"Rice"; "Food"; "Meal" in Chinese

Learn the Many Different Ways of Using 飯; (fàn) in Chinese Vocabulary

Chopped Pork Meat Cooked with Red Chili Paste, Gochujang Sauce, over Rice
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饭 (or 飯 in traditional Chinese) is pronounced "fàn" in pinyin. This is the 618th most common character in Chinese and can mean "rice", "food" or "meal." The two latter meanings are the most common in modern Chinese.

Character Breakdown

饭 / 飯 is a semantic-phonetic compound, which means that one part describes its meaning and the other part describes its pronunciation. The character is composed of two parts: 

  • 饣/飠(shí): food; to eat
  • 反 (fǎn): contrary; reverse

饣/飠(shí), which means "food; to eat," is obviously related to the meaning of the word and is also the radical of this character. If you're not sure what the difference is between a radical and another character component, check this article: Chinese character components and radicals.

反 means "contrary; reverse," and is not related to the meaning of the character. Instead, this character component carries information about how it's pronounced. Since this character was created a long time ago, things have changed and the pronunciation is no longer identical. In fact, the tone is different. Still, if you know how to pronounce this component, remembering the pronunciation of the entire character becomes easier (and the other way around).

Common Words Using Fàn

Coupled with another character, 饭 can take on a different meaning. Here are a few examples:

吃饭 (chī fàn): to eat (in general, not "to eat rice")

早饭 (zǎo fàn): breakfast

午饭 ( wǔ fàn): lunch

晚饭 (wǎn fàn): dinner

饭馆 (fàn guǎn): restaurant

米饭 (m ǐ fàn): rice

要饭 (yào fàn): to beg

饭店 (fàn diàn): hotel (typically one that has a restaurant inside)

Sentence Examples Using Fàn

Qǐng gěi wǒ yīwǎn báifàn.
请给我一碗白饭。(traditional Chinese)
請給我一碗白飯。 (simplified Chinese)
Please give me a bowl of white rice.

Nǐ kěyǐ mǎi yī jīn mǐfàn ma?

Can you buy a pound of rice, please?

Wǒ è le! Qù chīfàn ba!
I'm hungry! Let's go eat!

Nǐ mā zuò de fàn tài hào chīle
Your mom's cooking so so good.

Nǐ xiǎng qù nǎ jiā fànguǎn?
Which restaurant do you want to go to?