Chinese For Dummies
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Knowing some basic Chinese questions, expressions, and emergency phrases will help you interact with people and travel more confidently in a Chinese-speaking country. Learning the days and months of the Chinese calendar, along with Chinese numbers, will make it easier to make plans and keep tabs on your money.

Asking basic questions in Chinese

Learn how to ask these basic questions in Chinese to help you begin communicating with others and gather useful information regarding directions, time, and weather conditions:

  • How’s it going? Nǐ zěnme yàng? (nee dzummuh yahng)

  • Do you speak English? Nǐ huì shuō Yīngyŭ ma? (nee hway shwaw eeng yew mah)

  • Can you help me? Néng bùnéng bāngmáng? (nung boo nung bahng mahng)

  • What is your name? Nǐ jiào shénme míngzi? (nee jyaow shummah meeng dzuh)

  • What time is it? Xiànzài jǐ diăn zhōng? (shyan dzye jee dyan joong)

  • What’s the weather like? Tiānqi zěnme yàng? (tyan chee dzummuh yahng)

  • How much is this? Zhèige duōshăo qián? (jay guh dwaw shaow chyan)

  • Where do I find . . . ? Zài năr zhăo . . . ? (dzye nar jaow . . . )

  • Where is the bathroom? Cèsuŏ zài năr? (tsuh swaw dzye nar)

  • What time do you open/close? Nín jǐ diăn zhōng kāi/guān mén? (neen jee dyan joong kye/gwahn mun)

  • Could you please talk more slowly? Qǐng nǐ shuō màn yīdiăr. (cheeng nee shwaw mahn ee dyar)

  • Could you repeat that please? Qǐng nǐ zài shuō yícì. (cheeng nee dzye shwaw ee tsuh)

Useful Chinese expressions

Getting a conversion started in Chinese begins with learning basic greetings and polite phrases. Practicing and using these basic phrases goes a long way in establishing a relationship and bridging the gap between the cultures — and is appreciated by Chinese-speaking people.

  • Hello. Nǐ hăo. (nee how)

  • Good morning. Zăo. (dzaow)

  • Good night. Wăn ān. (wahn ahn)

  • Please. Qǐng. (cheeng)

  • Thank you. Xièxiè. (shyeh shyeh)

  • Excuse me. Duìbùqǐ. (dway boo chee)

  • I’m so sorry. Hěn bàoqiàn. (hun baow chyan)

  • I don’t understand. Wŏ bùdŏng. (waw boo doong)

Chinese phrases for emergencies

If an emergency arises and you or someone else needs help, these Chinese phrases will get the attention and help you need, so practice their pronunciation:

  • Help! Jiù mìng! (jyo meeng)

  • Stop, thief! Zhuā zéi! (jwah dzay)

  • Fire! Zháohuŏ! (jaow hwaw)

  • Call an ambulance! Jiào jiùhùchē!

  • Call the police! Jiào jǐngchá!

  • I am sick. Wŏ bìng le.

  • Get a doctor. Kuài qù zhăo yīshēng. (kwye chyew jaow ee shung)

  • I’m lost. Wŏ mílù le. (waw mee loo luh)

The Chinese calendar

Get to know the days of the week and months of the year in Chinese. Remember that Chinese people recognize seven days in the week just as Americans do, but the Chinese week begins on Monday and ends on Sunday.


Monday Xīngqīyī (sheeng chee ee)

Tuesday Xīngqī’èr (sheeng chee are)

Wednesday Xīngqīsān (sheeng chee sahn)

Thursday Xīngqīsì (sheeng chee suh)

Friday Xīngqīwŭ (sheeng chee woo)

Saturday Xīngqīliù (sheeng chee lyo)

Sunday Xīngqītiān (sheeng chee tyan)


January Yīyuè (ee yweh)

February Èryuè (are yweh)

March Sānyuè (sahn yweh)

April Sìyuè (suh yweh)

May Wŭyuè (woo yweh)

June Liùyuè (lyo yweh)

July Qīyuè (chee yweh)

August Bāyuè (bah yweh)

September Jiŭyuè (jyo yweh)

October Shíyuè (shir yweh)

November Shíyīyuè (shir ee yweh)

December Shí’èryuè (shir are yweh)

Chinese numbers

Learning to count in Chinese is important for handling your travel plans, money, dining, and shopping. This list can help you learn to pronounce some basic numbers in Chinese:

0 líng (leeng) 15 shíwŭ (shir woo) 30 s�?nshí (sahn shir)
1(ee) 16 shíliù (shir lyo) 40 sìshí (suh shir)
2 èr (are) 17 shíqī (shir chee) 50 wŭshí (woo shir)
3 s�?n (sahn) 18 shíb�? (shir bah) 60 liùshí (lyo shir)
4(suh) 19 shíjiŭ (shir jyoe) 70 qīshí (chee shir)
5(woo) 20 èrshí (are shir) 80 b�?shí (bah shir)
6 liù (lyo) 21 èrshíyī (are shir ee) 90 jiŭshí (jyoe shir)
7(chee) 22 èrshí’èr (are shir are) 100 yì băi (ee bye)
8 b�? (bah) 23 èrshís�?n (are shir sahn) 1,000 yì qi�?n (ee chyan)
9 jiŭ (jyoe) 24 èrshísì (are shir ssuh) 10,000 yí wàn (ee wahn)
10 shí (shir) 25 èrshíwŭ (are shir woo) 100,000 shí wàn (shir wahn)
11 shíyī (shir ee) 26 èrshíliù (are shir lyo) 1,000,000 yì băi wàn (ee bye wahn)
12 shí’èr (shir are) 27 èrshíqī (are shir chee) 100,000,000 yí yì (ee ee)
13 shís�?n (shir sahn) 28 èrshíb�? (are shir bah)
14 shísì (shir suh) 29 èrshíjiŭ (are shir jyoe)

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Dr. Wendy Abraham is an award-winning public speaker who has taught Chinese language, literature, and culture at universities throughout the U.S. Wendy is the creator and director of international academic, cultural, and travel programs, holds a doctorate from Columbia University, and pursued a PhD in Chinese literature at Stanford University.

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