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 vegetable market, Guangdong Copyright © Dreamstime see image license
Buying and Selling
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.
青菜 qīng cài
饺子 jiǎo zǐ
筷子 kuài zǐ
米饭 mǐ fàn
啤酒 pí jiǔ
beer is literally hop wine
葡萄酒 pú táo jiǔ
literally grape wine
咖啡 kā fēi
this is a transliteration of the English coffee
you - polite form
want; need; must
go to; arrive
type; kind of
还是 hái shì
We have already introduced some of the colors, here is a more complete set.
颜色 yán sè
white (also bright)
Buying a ticket
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'.
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.
Go to Shanghai.
Shanghai literally means 'on Sea' or 'by Sea'.
"At what time?".
This phrase was included in lesson 2, hou implies a wait.
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
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 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.
wǔ bǎi wǔ shí sān
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.
kind of; breed
What color do you want?.
While shopping you might be asked which color of fabric or other thing you want.
The red one or yellow one.
You can say red one by using the possessive 'de' combined with the color.
Ordering food and drink
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 sit down.
An important instruction to learn.
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 want a bottle of Qingdao beer.
Qingdao ➚ in Shandong is world famous for its German style beer.
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.
Are there any more vegetables?.
Qingcai can stand for vegetables in general.
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 have drunk four cups of green tea.
Adding 'le' to a verb puts it in the past tense.
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.).
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.
bái白 white (also bright)
dào到 go to; arrive
duō多 many; much
gěi给 give; bring
hái shì还是 or
jiǎo zǐ饺子 dumplings
kā fēi咖啡 coffee
kuài zǐ筷子 chopsticks
mǐ fàn米饭 food
ne呢 and you?
nín您 you - polite form
pí jiǔ啤酒 beer
píng瓶 bottle; vase
pú táo jiǔ葡萄酒 wine
qīng cài青菜 green vegetables
shuāng双 pair of
xiē些 some; few
yán sè颜色 color
yào要 want; need; must
yě也 also; and
zhǒng种 type; kind of
zuò座 sit; seat
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