Chinese language : Lesson 3

Following on from lesson 2 here are some everyday useful phrases that you might need when traveling in China.

In this third lesson we look at simple transactions at shops and restaurants. With our previous lesson 1 and 2 we build up basic communication skills useful for a first visit to China.

Shenzhen, people, food
Shenzhen vegetable market, Guangdong Copyright © Dreamstime see image license

Buying and Selling

buy mǎi
sell mài

When learning Chinese it is important to use the correct tone. As an example, consider mai which can mean either buy or sell just depending on the tone. Let's introduce some things you might want to buy.

green vegetables qīng cài
dumplings jiǎo zǐ
chopsticks kuài zǐ
food mǐ fàn
beer pí jiǔ
beer is literally hop wine

wine pú táo jiǔ
literally grape wine

drink
tea chá
coffee kā fēi
this is a transliteration of the English coffee

cup bēi
bottle; vase píng
money qián
bowl wān
also; and
some; few xiē
many; much duō
you - polite form nín
and you? ne
give; bring gěi
want; need; must yào
sit; seat zuò
go to; arrive dào
type; kind of zhǒng
or hái shì
pair of shuāng

Colors

We have already introduced some of the colors, here is a more complete set.

color yán sè
red hóng
yellow huáng
green 绿
blue lán
white (also bright) bái
black hēi

tea house
A tea house in Beijing
Image by Luo Shaoyang available under a Creative Commons license

Sentences

Buying a ticket

Dictionary Have a word or character to look-up? Use our extensive online dictionary.
 
Hello
nǐ hǎo
I (me)

want; essential
yào
buy
mǎi
one

'of'; spread
zhāng
ticket
piào

Hello, I want to buy a ticket. Don't forget the measure word zhang, it is needed in this context. Also note that verbs in Chinese are often strung together as in 'want-buy'.

 
you

want; essential
yào
go

where
nà r

Where do you want to go?. The response by the ticket seller will be to ask where you want to go to. The question is implied in this case there is no need to add ma at the end. This is another double verb form 'want-go' there is no need for a 'want 'to' go' construction as there is in English.

 
arrive; reach
dào
Shanghai
shàng hǎi

Go to Shanghai. Shanghai literally means 'on Sea' or 'by Sea'.

 
what
shén me
time
shí hòu

"At what time?". This phrase was included in lesson 2, hou implies a wait.

 
tomorrow
míng tiān
morning
shàng wǔ
10 past 8
bā diǎn shí fēn

Tomorrow morning at 8:10. Our date and time guide explains how to express times in Chinese. The largest units come first and the time of day is included as well in place of 'am' or 'pm'.

 
wait a moment
děng yī děng
have
yǒu
ticket
piào

Please wait... Yes I have a ticket. By repeating a verb separated with yi softens a word and makes it more informal and colloquial.

 
how much
duō shǎo
money
qián

How much does it cost?. One way of asking a question in Chinese is to give the two opposite extremes, so how much is literally 'many-few'. This is a common and useful phrase when out shopping.

 
give; for
gěi
I (me)

553
wǔ bǎi wǔ shí sān
piece; coin
kuài

Give me 553 kuai. We have a separate section devoted to all the numbers in Chinese. The unit of yuan is called kuai (piece) in spoken and not written Chinese.

 
you

want; essential
yào
that

kind of; breed
zhǒng
color
yán sè

What color do you want?. While shopping you might be asked which color of fabric or other thing you want.

 
red one
hóng de
or
hái shì
yellow one
huáng de

The red one or yellow one. You can say red one by using the possessive 'de' combined with the color.

food
Eating dimsum dumplings on the street in gongguan; pictures by tashenka. February 2007. Photo by brappy! from Gongguan Market in Zhongzheng available under a Creative Commons license .

Ordering food and drink

 
we (us)
wǒ mén
want; essential
yào
pair; two
liǎng
cup
bēi
coffee
kā fēi

We want to cups of coffee. To ask for 2 of anything you need liang rather than the number 2 er as this is only used for counting.

 
please; permit
qǐng
seat; place
zuò

Please sit down. An important instruction to learn.

 
please; permit
qǐng
give; for
gěi
we (us)
wǒ mén
some; few
xiē
dumplings
jiǎo zǐ

Please bring us some dumplings. The use of please is not essential as it would be in English 'we want' is good enough. Jiaozis are not to be confused with 'English dumplings' they are meat or vegetable wrapped up in dough and usually steamed.

 
I (me)

want; essential
yào
one

bottle; vase
píng
Qingdao
qīng dǎo
beer
pí jiǔ

I want a bottle of Qingdao beer. Qingdao in Shandong is world famous for its German style beer.

 
you (polite)
nín
and you?
ne

What about you?. This a shorthand way of repeating the same question to someone else. In this case it is asking what someone else wants a drink.

 
still; also
hái
want; essential
yào
green vegetables
qīng cài
?; question

Are there any more vegetables?. Qingcai can stand for vegetables in general.

 
you

want; essential
yào
many
duō
less; few
shǎo
bottle; vase
píng
wine
pú táo jiǔ

You want how many bottles of wine?. 'Many-few' can be used to ask a how much or how many question for anything not just about money.

 
we (us)
wǒ mén
drunk
hē le
four

cup
bēi
green

绿
tea
chá

We have drunk four cups of green tea. Adding 'le' to a verb puts it in the past tense.

 
please; permit
qǐng
give; for
gěi
I (me)

one

pair
shuāng
chopsticks
kuài zǐ

Please bring me a pair of chopsticks. The correct measure word needs to be used for chopsticks. 'shuang' is used for objects that come in pairs (socks, shoes, gloves etc.).

 
still; also
hái
want; essential
yào
pair; two
liǎng
bowl
wān
food
mǐ fàn

Also want two bowls of rice. Another necessary measure word is 'bowl'. As rice is the staple food in southern China, mifan can be used for food in general.

restaurant, food, people, Sichuan
A traditional Sichuan chafing dish lunch at Jiezi, Sichuan Copyright © Dreamstime see image license

Vocabulary

bái white (also bright)
bēi cup
chá tea
dào go to; arrive
duō many; much
gěi give; bring
hái shì还是 or
drink
hēi black
hóng red
huáng yellow
jiǎo zǐ饺子 dumplings
kā fēi咖啡 coffee
kuài zǐ筷子 chopsticks
lán blue
绿 green
mǎi buy
mài sell
mǐ fàn米饭 food
ne and you?
nín you - polite form
pí jiǔ啤酒 beer
píng bottle; vase
pú táo jiǔ葡萄酒 wine
qián money
qīng cài青菜 green vegetables
shuāng pair of
wān bowl
xiē some; few
yán sè颜色 color
yào want; need; must
also; and
zhǒng type; kind of
zuò sit; seat

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Citation information: Chinasage, 'Learning the Chinese language: Lesson 3', last updated 21 Oct 2015, Web, http://www.chinasage.info/langlesson3.htm.

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