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Chinese phrasebook

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Revision as of 19:54, 19 November 2005 by Moonwater (Talk | contribs)

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Chinese script in Chinatown, Singapore

Chinese is the official language of China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan, and is one of the four official languages of Singapore. About one fifth of the people in the world speak some form of Chinese as their native language. It is a tonal language that is related to Burmese and Tibetan. Although Japanese and Korean use Chinese written characters they are not related to Chinese. Also the unrelated Vietnamese language has borrowed many words from Chinese.

Although the Chinese consider that they only have a single language, there are major regional dialectal differences that would be considered to be separate languages in other parts of the world. In many cases the regional dialects are not clearly regionalised but vary gradually across a region. Thus linguists can identify anywhere between seven and seventeen separate Chinese languages where the speakers of different dialects are mutually unintelligible.

Putonghua (普通话), commonly known in English as Mandarin, is considered the official dialect and is covered by this phrasebook. Putonghua is based on, but not identical to, the Chinese spoken in and around Beijing. However, the Cantonese dialect, for example, is widely spoken, especially in the former British colony of Hong Kong and by the ethnic minorities in other countries. While formally written Mandarin can be read by speakers of both dialects, the spoken languages are, for most purposes, mutually unintelligible and will require translation. Mandarin Chinese is now being uniformly taught in the schools of China.

Pronunciation guide

The pronunciation guide below uses Hanyu pinyin, the official romanization of the People's Republic of China. Until recently, Taiwan used the Wade-Giles system, which is quite different, but has recently officially switched to Tongyong pinyin, which is only slightly different.

Vowels

as in father
as in the hen
as in ping or key; after sh, zh, or r, as in shirr; after s or z, hold the z and make a vowel of it
as in saw or sung
as in soon; but as ü in ju, qu and xu
ü 
as in French lune

Consonants

Chinese stops distinguish aspirated and unaspirated, not voiceless and voiced as in English. So p, t, and k should be pronounced with a puff of air.

as in ball or spall
as in rats
ch 
as in chore
as in do or stew
as in fun
as in gang
as in her
as in jeer
as in king
as in lease
as in mow
as in none
ng 
as in sing
as in pit
as in cheap
as in genre or fair
as in sag
sh 
as in shoot
as in tongue
as in wing
as in sheep
as in yet
as in red zebra
zh 
as in jungle

Exceptions

There are a fairly large number of niggling exceptions to the basic rules above, based on the position of the sound. Some of the more notable ones include:

-ian 
as -ien, so 天安門 Tian'anmen is pronounced "Tien'anmen"
wu- 
as u-, so 五百 wubai is pronounced "ubai"
yi- 
as i-, so 一个 yige is pronounced "ige"
yü- 
as ü-

Tones

There are four tones in Mandarin that must be followed for proper pronunciation.

first tone ( ā ) 
flat, high pitch
second tone ( á ) 
low to middle, rising
third tone ( ǎ ) 
middle to low to high, dipping
fourth tone ( à ) 
high to low, falling

There is also a fifth tone, the neutral tone, which is used rarely, mostly for phrase particles.

Phrase list

All phrases shown in here use the simplified characters used in mainland China and Singapore.

Basics

To be or not to be?
Chinese does not have words for "yes" and "no" as such; instead, questions are typically answered by repeating the verb. Common ones include:

To be or not to be
是 shì, 不是 bú shì
To have or not have / there is or is not
有 yǒu, 没有 méi yǒu
To be right or wrong
对 duì, 不对 bù duì


