How to Pronounce and Use 'Where' in Chinese

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. 


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.


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 zai na 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?
Where are we going to meet?

Yúnnán shěng zài nǎ li?
Where is Yunnan province?

Shànghǎi zài nǎ li?
Where is Shanghai?

Nǐ yào qù nǎlǐ lǚxíng?
Where do you want to travel?

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Su, Qiu Gui. "How to Pronounce and Use 'Where' in Chinese." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Su, Qiu Gui. (2023, April 5). How to Pronounce and Use 'Where' in Chinese. Retrieved from Su, Qiu Gui. "How to Pronounce and Use 'Where' in Chinese." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).