Chinese Language Blog

20 Questions Posted by on Mar 14, 2012 in Culture, Uncategorized, Vocabulary

We’ve already covered how to introduce yourself here on the Chinese blog (click here for the written post, and check out the video here), so now it’s time to equip you with some questions that you will certainly come in handy when you meet people in China:

1. 你叫什么名字? (nǐ jiào shén me míng zì) – What’s your (first) name?

2. 你姓什么? (nǐ xìng shén me) – What’s your last name/surname?

It should be noted here that when you are talking to elders, teachers, or anybody to whom you should show more respect, you should replace 你 with 您 (nín), as this is more polite.

3. 你是哪国人? (nǐ shì nǎ guó rén) – Which country are you from?

This is the most used form of one of the most common questions you will get in China. People are still fascinated by foreigners(外国人 – wài guó rén), especially outside of the big cities, and they are always curious to find out where you come from. You might hear this question asked in a few different ways, though, for example: 你是哪个国家的? (nǐ shì nǎ ge guó jiā de) or 你从哪来的? (nǐ cóng nǎ lái de). Just go ahead and assume that the first question any Chinese person will ask you will be some variation of this, and be prepared with your response.

4. 你是哪里的人? (nǐ shì nǎ lǐ de rén) – Where are you from?

This version of the question can be used when you are speaking to Chinese people to ask them which part of China they are from.

5. 你多大? (nǐ duō dà) – How old are you?

Unlike in Western cultures, Chinese will openly ask anyone their age. So just don’t be surprised, ladies, when people inquire about your age. They don’t mean to be rude, it’s just the Chinese way!

6. 你做什么工作? (nǐ zuò shén me gōng zuò) – What do you do?/What’s your job?

7. 你家有几个人? (nǐ jiā yǒu jǐ gè rén) – How many people are in your family?

8. 你结婚了吗? (nǐ jié hūn le ma) – Are you married?

This question brings us to our first example that features the character 吗. Although none of the previously mentioned questions contain this character, it is used to form a question. Adding 吗 to the sentence makes a big difference: 你结婚了 means “You are married,” while 你结婚了吗 means “Are you married?”

9. 你有孩子吗? (nǐ yǒu hái zi ma) – Do you have children?

10. 你有男朋友吗? (nǐ yǒu nán péng yǒu ma)/你有女朋友吗? (nǐ yǒu nǚ pén gyǒu ma? – Do you have a boyfriend?/Do you have a girlfriend?

11. 你会说中文吗? (nǐ huì shuō zhōng wén ma)/你会说英文吗? (nǐ huì shuō yīng wén ma) – Can you speak Chinese?/Can you speak English?

One you will hear from Chinese people all of the time, and the other you will probably find yourself asking Chinese people all the time.

12. 你在中国多长时间了? (nǐ zài zhōng guó duō cháng shí jiān le) – How long have you been in China?

13. 你喜欢中国吗? (nǐ xǐ huan zhōng guó ma) – Do you like China?

Chinese are always curious to hear what foreigners think about living here, so this question is quite common. You will also often be asked Do you like Chinese food? (你喜欢中国菜吗 – nǐ xǐ huan zhōng guó cài ma).

14. 你习惯住在中国吗? (nǐ xí guàn zhù zài zhōng guó ma) – Are you used to living in China?

Speaking Chinese is hard. Eating spicy food and strange things like chicken feet with chopsticks is hard. As such, Chinese people are interested to hear whether or not you are used to the way of life here.

15. 在中国你去过什么地方? (zài zhōng guó nǐ qù guò shèn me dì fāng) – Which places have you been to in China?

I’ve noticed that a lot of people in Beijing are always curious to ask me about my travels in China. Since I’ve been quite a few places, this is always a good conversation starter.

16. 你的爱好是什么? (nǐ de ài hào shì shén me) – What are your hobbies?

17. 你的工资是多少? (nǐ de gōng zī shì duō shǎo) – What’s your salary?

In the West, one’s income is thought to be a private matter, and as such, it’s considered rude to ask someone directly about their salary. This, however, is not the case in China. Chinese people will openly discuss their personal income, so don’t be surprised when your cab driver asks you how much you earn within a few minutes of meeting you.

18. 你为什么搬到中国? (nǐ wèi shén me bān dào zhōng guó) – Why did you move to China?

For a lot of Chinese people, they still can’t understand why someone would leave the US or another Western country to move here. Discussing your reasons for moving to China can result in very interesting conversations.

19. 你住在哪里? (nǐ zhù zài nǎ lǐ) – Where do you live?

20. 你的公寓是多少钱一个月? (nǐ de gōng yù shì duō shǎo qián yī gè yuè) – How much is your apartment every month?

Once again, Chinese are not shy when it comes to talking about finance. They’re always curious to hear whether foreigners own or rent an apartment, and how much they pay for it.

There ya go, 20 questions that you will most likely hear at some point if you should ever find yourself traveling or living in China. Now get working on your answers!


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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.


  1. Tris:

    中文 – is Chinese written language that people do not speak. It is 汉语 that people speak. And though Chinese will understand you, the later would be more appropriate to use. You can check with Chinese Google – for the first it gives only educational and not authentic websites, and for the second version of the question – 你会说汉语吗? – baidu is comming up on the first screen. Alex

    • Metatron:

      @Tris True, but please keep in mind that Cinese people actually do use 中文 to mean the spoken language too, they do it all the time. So Although academically speaking you are right, native speakers will use 中文 nonetheless, so I don’t think it should be considered an actual mistake.

  2. Rasemate Elckim Manganye:

    I enjoyed to read and learn to translate from English to Chinese language. xiexie

  3. KarenLeanneSandberg:

    Mostl sometime’s CHINESE (people) spending with friends family, lives hometown country hardworking, studying with each and others including field trip/holidays?

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