Hello. 
你好。 Nǐ hǎo.
How are you? 
你好吗? Nǐ hǎo ma? 身体好吗? Shenti hao ma?
Fine, thank you. 
很好, 谢谢。 Hěn hǎo, xièxiè.
What is your (first) name? 
你叫什么名字? Nǐ jiào shénme míngzi?
My name is ______ . 
我叫 _____ 。 Wǒ jiào ______ .
Nice to meet you. 
遇见您很高兴。 Yùjiàn ní hěn gaoxìng.
Please. 
请。 Qǐng.
Thank you. 
谢谢。 xìexie.
You're welcome. 
不客气。 Bú kèqi.
Excuse me. (getting attention
请问, qǐng wèn/ laojia, qing wèn
Excuse me. (begging pardon
打擾一下。 Da jiao yi-xia ; 麻烦您一下, Má fan nǐ le.
I'm sorry. 
对不起。 Duìbùqǐ.
Goodbye 
再见。 Zàijiàn
Goodbye (informal
拜拜。 Bai-bai (Byebye)
I can't speak Chinese. 
我不会说汉语。 Wǒ bú hùi shūo hànyǔ.
Do you speak English? 
你会说英语吗? Nǐ hùi shūo yīngyǔ ma?
Is there someone here who speaks English? 
这里有人会说英语吗? Zheli you ren hui shuo Yingyu ma?
Help! 
救命 jìu mìng
Good morning. 
早上好。 Zǎoshàng hǎo.
Good evening. 
晚上好。 Wǎnshàng hǎo.
Good night. 
晚安。 Wǎn ān.
I don't understand. 
我听不懂。 Wo ting bu dong.
Where is the toilet? 
厕所在哪里? Césǔo zài nǎli?

Problems

Leave me alone. 
不要打擾我。 (búyào dǎrǎo wǒ)
Don't touch me! 
不要碰我! (búyào pèng wǒ!)
I'll call the police. 
我要叫警察了。 (wǒ yào jiào jǐngchá le)
Police! 
警察! (jǐngchá!)
Stop! Thief! 
停止!小偷! (tíngzhǐ! xiǎotōu!)
I need your help. 
我需要你的幫助。 (wǒ xūyào nǐde bāngzhù)
It's an emergency. 
這是緊急情況。 (zhèshì jǐnjí qíngkuàng)
I'm lost. 
我迷路了。 (wǒ mílù le)
I lost my bag. 
我丟了手提包。 (wǒ diūle shǒutíbāo)
I lost my wallet. 
我丟了錢包。 (wǒ diūle qiánbāo)
I'm sick. 
我生病了。 (wǒ shēngbìng le)
I've been injured. 
我受傷了。 (wǒ shòushāng le)
I need a doctor. 
我需要醫生。 (wǒ xūyào yīshēng)
Can I use your phone? 
我可以打個電話嗎? (wǒ kěyǐ dǎ ge diànhuà ma?)

Numbers

Chinese numbers are very regular. While Arabic (Western) numerals have become more common, the Chinese numerals shown below are still used, particularly in informal contexts like markets.

0 〇, 零 
líng
1 一 
2 二 
èr
3 三 
sān
4 四 
5 五 
6 六 
lìu
7 七 
8 八 
9 九 
jǐu
10 十 
shí
11 十一 
shí-yī
12 十二 
shí-èr
13 十三 
shí-sān
14 十四 
shí-sì
15 十五 
shí-wǔ
16 十六 
shí-lìu
17 十七 
shí-qī
18 十八 
shí-bā
19 十九 
shí-jǐu
20 二十 
èr-shí
21 二十一 
èr-shí-yī
22 二十二 
èr-shí-èr
23 二十三 
èr-shí-sān
30 三十 
sān-shí
40 四十 
sì-shí
50 五十 
wǔ-shí
60 六十 
lìu-shí
70 七十 
qī-shí
80 八十 
bā-shí
90 九十 
jǐu-shí

For numbers above 100, any "gaps" must be filled in with 〇 líng, as eg. 一百一 yībǎiyī would otherwise be taken as shorthand for "110". A single unit of tens may be written and pronounced either 一十 yīshí or just 十 shí.

100 一百 
yī-bǎi
101 一百〇一 
yī-bǎi-líng-yī
110 一百一十 
yī-bǎi-yī-shí
111 一百一十一 
yī-bǎi-yī-shí-yī
200 二百 
èr-bǎi
300 三百 
sān-bǎi
500 五百 
wǔ-bǎi
1000 一千 
yī-qiān
2000 二千 
èr-qiān

Numbers above 10,000 are grouped by in units of four digits, starting with 万 wàn (ten thousand). "One million" in Chinese is thus "hundred tenthousands" (一百万).

10,000 一万 
yī-wàn
10,001 一万〇一 
yī-wàn-líng-yī
10,002 一万〇二 
yī-wàn-líng-èr
20,000 二万 
èr-wàn
50,000 五万 
wǔ-wàn
100,000 十万 
shí-wàn
200,0000 二十万 
èr-shí-wàn
1,000,000 一百万 
yī-bǎi-wàn
10,000,000 一亿 
yi1yi4
number _____ (train, bus, etc.
number measure word (lu4 or hao4 etc.) _____ (huo3 che1, gong1 gong4 qi4 chi1, etc. Measure words are used in combination with a number to indicate the count of mass nouns. Check out here for more details.)
half 
半 bàn (...)
less 
少於 shao3yu1 (...)
more 
多於 duo1yu1 (...)

