Meaning of the Chinese "Ni Hao Ma?"

In Chinese, "Ni Hao Ma?" is written 你好吗?* It means "How are you?" But, be careful, it might not be the "How are you" you think!

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

Then, I suggest you move on to the first lesson of the "1,000 Chinese Characters" Free Chinese Language Course (click here).

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 next?

Option 1: Click here for complete information (meanings, pronunciations, order of strokes animations, simplified versions, traditional versions) about the three characters "Ni hao ma?" is composed of (that is 你, 好 and 吗 ).

Option 2: Click here for Lesson 1 of the "1,000 Chinese Characters" Free Tutorial.

* 你好吗? is simplified Chinese, while the equivalent traditional Chinese is 你好嗎?. For the difference between simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese, please click here.

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WearYourChineseName - By Giuseppe Romanazzi
Biaoyu Business Consulting Services LTD
Shanghai, China
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