How to Say and Write "You" in Chinese

Understand One of the Most Common Words in the Chinese Language

Character Profile - Ni

From a simple greeting to forming complex sentences, learning the Chinese character for "you" is integral to conversing in Chinese.

Here is a quick explanation on which type of "you" to use depending on the situation, what the character symbolizes, and how to pronounce it. 

Informal, Formal, and Plural 

The informal way to say "you" in Chinese is 你 (nǐ). This form of "you" is casually used to address friends, peers, anyone you have a close relationship with, and typically people who are younger than you.

 

The formal version of "you" is 您 (nín). 您 should be used when addressing elders, respected figures, and persons of higher rank or status.

If you are addressing multiple people at once, "you" in the plural is 你 们 (nǐ men). 

Radicals

The Chinese character 你 is composed of a crown or cover (冖) that goes over 小, which on its own is the word for “small." The left half of the character consists of the radical: 亻. This radical derives from the character 人 (rén) which translates to person or people. Thus, 亻is the person radical which implies that the meaning of the character relates to people.

Pronunciation

你 (nǐ) is in the third tone, which takes on a falling then rising tone. When uttering the syllable, start from a high pitch, go down, and come back up. 

您 (nín) is in the second tone. This is a rising tone, which means you start from a low pitch then go upwards. 

Character Evolution

An earlier form of "you" in Chinese was a pictograph of a balanced load.

This symbol was later simplified to the character 尔. Eventually, the person radical was added. In its current form, 你 could be read as “someone who is balanced, or of equal stature” – meaning “you.”

Mandarin Vocabulary with Nǐ

Now that you know how to write and say "you" in Chinese, it's time to apply your knowledge!

Here are a few examples of common Chinese words and phrases that include 你.

  • 你好 (nǐ hǎo) - Hello
  • 你自己 (nǐ zì jǐ) - Yourself
  • 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) - I love you
  • 迷你 (mí nǐ) - Mini (a phonetic translation)
  • 祝你生日快乐 (zhù nǐ shēngrì kuàilè) - Happy birthday
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Su, Qiu Gui. "How to Say and Write "You" in Chinese." ThoughtCo, Aug. 23, 2017, thoughtco.com/you-ni-chinese-character-profile-2278377. Su, Qiu Gui. (2017, August 23). How to Say and Write "You" in Chinese. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/you-ni-chinese-character-profile-2278377 Su, Qiu Gui. "How to Say and Write "You" in Chinese." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/you-ni-chinese-character-profile-2278377 (accessed May 21, 2018).