Time

now 
现在 xiànzài
later 
以后, yǐhòu or shāohòu
before 
以前, yǐqián
morning 
早上, zǎoshàng
afternoon 
下午, xiàwǔ
night 
晚上, wǎnshàng

Clock time

What time is it? 
现在几点? Xiànzài jǐ diǎn?
It is nine in the morning. 
早上9点钟。 Zǎoshàng jǐu diǎn zhōng.
Three-thirty PM. 
下午3点半. Xiàwǔ sān diǎn bàn.

Duration

_____ minute(s) 
_____ 分钟 fēnzhōng
_____ hour(s) 
_____ 小时 xiǎoshí
_____ day(s) 
_____ 天 tiān
_____ week(s) 
_____ 星期 xīngqī
_____ month(s) 
_____ 月 yùe
_____ year(s) 
_____ 年 nián

Days

today 
今天 jīntiān
yesterday 
昨天 zuótiān
tomorrow 
明天 míngtiān
this week 
这个星期 zhège xīngqī
last week 
上个星期 shàngge xīngqī
next week 
下个星期 xiàge xīngqī

Weekdays in Chinese are easy: starting with 1 for Monday, just add the number after 星期 xīngqī.

Sunday 
星期天 xīngqītiān or xing1 qi1 ri4 or xing1 qi1 qi1
Monday 
星期一 xīngqīyī
Tuesday 
星期二 xīngqīèr
Wednesday 
星期三 xīngqīsān
Thursday 
星期四 xīngqīsì
Friday 
星期五 xīngqīwǔ
Saturday 
星期六 xīngqīlìu

Months

Months in Chinese are also easy: starting with 1 for January, just add the number after 月 yùe.

January 
一月, yī yùe
February 
二月, èr yùe
March 
三月, sān yùe
April 
四月, sì yùe
May 
五月, wŭ yùe
June 
六月, liù yùe
July 
七月, qī yùe
August 
八月, bā yùe
September 
九月, jiŭ yùe
October 
十月, shí yùe
November 
十一月, shí yī yùe
December 
十二月, shí èr yùe

Tips: From January to December, you just need to use this pattern: number (1-12) + yùe

Writing Time and Date

Colors

black 
黑色 hei se
white 
白色 bai se
gray 
灰色 hui se
red 
红色 hong se
blue 
蓝色 lan se
yellow 
黄色 huang se
green 
绿色 lǜ sè
orange 
橙色 cheng se
purple 
紫色 zi se
brown 
褐色 he se, 棕色 zōng sè
Do you have it in another color?  
你们有没有另外颜色? nǐmen yǒu méiyǒu lìngwài yánsè ?

Tips: Se4 means 'color', therefore, 'hong2 se4' is 'red color'(literally).

Transportation

Bus and Train

How much is a ticket to _____? 
去______的票多少钱 qu _____ de piao duoshao qian?

Directions

How do I get to _____ ? 
怎么去_____ zenme qu _____?
...the train station? 
...火车站? ...huoche zhan?
...the bus station? 
...汽车总站? ...qiche zongzhan?
...the airport? 
...机场? ...jichang?
street 
街 jie
Turn left. 
左边转弯 zuobian zhuanwan
Turn right. 
右边转弯 youbian zhuanwan
left 
左边 zuobian
right 
右边 youbian
straight ahead 
往前走 wangqianzou
north 
北 bĕi
south 
南 nán
east 
东 dōng
west 
西 xī

Taxi

Taxi! 
Taxi! (...) (literally) 出主德士! chuzu de shi!
Take me to _____, please. 
请开到_____。 qing kaidao _____。

Lodging

Do you have any rooms available? 
你們有房間嗎? nimen you fangjian ma?
Does the room come with... 
有沒有... you meiyou...
...bedsheets? 
...床單? ...chuangdan?
...a bathroom? 
...浴室? ...yushi?
...a telephone? 
...電話? ...dianhua?
...a TV? 
...電視? ...dianshi?
I will stay for _____ night(s). 
我打算住_____夜。 Wo dasuan zhu _____ ye.
Do you have a safe? 
你們有沒有保險箱? Nimen you mei you baoxian xiang?
Can you wake me at _____? 
請明天早上_____叫醒我。 Qing mingtian zaoshang _____ jiaoxing wo.
I want to check out. 
我現在要走。 Wo xianzai yao zou.

