【Learn Chinese】How to Start Conversations in Chinese (Part 1)
|Whether you're a beginner or an intermediate learner, these conversation starters will give you the confidence to engage in meaningful dialogues with native Mandarin Chinese speakers. We'll cover a range of topics from casual greetings to more complex conversation starters, all designed to help you express yourself more naturally in Mandarin Chinese.
Starting a Conversation with a Chinese Friend:
When you see someone you know, you can spark a conversation with a casual question. For example:
怎么样？ zěn me yàng ？How’s it going?/What’s up?
你去哪儿？ nǐ qù nǎ er ？Where are you going?
你吃了吗？ nǐ chī le ma ？Have you eaten? (Note: Though it literally means “Have you eaten?” its function as a greeting is very similar to “How are you?” in English.)
Now, if you run into a friend that you haven’t seen in a while, simply start by saying their name. And if you don’t know their name, just say:
好久不见！hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn ！Long time no see!
After that, you can ask what’s new in their world (related to work, family, hobbies etc.). For example:
最近你在做什么？zuì jìn nǐ zài zuò shén me? What have you been up to lately?
家人都好吧？jiā rén dōu hǎo ba？How’s your family?
你还在星巴克工作吗？nǐ hái zài xīng bā kè gōng zuò ma ？Are you still working at Starbucks?
身体怎么样？shēn tǐ zěn me yàng ？How are you feeling? lit. “How’s your body?” (commonly used with elder people)
Starting a Conversation with a Chinese Coworker:
There are many ways to start talking to someone in the office. Just consider the timing. Now here are some questions you can use:
你忙什么呢？nǐ máng shén me ne ？What are you working on?
你今天工作顺利吗？nǐ jīn tiān gōng zuò shùn lì ma ？Is your work “going smoothly” today?
你有几分钟的时间吗？nǐ yǒu jǐ fèn zhōng de shí jiān ma ？Do you have a few minutes?
请问你对这个有什么想法？qǐng wèn nǐ duì zhè gè yǒu shén me xiǎng fǎ ？May I ask for your thoughts/opinion on this?
你有听说新经理下周一开始上班吗？nǐ yǒu tīng shuō xīn jīng lǐ xià zhōu yī kāi shǐ shàng bān ma ？Did you hear that the new manager starts on Monday?
你这个周末打算做什么？ nǐ zhè gè zhōu mò dǎ suàn zuò shén me ？(at the end of the week): Do you have any plans for the weekend?
你的周末过得怎么样？nǐ de zhōu mò guò de zěn me yàng ？(at the beginning of the week): How was your weekend?
Starting a Conversation with someone you’ve just been introduced to:
Now Picture this: A friend of yours has just introduced you to someone. What do you say to get a conversation started with this person? Well, it depends…
If, for example, your friend introduces the person as someone who is studying at the same university, you could ask what subject they’re studying.
你是学什么的？nǐ shì xué shén me de？What are you studying?
Or, let’s say your friend mentions that the person is really good at a certain activity (e.g. yoga), you could ask how long they’ve been doing it for.
你做瑜伽多久了？nǐ zuò yú jiā duō jiǔ le ？How long have you been doing yoga?
And if you don’t have any specific information about the person... There's still plenty of things you can say!
幸会, 幸会! xìng huì, xìng huì ！Pleased to meet you!
你们俩是怎样认识的？nǐ men liǎ shì zěn yàng rèn shí de ？How do you two know each other?
你是哪里人？nǐ shì nǎ lǐ rén ？Where are you from?
你是做什么工作的？nǐ shì zuò shén me gōng zuò de ？What do you do for a living?
你在这里工作多久了？nǐ zài zhè lǐ gōng zuò duō jiǔ le ？How long have you been working here?