How to Say Good Morning and Good Evening in Chinese

Learn the basic Mandarin Chinese greetings

Daughter's Waking Up Their Father

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After learning to say hello in Mandarin Chinese, the next step is learning to say good evening and good morning. Before diving in, it's important to keep a couple of Chinese phrasings in mind: the character 早 (zǎo) means "early" in Chinese. It is often used in morning greetings. Both 早安 (zǎo ān) and 早上好 (zǎo shang hǎo) mean "good morning." Sometimes, just a quick 早 is a colloquial way of saying good morning.

Good Morning in Mandarin Chinese

There are actually three ways to say "good morning" in Mandarin Chinese. Audio links are indicated with the mark, ► . 

  • ►​zǎo
  • ►​​zǎo ān 早安
  • zǎo shàng hǎo 早上好

The Importance of 早 (Zǎo)

As noted, 早 (zǎo) means “morning.” It is a noun and can also be used by itself as a greeting meaning "good morning." The Chinese character 早 (zǎo) is a composite of two character components: 日 (rì) which means "sun" and 十, an old form of 甲 (jiǎ), which means “first” or “armor.” A literal interpretation of the character 早 (zǎo), therefore, is “first sun.”

The Difference Between 早安 and 早上好

The first character 早 in this section head is explained above. The second character 安 (ān) means "peace." So, the literal translation of 早安 (zǎo ān) is "morning peace."

A more formal way to say "good morning" is 早上好 (zǎo shàng hǎo). Hǎo–好 means "good." On its own, 上 (shàng) means "up" or "upon." But in this case, 早上 (zǎo shàng) is a compound meaning "early morning." So the literal translation of 早上好 (zǎo shàng hǎo) is "early morning good."

Good Evening in Mandarin Chinese

The phrase 晚上好 (wǎn shàng hǎo) means "good evening" in Chinese. The word 晚 is composed of two parts: 日 and 免 (miǎn). As noted previously, 日 means sun, while 免 means "free" or "absolve." Combined, the character represents the concept of being free of the sun. 

Using the same pattern as 早上好 (zǎo shàng hǎo), you can say "good evening" with 晚上好 (wǎn shàng hǎo). The literal translation of 晚上好 (wǎn shàng hǎo) is "evening good."

Unlike 早安 (zǎo ān), 晚安 (wǎn ān) is not usually used as a greeting but rather as a farewell. The phrase means "good night" in the sense of sending people away (in a nice way) or saying the phrase to people before they go to bed. 

Appropriate Times

These greetings should be said at the appropriate time of the day. Morning greetings should be said up to about 10 a.m. Evening greetings are usually said between about 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The standard greeting 你好 (nǐ hǎo) can be used at any time of the day or night.

Tones

The Pinyin Romanization above uses tone marks. Pinyin is a Romanization system used to learn Mandarin. It transcribes the sounds of Mandarin using the Western (Roman) alphabet. Pinyin is most commonly used in Mainland China for teaching school children to read, and it is also widely used in teaching materials designed for Westerners who wish to learn Mandarin.

Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language, which means that the meanings of words depend on which tone they use. There are four tones in Mandarin:

  • First: a level and higher pitch
  • Second: rising, which starts from a lower pitch and ends at a slightly higher pitch
  • Third: a falling-rising sound that starts with at a neutral tone then dips to a lower pitch before ending at a higher pitch
  • Fourth: a falling tone, which starts the syllable at a slightly higher-than-neutral pitch before going quickly and strongly to a downward tone

In Mandarin Chinese, many characters have the same sound, so tones are necessary when speaking to differentiate words from each other.