Money

pay
付 fù
cash
现钱 xiàn qián
credit card
信用卡 xìn yòng kǎ

Eating

Can I look at the menu, please? 
请给我看看菜单 qĭng gĕi wŏ kànkan càidān?
I'm a vegetarian 
我吃素的 wŏ chī sù de
breakfast 
早饭 zǎofàn
lunch 
午饭 wǔfàn or zhōngfàn
supper 
晚饭 wǎnfàn
beef 
牛肉 niúròu
pork
猪肉 zhūròu
mutton
羊肉 yángròu
chicken
鸡 jī
fish
鱼 yú
cheese 
奶酪 nǎilào
eggs 
鸡蛋 jīdàn
bread 
面包 miànbāo
noodles 
面条 miàntiáo
fried rice
炒饭 chǎofàn
dumpling
饺子 jiǎozi
rice 
米饭 mĭfàn
coffee 
咖啡 kāfēi
black coffee: 黑咖啡 hēi kāfēi
milk
牛奶 niúnǎi
sugar
糖 táng
tea (drink
茶 cha
green tea
绿茶 lǜ chá
scented tea
花茶 huāchá
black tea
红茶 hóngchá
juice 
水果 shuǐguǒ fruit; 汁 zhī juice
water 
水 shuĭ
natural mineral water
矿泉水 kuàngquán shuǐ
beer 
啤酒 píjiŭ
red/white wine 
红/白 葡萄 酒 hóng/bái pŭtáo jiŭ
It was delicious. 
好吃極了。 (hǎochī jí le)
The check, please. 
請結帳。 (qǐng jiézhàng)

Bars

Do you serve alcohol? 
有沒有賣酒? (yǒu méiyǒu mài jiǔ?)
Is there table service? 
有沒有餐桌服務? (yǒu méiyǒu cānzhuō fúwù?)
A beer/two beers, please. 
請給我一杯/兩杯啤酒。 (qǐng gěi wǒ yìbēi/liǎngbēi píjiǔ)
A glass of red/white wine, please. 
請給我一杯紅/白葡萄酒。 (qǐng gěi wǒ yìbēi hóng/bái pútáojiǔ)
A pint, please. 
請給我一品脫。 (qǐng gěi wǒ yìpǐntuō)
A bottle, please. 
請給我一瓶。 (qǐng gěi wǒ yìpíng)
_____ (hard liquor) and _____ (mixer), please. 
請給我_____和_____。 (qǐng gěi wǒ _____ hé _____)
whiskey 
威士忌 (wēishìjì)
vodka 
伏特加 (fútèjiā)
rum 
蘭姆酒 (lánmǔjiǔ)
water 
水 (shuǐ)
club soda 
蘇打水 (sūdǎshuǐ)
tonic water 
通寧水 (tōngníngshuǐ)
orange juice 
柳橙汁 (liǔchéngzhī)
Coke (soda
可樂 (kělè)
Do you have any bar snacks? 
有沒有吧臺點心? (yǒu méiyǒu bātái diǎnxīn?)
One more, please. 
請再給我一個。 (qǐng zài gěi wǒ yígè)
Another round, please. 
請再來一輪。 (qǐng zàilái yìlún)
When is closing time? 
幾點打烊? (jǐdiǎn dǎyáng?)

