How to Ask Questions in Chinese

6 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Chinese Words and Phrases for Traveling

How do you ask basic questions in Chinese? Well, Chinese interrogative words mean the same as they do for English: who, what, when, where, why, and how. By knowing basic Chinese interrogatives, you'll be able to express your questions, even without an extensive vocabulary.

For example, say you're at a store and you want find a digital camera that you like. You could ask the vendor "zhège shùmǎzhàoxiàngjī duōshăoqián?" ("How much is this digital camera?"). But if you don't know enough vocabulary, you can simply point to the camera and say "duōshăo?" and the seller will understand that you want to know the price.

shéi? (Who?)
shénme? (What?)
hăr? (Where?)
wèishénme? (Why?)
zĕnme? (How?)
shénme shíhou? (When?)
yŏuméiyŏu? (Is there?)
yŏuméiyŏu? (Are there?)
duōshăo? (How many?; How much?)

Take a look at some different ways to put these question words into some useful phrases.

  • nèigè nánrén shìshéi? (Who is that man?)

  • chāojí shìchăng zài năr? (Where is the supermarket?)

  • wŏ kĕyĭ bāng nĭ shénme máng ma? (What help can I offer?)

  • nĭ huì shuō yīngwén ma? (Do you speak English?)

  • nĭ néng bāng wŏ fā nyì ma? (Can you please translate for me?)

  • cèsuŏ zài năr? (Where is the bathroom?)

  • qǚkuănjī zài năr? (Where is the ATM?)

  • xiànzài jĭdiănzhōng? (What time is it?)

  • nèige dìfang zài năr? (Where is it located?)

  • qĭng nĭ shuō màn yìdiăn, hăoma? (Could you speak slower, please?)

  • nĭ kĕyĭ gàosù wŏ zài năr ma? (Can you show me where that is?)

  • nĭmén shénme shíhou guānmén? (When do you close?)

  • nĭmén jĭdiănzhōng guānmén? (What time do you close?)

  • shénme shíhou jíezhàng? (When is checkout time?)

  • zhège duōshăoqián? (How much is this?)

  • duìhuànlǜ shì duōshăo? (What is the exchange rate?)

  • qǜ yīyuàn zĕnme zŏu? (How can I get to the hospital?)

  • wŏ kĕyi wèn nĭ yígè wèntí ma? (May I ask you a question?)

  • huŏchē jĭdiăn líkāi? (At what time does the train leave?)

  • nĭde shēngrì shì shénme shíhou? (When is your birthday?)

In Chinese, if you want to answer a question with a "Yes," you can often just repeat the main verb of the question to answer "Yes." To say "No," use /méi + verb). For example, nĭ qù măi dōngxi ma? (Are you going shopping?) . (Yes.) bùqù (No.) or méiqu (No.)

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