – to look
  • 吗 – (question particle)

Not so daunting when you break it down. The keywords here are map (地图 dìtú) and look (看看 kàn kàn). You can just use 看 kàn also

Basic Chinese Phrases – How do I get to…?

How do I get to – 怎么去—

Pinyin 拼音 – Zěnme qù—

  • How do I get to the airport? 我怎么去机场?
  • How do I get to the train station? 我怎么到火车站?
  • How do I get to Beijing? 我怎么去北京?

Notice the 我 at the start of the sentence which just means I/Me, making the sentence how do I get to somewhere.

怎么去机场 will still suffice with no problems.

Basic Chinese Phrases – Do you have anything cheaper?

Do you have anything cheaper – 你们有便宜点的吗

Pinyin 拼音 – Nǐmen yǒu piányí diǎn de ma

Very useful when at those markets looking for some bargains.

Be aware, when shopping at Chinese markets never to take the first price they give you.

They will almost ALWAYS go cheaper! Another good reason for learning Chinese numbers by the way!

Spotted a little Terracotta Warrior you’d like to give to a family member if a souvenir? Great!

Price quote of 200CNY? Not so great, we challenge you to get it below 50CNY, sounds crazy right, that’s 75% cheaper.

Trust us! Stick to your guns, show some confidence and you’ll have them chasing you down the road wanting to sell it for 25CNY with any luck!

USEFUL TIP – there is an easy way to simplify this also, you can use 便宜点吗?This just means, a little cheaper?

USEFUL TIP 2 – Be aware of accents in China. In the North East, and Beijing, you’ll hear the ER sound a lot 儿. So 便宜点 becomes 便宜点儿. Listen out for it

Now for our next lesson on numbers, to help you in those real life “bartering situations”!

Basic Chinese Phrases – Do you have…?

Do you have – 你有—吗

Pinyin 拼音 – Nǐ yǒu—ma

Very easy and very useful.

  • 你 – You
  • 有 – Have

Do you have spicy? 你有辣妈?Do you have blue? 你有蓝色吗?Do you have milk? 你有牛奶吗?And so the list goes on!

Useful in all kinds of situations. Learn it, remember it, use it!

Basic Chinese Phrases – Can you write that down?

Do you have – 你能把它写下来吗

Pinyin 拼音 – Nǐ néng bǎ tā xiě xiàlái ma

A little more complex than some of the other examples as we have some examples of Chinese grammar at work here.

The 把 structure and the likes of 下来 are something we will leave for another day.

For now, try and remember this, it could come in very useful in many different situations.

Get a taxi driver to write down the name of some famous sights, or your nearest metro stop, and you can show someone else the Chinese, job done!

Other Very Useful Basic Chinese Phrases

Speech

  • Just got to China, or about to arrive?
  • Want more of those everyday phrases in one useful handy guide and the ten above are not enough?

We’ve got you covered. Here are some more we think you’ll find very, very useful indeed.

When you hear Chinese for the first time it all sounds like a big blur. Even after a few hours of studying, you think you are getting there (you are by the way), and then you converse with someone and you get that sinking feeling

“My word, they speak fast”

“I didn’t even get a single word from that sentence”

Don’t worry, these two phrases will prove very handy at the best of times!

  • Can you speak slower please?
    • 说慢一点 shuō màn yì diǎn
    • This actually just means speak a little slower but it simplifies the need to include You and Can, making your life that bit easier!
  • Can you repeat that please?
    • 再说一遍 zài shuō yí biàn
    • Again, this is simplified to say again.

At the Supermarket

  • Need to top up on some supplies after getting to China?
  • Scared to go due to the language barrier?

No problem, here’s a couple of phrases that will prove invaluable.

  • I want/need a bag
    • 我要一个袋子 Wǒ yào yīgè dàizi
  • Can I pay with cash/wechat/alipay?
    • 我可以用现金/微信/支付宝支付吗?wǒ kě yǐ yòng xiàn jīn / wēi xìn / zhī fù bǎo zhī fù ma ?

China is fast becoming a cashless so be aware some places actually don’t even accept cash. That said, any major supermarket chain will of course accept cash.

WeChat and Alipay are two apps in China widely used to pay for pretty much anything so if you want to get yourself ahead of the game, download these before you come to China.

HOWEVER, be aware, you will need a Chinese bank account to link to your accounts and that’s a whole other problem!

At the restaurant

  • Intimidated by all those Chinese menus?
  • Not sure where to look at a Chinese restaurant?

Here are two very easy, and highly important phrases you should take with you to China

  • The bill
    • 买单 măi dān
  • Can I takeaway the leftovers?
    • 打包 dǎ bāo
    • The literal meaning of this is actually “to pack”, but it’s a nice simple one to learn and so handy when you loved the food, but couldn’t fit it all in

Both, very simplistic and easy to remember. Notice when you are inside a Chinese restaurant and see if you can hear these being said by others. They are usually bellowed out at high decibel volume!

Useful Chinese Vocab for Beginners

We could go on and on and on with endless useful phrases for people wanting to kickstart there Chinese but we have to draw a line somewhere, right?

Before we go, here’s a quick fire list of some more useful vocabulary in Chinese for you:

Common Places in Mandarin Chinese

  • Place: 地方 – dì fāng
  • Hotel: 酒店 – jiǔ diàn
  • Airport: 机场 – jī chǎng
  • Train: 火车 – huǒ chē
  • Bus station: 汽车站 – qì chē zhàn
  • Supermarket: 超市 – chāo shì
  • Restaurant: 餐厅 – cān tīng
  • Coffee Shop: 咖啡馆 – kā fēi guǎn

DID YOU KNOW you can order coffee in China without even saying a word! Find out how here 👇👇👇

Emergency Vocab in Mandarin Chinese

  • Help: 帮助 – bāng zhù
  • Caution: 谨慎 – jǐn shèn
  • Danger: 危险 – wēi xiǎn
  • Emergency: 紧急 – jǐn jí
  • Fire: 火 – huǒ

Diretions in Mandarin Chinese

  • Left: 左边 – zuǒ biān
  • Right: 右边 – yòu biān
  • Straight:  – zhí
  • Behind: 后面 – hòu miàn
  • Front: 前面 – qián miàn

You might be feeling overwhelmed from all the content here and that’s totally understandable.

Don’t worry if you can’t remember everything straight away. Another handy tip for your basic every-day phrases is to watch cartoons like Spongebob or Peppa pig dubbed in Chinese.

We even made a couple of handy YouTube lyric videos to help you kick start: here and here.


Like what you’ve read? Then you’ll probably enjoy these as well!

Basic Chinese Phrases – FAQ’s

How do you say “What is this” in Mandarin?

What is this – 这是什么

Pinyin 拼音 – Zhè shì shénme

How do you say “What time is it” in Mandarin?

What time is it – 现在几点(种)

Pinyin 拼音 – Xiànzài jǐ diǎn (zhǒng)

How do you say “How do I get to…” in Mandarin?

How do I get to – 怎么去—

Pinyin 拼音 – Zěnme qù—

How do you say “Do you have anything cheaper” in Mandarin?

Do you have anything cheaper – 你们有便宜点的吗

Pinyin 拼音 – Nǐmen yǒu piányí diǎn de ma

How do you say “Restaurant” in Mandarin?

Restaurant in Mandarin is 餐厅 – cān tīng.

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    Irene Magnosi , Student Advisor

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