Daily Mandarin Lesson: "Where" in Chinese

How to Pronounce and Use 在哪里 Zai Na Li

Zai Nali
Top - Traditional Bottom - Simplified.

The Mandarin question word for "where” is 在哪裡, written in the traditional form, or 在哪里, written in simplified form. The pinyin is "zài nǎ li." This term is particularly useful to know if you are traveling in China and want to learn or ask about new locations to explore. 

Characters

The term for "where" is made up of three characters: 在 (zài) which means "located at," and the two characters 哪裡 / 哪里 (nǎ li) which put together means "where".

Combined, 在哪裡 / 在哪里 (zài nǎ li) literally means, “Where is it located?”

The term 哪裡 / 哪里 (nǎ li) is sometimes used by itself as a single-word question.

Pronunciation

With regards to tone marks, 在 (zài) is in the 4th tone and 哪 (nǎ) is in the 3rd tone. 裡 / 里 is usually pronounced in the 3rd tone (lǐ) but when used as a question word for "where" it takes on an unaccented neutral tone (li). Thus, in terms of tones, 在哪裡 / 在哪里 can also be referred to as zai4 na3 li.

Sentence Examples of Zài Nǎ Li

Wǒ de shū zài nǎ li?
我的書在哪裡? (traditional form)
我的书在哪里? (simplified form)
Where is my book?

Wǒ men zài nǎ li jiàn?
我們在哪裡見? 
我们在哪里见? 
Where are we going to meet?

Yúnnán shěng zài nǎ li?
雲南省哪裡?
云南省在哪里?
Where is Yunnan province?

Shànghǎi zài nǎ li?
上海在哪裡?
上海在哪里?
Where is Shanghai?

Nǐ yào qù nǎlǐ lǚxíng?
你要去哪裡旅行?
你要去哪里旅行?
Where do you want to travel?