问候(wènhòu) “How do you do?”
(Nǐ hăo ma?)
“Are you well?”
Clever as you are, you probably have noticed that it’s very similar to “nǐ hǎo,” and you are about right! The end word 吗 (ma) is a question particle which converts a sentence into a question. By asking 你好吗 (Nǐ hăo ma), you are showing people that you really care about how they are doing. So usually when we greet people like this, we are expecting them to respond with more of the details about their recent lives.
(Nǐ hé XX dōu hăo ma?)
“Are you and your XX well?”
If you are greeting a person with knowledge that he or she has a family or a partner, or you and the person has a mutual friend, you should ask both of them out of courtesy. The word 都 (dōu) means “both.”
吃了吗？(Chī le ma?) 吃饱没？(Chī bǎo méi?)
(even cooler, pronounce it in Taiwanese: tsia̍h pá bô)
“Have you eaten yet?”
If you are not very familiar with Chinese culture, you may find this heart-warming way of greeting very unique. Chinese people LOVE FOOOOOD!! We have an ancient saying: 民以食为天 “To the people, food is heaven. (mín yǐ shí wéi tiān)” AND, please keep in mind that people might continue to talk about food if you ask this question, be prepared to take that!
Photo credit: Andy Morffew via VisualHunt.com / CC BY