Basic Chinese – 10 Easy Sentences for Beginners
Whether you just need survival Mandarin for a trip in China, or are a beginner learning the building blocks of basic Chinese, these 10 easy sentences (with video examples!) are a great start. Both pinyin and characters are provided.
1. What’s your name?
Nǐ jiào shén me míng zì?
In English, questions usually begin with an interrogative word. However, you can see in this Chinese example that it begins with the subject. This is common in basic Chinese questions. You’ll see it again in most of the other question examples.
2. Where are you from?
Nǐ lái zì nǎ li?
3. What is this?
Zhè shì shén me?
“This” can also be translated as 这个 (zhè ge). However, Chinese people often leave out the 个 (ge) in spoken Mandarin.
4. I’d like to buy _____.
Wǒ xiǎng mǎi _____ 。
Good news! Just like in English, declarative sentences in Chinese usually follow the subject-verb-object order. As you build your Mandarin vocabulary, simply add any noun into this sentence structure.
5. How much is it?
Duō shǎo qián?
6. What time is it?
Xiàn zài jǐ diǎn?
几 (jǐ) can mean “how many”. Or, when referencing a list of numbers, it can mean “which (number)”. 点 (diǎn) can mean “hour”. So 几点 (jǐ diǎn) literally means “which hour”. If a Chinese person invites you to dinner, you can ask “几点?” (jǐ diǎn? – what time?)
7. Where do you want to go?
Nǐ xiǎng qù nǎ li?
To respond, just add the Chinese word for where you’d like to go into this structure:
我想去 _____ 。
Wǒ xiǎng qù _____ .
8. How do I get to the ______ ?
_____ Zěn me zǒu?
Remember to add your subject before the verb when asking how to get somewhere!
9. How is the weather in _____ ?
______ de tiān qì zěn me yàng?
怎么样 (zěn me yàng) can be used to ask for someone’s opinion on anything. Just ask “(subject)怎么样?”
10. What’s wrong?
Nǐ zěn me le?
You may have noticed that some of the basic Chinese words used here contain pronunciations that aren’t included in the English language. To learn how to pronounce these sounds, check out our article on the 5 Chinese pronunciations that are different from English.
If you’re interested in studying Chinese in China, you may want to read our guide on how to choose the right Chinese language school for you.