These quick Colloquial Chinese lessons have been prepared by our teaching staff at That’s Mandarin.
Learning colloquial Chinese phrases is essential to communicate confidently and effectively in Chinese in a broad range of situations. No prior knowledge of the language is required. Please listen to the audio examples and practice.
Have we missed out one of your favorites? Please leave it in the comments below and we will add it to our list.
打 (dǎ) in this case means “to pump up”.
鸡血 (jī xuě) means “chicken blood”.
Put together, the phrase 打鸡血 (dǎ jī xuě) is often used to describe a person who is pumped up about something.
萌 (méng) means cute.
萌萌哒 (méng méng da) is used to describe somebody or something as cute and adorable.
谢谢 (xiè xiè): to thank, or thank you
老板 (lǎo bǎn): boss
谢谢老板 (xiè xiè lǎo bǎn): “Thank you, boss.”
In day-to-day use, whoever you’re saying this to doesn’t necessarily need to be your boss. It could be anyone who has given you something nice, or done you a favor.
辣 (là): spicy,
眼睛 (yǎn jīng)
We use this phrase to describe something which is unpleasant to see, something you wish you could unsee. It’s often used in a joking tone.
重要 (zhòng yào): important,
事情 (shì qíng): matter(s),
说三遍 (shuō sān biàn): to say something three times.
We use this phrase to underscore something really important.
方 (fāng) means “square”.
We say 方了 (fāng le) when something unexpected has happened and you start to panic and don’t know what to do.
接 (jiē): to link, to connect;
地 (dì): the ground
接地气 (jiē dì qì) is to be down-to-earth.
脸 (liǎn): face,
懵 (mēng): to feel lost
Put together, 一脸懵逼 (yī liǎn mēng bī) literally means one’s face is full of the expression of feeling lost.
We use it to describe a person who is feeling completely lost and doesn’t know what to say.
This phrase is often used when something unexpected has happened to a person, and s/he has been put in an awkward situation.
吃 (chī): to eat
瓜 (guā): melon
群众 (qún zhòng): crowds, masses
Put together, this phrase literally means “the crowds of people who are eating melons”, and it’s usually used to refer to bystanders or gawkers who have nothing serious to do, and are only there to watch a show.
土豪 (tǔ háo) is used to describe someone who’s extremely rich, and is often used to refer to China’s nouveaux riches.
The character 土 (tǔ) literally means “earth”, and is associated with China’s poor, unsophisticated rural areas. 豪 (háo) is part of the word 豪华 (háo huá) – luxurious.
Used together, the term conjures up images of uncouth, uncultured people from the countryside who have become rich overnight, and who love to flaunt their wealth in the most ostentatious manner possible.It’s also often used jokingly on friends.
醉 (zuì) literally means drunk. But when you hear people say, 我也是醉了 (wǒ yě shì zuì le) , they’re not trying to tell you they’re tipsy. They’re saying they’re speechless and won’t make further comment on something.
买 (mǎi) means to buy. Chinese people — girls especially! — love to buy so much you need to repeat the word three times!
网 (wǎng) refers to the internet or the web,
红 (hóng) means popular.
网红 (wǎng hóng) is a term that is used to refer to internet celebrities – people who have gained fame on social media.
不要 means “don’t want”, however, 不要不要的(bú yào bú yào de) is often used these days to emphasize an adjective. It’s used in the following sentence structure:
“adjective + 的(de) +不要不要的(bú yào bú yào de)”.
“懂 (dǒng)” means “understand”.
The phrase 你懂的 (nǐ dǒng de) is used when something is very obvious and plain for all to see. Often, it’s used in situations where there is an inconvenient truth that is better left unsaid.
狗 (gǒu) means “dog”, but 狗带 (gǒu dài) has absolutely nothing to do with dogs.
It has entered popular usage these days among youngsters because it sounds like “go die”. You can use the phrase if you want to tell a friend to “go to hell” in a half-joking manner. Definitely not recommended for use when speaking with a stranger.
腹 (fù) means “abdomen”, and 黑 (hēi) means “black”.
When you say someone has a 腹黑 (fù hēi) or “black abdomen”, you’re saying they are full of ideas up their sleeves.
This can be used to describe people who are shrewd and/or cunning, which can have a positive meaning depending on the situation.
吸 (xī) means to inhale, and 凉气 (liáng qì) refers to cold air.
We use this phrase to refer to someone who is frightened or astonished by something unexpected.
老 (lǎo) means “old”
司机 (sī jī) means “driver”
We say someone is a 老司机 (lǎo sī jī) to imply that s/he knows something particularly well.
咋 (zǎ): why
上天: (shàng tiān): fly to the sky
你咋不上天呢？(nǐ zǎ bù shàng tiān ne)
“Why don’t you fly to the sky?”
We use this phrase when somebody is asking for too much as a way to express incredulity.
心 (xīn) means “heart”.
比心 (bǐ xīn) is used (often by girls) to express one’s gratitude to somebody.
Literally, it means “use my hands to make the shape of a heart to show my love to you”.
吃 (chī): to eat,
土 (tǔ): earth, mud.
When we refer to someone as as having to 吃土 (chī tǔ) in Chinese, we’re saying that they’re so poor that they can only “eat earth”.
搞 (gǎo): to create, to meddle
事情 (shì qíng): things, matters
We say someone is trying to 搞事情 (gǎo shì qíng) when they’re causing unnecessary trouble or creating chaos.
友谊 (yǒu yí): friendship
小船 (xiǎo chuán): (little) boat
翻 (fān): to overturn
友谊的小船说翻就翻: (lit.) The little boat of friendship can easily overturn.
Or in other words, friendship is fragile.
缺 (quē): to lack (something)
心眼儿 (xīn yǎnr): intelligence
We use 缺心眼儿 (quē xīn yǎnr) to describe someone as dim-witted or intellectually-challenged.
脑 (nǎo) means “brain”
洞 (dòng) means “hole”
When we describe someone as having a huge “brain hole”, or 脑洞很大 (nǎo dòng hěn dà), we’re saying that they’re highly imaginative.
吃 (chī): to eat
吃货 (chī huò) is the term we use to refer to foodies: people who love food, people who live to eat.
With so many amazing regional cuisines in China, it’s little wonder we’ve got so many 吃货 (chī huò) around.
This phrase literally means: “The scene is too beautiful and I don’t dare see it with my own eyes.” It’s often used in a joking manner to describe something that’s hard to stomach visually.
死(sǐ) means “dead”
去 (qù): to go
活(huó) means “alive”
来 (lái): to come
This phrase is often used to describe something fierce.