Shopping

Do you have this in my size? 
有沒有我的尺寸? (yǒu méiyǒu wǒde chǐcùn?)
How much is this? 
這個多少錢? (zhège duōshǎo qián?)
That's too expensive. 
太貴了。 (tài gùi le)
Would you take _____? 
_____元可以嗎? (_____ yuán kěyǐ ma?)
expensive 
貴 (gùi)
cheap 
便宜 (piányí)
I can't afford it. 
我帶的錢不夠。 (wǒ dài de qián búgòu)
I don't want it. 
我不想要。 (wǒ bùxiǎng yào)
You're cheating me. 
你欺騙我。 (nǐ qīpiàn wǒ) Use with caution!
I'm not interested. 
我沒有興趣。 (wǒ méiyǒu xìngqù)
OK, I'll take it. 
我要買這個。 (wǒ yào mǎi zhège)
Can I have a bag? 
請給我袋子。 (qǐng gěi wǒ dàizǐ)
Do you ship (overseas)? 
可以郵寄到海外嗎? (kěyǐ yóujì dào hǎiwài ma?)
I need... 
我要_____ (wǒ yào _____)
...toothpaste. 
牙膏 (yágāo)
...a toothbrush. 
牙刷 (yáshuā)
...tampons. 
衛生棉條 (wèishēng miántiáo)
...soap. 
香皂 (xiāngzào)
...shampoo. 
洗髮精 (xǐfǎjīng)
...pain reliever. (e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen
鎮痛劑 (zhèntòngjì)
...cold medicine. 
感冒藥 (gǎnmòuyào)
...stomach medicine. 
胃腸藥 (wèichángyào)
...a razor. 
剃刀 (tìdāo)
...an umbrella. 
傘 (sǎn)
...sunblock lotion. 
防曬油 (fángshàiyóu)
...a postcard. 
明信片 (míngxìnpiàn)
...postage stamps. 
郵票 (yóupiào)
...batteries. 
電池 (diànchí)
...writing paper. 
紙 (zhǐ)
...a pen. 
筆 ()
...English-language books. 
英文書 (yīngwén shū)
...English-language magazines. 
英文雜誌 (yīngwén zázhì)
...an English-language newspaper. 
英文報紙 (yīngwén bàozhǐ)
...a Chinese-English dictionary. 
漢英字典 (hànyīng zìdiǎn)
...an English-Chinese dictionary. 
英漢字典 (yīnghàn zìdiǎn)

Driving

I want to rent a car. 
我想要租車。 (wǒ xiǎngyào zūchē)
Can I get insurance? 
我可以買保險嗎? (wǒ kěyǐ mǎi bǎoxiǎn ma?)
stop (on a street sign
停 (tíng)
one way 
單行道 (dānxíngdào)
yield 
讓路 (rànglù)
no parking 
禁止停車 (jìnzhǐ tíngchē)
speed limit 
速度限制 (sùdù xiànzhì)
gas (petrol) station 
加油站 (jiāyóuzhàn)
petrol 
汽油 (qìyóu)
diesel 
柴油 (cháiyóu)

Authority

I haven't done anything wrong. 
我沒有做錯事。 (wǒ méiyǒu zuòcuò shì)
It was a misunderstanding. 
這是誤會。 (zhè shì wùhuì)
Where are you taking me? 
你帶我去哪裡? (nǐ dài wǒ qù nǎlǐ?)
Am I under arrest? 
我被捕了嗎? (wǒ bèibǔle ma?)
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen. 
我是 美國/澳洲/英國/加拿大 公民。 (wǒ shì měiguó/àozhōu/yīngguó/jiānádà gōngmín)
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate. 
我希望跟 美國/澳洲/英國/加拿大 的 大使館/領事館 聯繫。 (wǒ xīwàng gēn měiguó/àozhōu/yīngguó/jiānádà de dàshǐguǎn/lǐngshìguǎn liánxì)
I want to talk to a lawyer. 
我希望跟律師聯繫。 (wǒ xīwàng gēn lǜshī liánxì)
Can I just pay a fine now? 
我可以只付罰款嗎? (wǒ kěyǐ zhǐ fù fákuǎn ma?)

Learning more

  • Zhongwen.com: Chinese to English dictionary and other resources presented in English; searchable by English meanings; Chinese text displayed as graphics (i.e. does not require any Chinese font).
  • mandarin123.com: Practice Chinese vocabularies with flash card, match game and mini-quizzes.
  • Chinese-tools.com: Learn Chinese Online, Free Mandarin lessons + many tools and dictionaries.
  • China West Exchange: Free Cantonese and Mandarin lessons and a discussion board.
  • Chinese to English Dictionary: searchable by English meanings; Chinese text in Big5 code (i.e. requires Chinese font).
  • Chinese Linguistics: Sites on Chinese linguistics (in English).
  • Chinese Characters Dictionary: supports Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Hakka etc.
  • Marjorie Chan's ChinaLinks: A large collection of Web resources by a professor of linguistics at Ohio State University

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