How To Say Hello In Cantonese: 20 Useful Ways

Have you ever experienced traveling to a country without knowing how to communicate with someone? It might be frightening at first but hey, ‘hello’ can be a powerful word against loneliness. In this blog, you will learn how to say hello in Cantonese.

If you find yourself in a foreign country, not knowing how to start a conversation, you should find a way to say hello. This will surprisingly open you to different possibilities that you might have never imagined.


Saying Hello

Because of the different means of acquiring knowledge and information, it is not surprising that people know how to say hello in different languages. Someone who is willing to initiate a conversation should have the capabilities to speak even basic greetings such as hello, hi, how are you doing, and even thank you.

Saying hello will bring you to a lot more possibilities. At first, it will only give you information about something you need but later on, it could lead even up to building strong connections with people and having a wonderful experience as a traveler. 

Travelling will really take you to good places you have never been before but it is building connections with the locals that will give you not just fun but a meaningful and unforgettable experience. Who would have thought that these things can be possible by just saying the word hello?

The common way to say the greeting in Cantonese is 你好 (nei5 hou2), which literally translates as “you good.” If someone says nei5 hou2 to you, you can simply respond with nei5 hou2 as well.


Greeting People In Chinese

Chinese have an undoubtedly large population. Because of this, their influences in the world especially their culture are widely spread. One of the examples is their language. There are different ways to say hello in Chinese but the most famous one is “Nǐ hǎo” (你好) that came from Mandarin dialect. But did you know that there are other ways to say hello in Chinese?

Like other languages, Chinese use different dialects. These different dialects cause the diverse way of saying hello in Chinese. The two major dialects spoken in Chinese countries are Mandarin and Cantonese.

Let’s learn to have a little bit of knowledge about both dialects.


Difference Between Cantonese And Mandarin

Most of us know that Mandarin is the majority Chinese dialect in China while Cantonese, like what is said above, is one of many minority dialects, and there are also many minority languages. It is essential to know that Mandarin and Cantonese are both dialects of Chinese. There may be huge differences in the place where it is being spoken, characters, tone, and other aspects but we should know that they are not different languages.

The difference between the two dialects can be learned in a more comprehensive blog but for now, knowing that Mandarin and Cantonese are both dialects and are not different languages is already enough.

What Is Cantonese?

Before we start learning the language, let us first learn what is Cantonese and where it is being spoken.

Cantonese is one of many minority dialects in China that is spoken in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and other “China towns” around the world. It is spoken in Guangdong Province as well as in Southern Guangxi Province to the west. More importantly, it is Hong Kong’s main language, as well as Macau’s.

In Cantonese, there are certain things that you should always keep in mind. The first is to know the importance of getting tones right. You should know how words are pronounced. In Cantonese, there are 6 different tones. The tones dictate how you raise, maintain, or lower the pitch of your voice to pronounce a word.  The second is the level of formality. Like other languages, the level of formality will vary depending on the situation and whom you are talking to. This basic knowledge is an essential part to learn Cantonese.


Saying Hello In Cantonese

Do you want to learn how to speak Cantonese? Nothing is impossible when we start on the basics. Saying hello in Cantonese might be hard at first because it has many similarities with a greeting in Mandarin but there are also differences. Do you want to know how to speak Cantonese? The words and phrases below will surely be helpful for your learning. The words will be divided into different three categories:


Hello In Cantonese

Starting a conversation with greetings is one of the most effective ways. It expresses openness and willingness to talk to someone in a respectful way. Here are some of the basic greetings in Cantonese that you need to know.

