Buying Groceries in Chinese Posted by sasha on Mar 7, 2017 in Culture, food, grammar, Shopping, Vocabulary
Doing your grocery shopping in Chinese is a great and practical way to put your skills to use. First of all, you can make your grocery list in Chinese. Check that post for some vocabulary charts on vegetables, fruit, meat, seafood, everyday items, and clothing. Once you have your list ready, it’s time to go to your local market. Shopping here rather than the big chain stores has a few benefits. For one, you’re giving your money directly to the farmers. It’s also quite a bit cheaper to do your shopping here. Finally, you get to practice your Chinese much more, as you interact with each vendor individually and pay as you go along through the market. In addition to your list, you’ll need to be armed with a bit more Chinese to do your shopping. We’ll learn about buying groceries in Chinese in this post, starting with some units of measurement.
Chinese Units of Measurement
When it comes to buying food in the local market, you’ll need to understand the measurements that are used. Perhaps the most important one is the jin (斤 – jīn). One jin is equal to 500 grams, and it’s the most common measurement used when quoting prices for fruit, veggies, seafood, or meat. For example, when you ask how much the bananas are, you’ll get a price that’s per jin. If you don’t quite need 500 grams of something, you can always ask for half a jin (半斤- bàn jīn). For certain things, you’ll probably just want to tell them how many grams (克 – kè) you want if it’s less than that. For example, you might want to buy one hundred grams (一百克 – yī bǎi kè) of strawberries as buying too many would probably result in some of them going bad.
Now that you’ve got your measurements down, it’s time to pick up some useful phrases for buying groceries in Chinese.
How do I buy the…? (…怎么买? – …zěn me mǎi)
How much is/are the…? (…多少钱? – … duō shǎo qián)
Can it be cheaper? (可以便宜一点吗? – kě yǐ pián yi yī diǎn ma)
Can I try it? (我可以试一下吗? – wǒ kě yǐ shì yī xià ma)
How is the flavor? (味道怎么样? – wèi dào zěn me yàng)
While it’s not that common to bargain for your groceries, sometimes you can ask for a little discount if you’re buying in bulk or if you think the produce isn’t that great. For example, if some fruit looks like it’s going to go bad tomorrow, it doesn’t hurt to ask them to knock a little off the price.
Generally, your conversations in the market will be short, sweet, and to the point. This is great if you’re still a beginner, as you really don’t have to say a whole lot! Let’s take a look at a sample conversation between a buyer and a seller in the local market to see how you use the units of measurement we learned as well as the useful phrases. Try to read and understand the conversation in Chinese before opening the English translation below.
nǐ hǎo, nǐ zài zhǎo shén me?
wǒ xiǎng mǎi diǎn shuǐ guǒ
shén me shuǐ guǒ? wǒ men yǒu xiāng jiāo, píng guǒ, cǎo méi, shén me de
xiāng jiāo zěn me mǎ
xiāng jiāo sì kuài yī jīn
hǎo de, wǒ mǎi yī jīn ba. cǎo méi de wèi dào zěn me yàng?
hěn tián de, hěn hào chī
wǒ kě yǐ shì yī xià ma
kě yǐ, bù tián bù gěi qián
hěn hào chī, duō shǎo qián yī jīn?
yī jīn shí wǔ kuài
wǒ yào bàn jīn
hǎo de, yī gòng shí èr kuài
hǎo, gěi nǐ èr shí kuài
zhǎo nǐ bā kuài
bù yòng xiè
Hello, what are you looking for?
I’d like to buy some fruit.
What fruit? We have bananas, apples, strawberries, and so on.
How do I buy the bananas?
Bananas are 4 kuai per jin.
Ok, I’ll buy a jin. How’s the flavor of the strawberries?
Very sweet, very tasty.
Can I try them?
Sure, if they’re not sweet, you don’t pay!
Very tasty, how much per jin?
One jin is 15 kuai.
I’ll buy half a jin.
Ok, all together 12 kuai.
Ok, here’s 20 kuai.
I give you back 8 kuai.
After studying these posts, you should be ready to get out there and do your grocery shopping in Chinese. If you’re wondering about buying clothes in Chinese, we’ve already covered that in a few posts – Part One and Part Two.