WuKong Blog / Chinese Phrases / Hao in Chinese: Definition, Translation, Pronunciation, Writing and Usage Example

Hao in Chinese: Definition, Translation, Pronunciation, Writing and Usage Example

The word hao in Chinese (好) is incredibly versatile, with uses ranging from denoting “good” to greeting people. This blog post explores the breadth of meanings and uses of this fundamental Mandarin word.

Hao in Chinese
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Part1. How to Write Hao in Chinese

The character 好 (hǎo) consists of two parts:

女 – the radical, meaning “woman”

子 – meaning “child”

Combined, these parts denote a positive meaning along the lines of “it’s good to have both a wife and child.”

In terms of stroke order, 好 is written:

  1. A horizontal stroke from left to right
  2. A vertical falling stroke
  3. A horizontal stroke from left to right
  4. An enclosing box shape
  5. A vertical falling stroke
  6. A horizontal stroke from left to right

Part2. Pronouncing Hao in Chinese

In pinyin, “hao” is written as “hǎo” and pronounced with a falling then rising tone. Listen to native Mandarin speakers pronounce “hao”.

It sounds similar to the English exclamation “how!”, but with more emphasis on the vowel sound.

Part3. Key Usages of Hao in Chinese

On its own, “hao” (好) translates to the English words “good”, “well”, or “proper.” 

For example:

这件事做得很好。

Zhè jiàn shì zuò de hěn hǎo.

This matter was handled very well.

Pronunciation Audio:

However, hao in Chinese has many extended meanings through different combinations and contexts. Here are some of the most common ways “hao” is used in Chinese:

#1. Greetings

The ubiquitous greeting “nǐ hǎo” (你好) literally means “you good” and wishes goodness upon the person you’re addressing. It’s used to say hello to strangers or nodding acquaintances.

If you know someone’s title, use that title + hǎo as a more formal/polite greeting. 

For example:

老師好。

Lǎoshī hǎo.

Hello Teacher.

Pronunciation Audio:

You can also use “hao” after certain time words like “good morning” or “good evening”:

早上好!

Zǎoshàng hǎo!

Good morning!

Pronunciation Audio:

#2. To Make Suggestions

The sentence endings “hao ma” (好吗) or “hao bu hao” (好不好) translate to “all right?” or “okay?” in English. You can take these questions into statements to gently prompt agreement or confirmation:

我们一起去吧, 好不好?

Wǒmen yìqǐ qù ba, hǎo bù hǎo?

Let’s go together, alright?

Pronunciation Audio:

#3. To Express Ease or Convenience

“Hao” before a verb often denotes that action is easy or convenient to do. For example:

这个字很好学。

Zhège zì hěn hǎo xué.

This character is easy to learn.

Pronunciation Audio:

#4. In Compound Words

Some “hao + verb” combinations have taken on meanings of their own:

好吃 (hǎochī) – tasty, delicious

Pronunciation Audio:

好看 (hǎokàn) – good-looking, pretty

Pronunciation Audio:

#5. To Intensify Adjectives or Verbs

In conversational Chinese, putting “hao” before an adjective or certain verbs strengthens the degree of the term. For example:

外面好冷!

Wàimiàn hǎo lěng!

It’s extremely cold outside!

Pronunciation Audio:

#6. As a Result Complement

After a verb, “hao” can indicate the action is finished or done properly. For example:

学好英语很重要。

Xué hǎo yīngyǔ hěn zhòng yào.

It’s important to master English. (Learn well).

Pronunciation Audio:

In daily speech, “hao” can also be used to:

  • Give permission
  • Express purpose
  • Answer “yes” to requests and invitations

As shown by this wide range of usages, hao in Chinese (好) is an extremely versatile foundational word in Mandarin. Gaining a grasp of its varied meanings and applications is key for Chinese learners.

Part4. Example Sentences Using Hao in Chinese

Example Sentences Using Hao in Chinese

Here are some example sentences illustrating different applications of “hao” (好):

你好吗?我很好,谢谢!

Nǐ hǎo ma? Wǒ hěn hǎo, xièxie!

How are you? I’m very good, thanks!

这件衣服很好看。

Zhè jiàn yīfu hěn hǎokàn.

This clothing item is very good-looking.

我们好走了吗?

Wǒmen hǎo zǒule ma?

Can we go now?

我还没记好那个单词。

Wǒ hái méi jì hǎo nàge dāncí.

I still haven’t memorized that vocabulary word properly.

天气好,我们去郊外走走好不好?

Tiānqì hǎo, wǒmen qù jiāowài zǒuzou hǎo bu hǎo?

The weather is nice. Shall we go for a walk in the suburbs?

As illustrated by these examples, the same Chinese word “hao” (好) can represent a multitude of meanings across various contexts. This versatility makes it an indispensable building block of Mandarin vocabulary.

Part5. How to Write Ni Hao in Chinese Characters

The common Chinese greeting Ni hao in Chinese characters (你好), meaning “hello” or “how are you”, is written in Chinese characters as:

你 – this means “you”

好 – as explored in this article, this character means “good”

So the greeting literally means wishing goodness upon the person you are addressing.

To write out Ni hao in Chinese characters:

你 – The character 你 consists of 人 (person) on the left and 手 (hand) on the right, indicating a person/human.

好 – As covered earlier, the character 好 consists of the radicals for “woman” and “child”, symbolizing the phrase “it’s good to have a wife and child.”

So the full greeting you would use to say hello in Chinese characters is:

你好

This simple two-character phrase nicely illustrates the versatile meaning of “hao” (好) to denote something positive or good.

FAQs about Hao in Chinese

Q1. Why does 好 have so many meanings? Is this typical for Chinese words?

Many Chinese words, especially foundational ones like “hao” that date back thousands of years, have accrued expanded meanings and applications over time. This multiplicity of senses is quite common. In linguistics, such words with diverse context-dependent meanings are known as “polysemous”. English examples would include words like “get”, “take” or “put”.

Q2. How are the uses and placements of 好 different from 很 and 非常 to denote “very”?

While 很 (hěn) and 非常 (fēicháng) can precede adjectives to mean “very”, 好 in this adverbial role is more colloquial and emotive, used in exclamations rather than plain descriptive statements.

Conclusion

The word hao in Chinese (好) is incredibly far-reaching in its breadth of meanings and applications. It can signify anything positive from greetings (你好) to taste (好吃), or emphasize other terms (好大!). Given how fundamental “hao” is for basic communication in Mandarin, learning its varied usages is vital for Chinese language mastery.

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