3 Chinese Courtesy Expressions Substituting for "Hello"

(Last Modified: 2019-06-24 20:44:28    Author: jinyu)

For many of the Chinese learners, successfully using of "nǐ hǎo" or "chī fàn le mā" could be a great progress started from zero. However, there are times when "hello" is not sufficient to express politeness or courtesy.

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In China, people do greetings more cautious than westerners do, so we have more courteous expressions used in daily life communications. In this article, we have selected some formal statement about "hello" from native speaking, in order to help learners talking in a professional way.

1. 久仰久仰/久仰大名 ("jiǔ yǎng jiǔ yǎng/jiǔ yǎng dà míng")

"" means "for a long time", and "" is short for "仰慕" ("yǎng mù"), which means "to admire". "大名" means "one's formal name". Therefore, as a whole sentence, "久仰久仰" or "久仰大名" can be literally explained as "I have been admired you so much" (similar to "I was familiar with your reputation").

This phrase is used for first meeting of 2 people. It's more common to use overlapped word "久仰" to emphasis the speaker's modesty, so Chinese often say it to others with hands folded and shake them twice.

chinese courtesy greetings

There is a thing to note that one does not need to really admire or even know the other before he say "jiǔ yǎng jiǔ yǎng". People say it just for courtesy, that's why nobody will get to the bottom of it by asking back like "did you know me before?" or "what exactly you admire me for?"

How to respond to it? According to Chinese custom, the easiest way is to answer with the same saying, to show the "admiration" as well. But more specifically, we have a number of expressions which are more suitable, such as "哪里哪里 (nǎ lǐ nǎ lǐ) [Not at all]", "过奖过奖 (guò jiǎng guò jiǎng) [You flatter me]", "不敢不敢 (bù gǎn bù gǎn) [I really don't deserve this]", or "客气客气 (kè qì kè qì) [You are welcome]".

That is to say, the above options are applicable for reply of "jiǔ yǎng jiǔ yǎng", as they share the same purpose, which is being sufficiently humble. Throughout Chinese daily conversations, media works, and writings, these dialogues are so universal:

A: 久仰久仰 ("jiǔ yǎng jiǔ yǎng")

[I have been admired you so much.]

B: 哪里哪里 ("nǎ lǐ nǎ lǐ")

[Not at all.]

A: 久仰久仰 ("jiǔ yǎng jiǔ yǎng")

[I have been admired you so much.]

B: 过奖过奖 ("guò jiǎng guò jiǎng")

[You flatter me.]

A: 久仰久仰 ("jiǔ yǎng jiǔ yǎng")

[I have been admired you so much.]

B: 不敢不敢 ("bù gǎn bù gǎn")

[I really don't deserve this.]

A: 久仰久仰 ("jiǔ yǎng jiǔ yǎng")

[I have been admired you so much.]

B: 客气客气 ("kè qì kè qì")

[You are welcome.]

2. 幸会幸会 ("xìng huì xìng huì")

"" is short for "幸运" ("xìng yùn"), which stands for "lucky" or "fortunate". "" means "meeting". So "幸会" means "Nice to meet you" or "Honoured to see you". Similar to "久仰久仰", it is used for 2 people meeting for the first time as well. Meanwhile, "幸会幸会" is regularly used for responding to "久仰久仰" also.

Although the 2 phrases "幸会幸会" and "久仰久仰" are sometimes interchangeable, reply of them are slightly different, because "幸会幸会" is relatively more neutral. Specifically speaking, besides repeating it as a reply, here are some acceptable responses:

A: 幸会幸会 ("xìng huì xìng huì")

[Nice to meet you.]

B: 久仰久仰 ("jiǔ yǎng jiǔ yǎng")

[I have been admired you so much.]

A: 幸会幸会 ("xìng huì xìng huì")

[Honoured to see you.]

B: 哪里哪里 ("nǎ lǐ nǎ lǐ")

[Not at all.]

3. 好久不见/久违 ("hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn/jiǔ weí")

As the 2 former expressions are used for strangers who are newly meeting, "好久不见" or "久违" is applied on reunion of friends or acquaintances. "好久" means "quite a long time", while "不见" means "no see"; hence "long time no see" perfectly explains this Chinese phrase. Character "" here means "to part", so "久违" means "how long it is since we last met".

There are no fixed answers to it, yet we usually reply with consent to the fact or with simple repetition. Such as:

A: 好久不见 ("hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn")

[Long time no see.]

B: 是的,好久不见 ("shì de, hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn")

[Yes, long time no see.]

A: 久违了 ("jiǔ weí le")

[It is a long time since we last met.]

B: 久违了 ("jiǔ weí le")

[It is a long time since we last met.]

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As the above sayings are inherited ancient practices, rules of their usage are coming ambiguous nowadays. Young people prefer to merely use "你好" ("nǐ hǎo", hello) as their universal manners of greetings. Anyway, knowing of those antique and elegant courtesy expressions can help us to have a better understanding of Chinese culture as well as a new method to say "hello".