  • Hello (general greeting) – 你好 (nǐ hǎo)
  • Hello (answering a phone)喂 (wèi)

To make it more meaningful and intentional, why not include the time of the day? Here are the basic greetings and phrases that you can use:

  • Good Morning – 早晨 (jóusàhn)
  • Good Afternoon – 午安 (ńgh ōn)
  • Good Evening
    • 晚安 (máahn ōn)
    • 晚上好 (máahnseuhng hóu)
  • Good Night – 早抖 (jóutáu)

There are also other greetings that are used in a certain situation like the following:

  • How are you? – 你好嗎? (néih hóu ma)
  • Reply to ‘How are you? – 我幾好,你呢 (ngóh géi hóu, néih nē)
  • Welcome – 歡迎 (fùnyìhng)
  • Goodbye
    • 再見 (zài jiàn)
    • 拜拜 (bāaibaai)
  • Good luck – 祝你好運 (jūk néih hóuwahn)

Introducing Yourself

Hello In Cantonese

If by chance the greetings get farther and you found someone to whom you can talk for a long time and your conversation got deeper, you might have to introduce yourself. These are the words that may help you when you are in that situation.

Cantonese Pronunciation English Translation
你叫(做)乜野名呀? néih giu(jouh) mātyéh méng a
néih dím chìngfù a
What’s your name?
我叫做 ngóh giujouh My name is …
你係邊度人呀 néih haih bīndouh yàhn a Where are you from?
我係 … 人 ngóh haih … yàhn I’m from …
好開心認識你 hóu hòisàm yihngsīk néih Pleased to meet you

Greeting someone hello might lead to introducing one another so it will really be helpful to learn some words and phrases to introduce yourself. There are still many words, phrases, and sentences that you need to know but with this, you can already go a long way.

Important Vocabularies

Hello In Cantonese

Now that you are already familiar with the basic greetings, it is also important to know the important vocabularies that you might actually use while conversating. If someone asked you something how will you answer? If someone says a nice thing to you, what will you say? If you accidentally hurt someone, how will you apologize?

It is not enough to just learn how to say hello in Cantonese but you should also learn how to respond and continue the conversation. Here are some words to start learning with:

Cantonese Pronunciation Translation in English
多謝 dō zé Thank you
請問 chéngmahn Excuse me (to get attention)
唔該 m̀hgòi Excuse me (to get past)
失陪  sàtpùih Excuse me (used when leaving for a while)
唔該 m̀hgòi Please
hěi Yes
唔系 m hěi No
大概 dǎi gói Maybe
deg Ok

Like in any culture, words such as “please” and “thank you” are important when speaking to someone in Cantonese. If you are a foreigner in their county or even just beginning learning their language, expressing politeness should always be your top priority to avoid misunderstandings.


How To Say Hello In Cantonese?

Saying hello to someone in Cantonese might not always use the word “hi” or “hello”. Sometimes there are different ways on how to check on someone’s current state of well-being without using that word. Like what is said above, a simple hello might lead you to a deeper conversation, here are different ways on how to say hello in Cantonese.

1. Ask néih hóu ma (你好嗎?)

to know about the person’s state or condition.

This phrase basically means “How are you?” in English. This is just a question but it could actually mean a lot to whom you are talking to. Always remember that to say this in Cantonese, you should lower your pitch on the last word, rather than raising it.

2. Ask sik jor fahn mei ah (食咗飯未呀?)

to know about their well-being.

In English, this literally means that you are asking “Have you eaten yet?” Asking someone if they have already eaten is also a way of greeting someone hello. If the other person answered yes, then you will be glad to know that they are in a good condition and if the other person said no, you might end up having a meal and having a long conversation about your current situation.

Hello In Cantonese

Hong Kong is one of the most beautiful places in the world where you can actually feel genuine happiness. Starting from the famous tourist spots down to the Chinese people that you might encounter. To show your respect as a foreigner, you should at least learn how to speak Cantonese.

Some of the locals might know how to speak English, but it is still better to exert an effort in learning their language even just the basic ones. From there, locals will feel your openness to discover their culture. Greeting someone hello might be a small and easy thing to do but it can actually change the entire day of someone. So if you are planning to learn how to speak Cantonese, start with just a simple hello and work your way up. It will surely lead you somewhere else.


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