Meaning of the Chinese "Ni Hao Ma?"

In this page, first we are going to see what "ni hao!" means, then we will add "ma" at the end...

The meaning of: Ni Hao! (你好!)

It means "Hi!", "How do you do?", "Hello!" It is an everyday greeting and is used at any time, on any occasion and by a person of any social status. The reply should also be "ni2hao3! (Ni hao!)".

How to say: How are you?

Just add ma5 (ma) to the greeting formula "ni2hao3! (Ni hao!)" changing it into a question!

How are you? ni2hao3ma5 (Ni hao ma?)

literally: You goodma5

"ni2hao3ma5 (Ni hao ma?)" actually differs from the English greeting "How are you?" in the way it is used. While the English "How are you?" is also an everyday greeting, in Chinese you should ask "ni2hao3ma5 (Ni hao ma?)" only if you really want to ask about the state of health or condition of a friend.

If you just want to greet a person, after a warm "ni2hao3! (Ni hao!)" it's better if you say something like "ni3chi1le5ma5 (Ni chi le ma?)", literally meaning "Did you eat?"

I know, it would sound strange asking to an English speaking person "Did you eat?", right? The answer maybe would be a surprised "Why?"

Well, it's the same if we ask to a Chinese person "ni2hao3ma5 (Ni hao ma?)" The reaction would be something like "Sorry, I don't understand, I was not ill, I didn't survive any car accident, why are you asking me how I am?!?"

What does each singol character mean? Please see below.

32nd Most Used Chinese Character
frequency 0.3644394%


-You (singular)

There's no difference between the simplified and the traditional version of this character.

82nd Most Used Chinese Character
frequency 0.2128462%


-Good, fine

There's no difference between the simplified and the traditional version of this character.

453rd Most Used Chinese Character
frequency 0.0473576%


-Used at the end of a declarative sentence to transform it into a question

This character has two different traditional versions.

Traditional versionPronunciationMeaning
(same as simplified one's)
(same as simplified one's)

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