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Answering the Phone? Make Sure You Greet Them the Right Way!

May. 4, 2016

When the phone starts to ring, what do you say when you answer? Hi? Hello? What’s up? In China, the most common telephone opener is “喂(wéi),” which is similar to  “Hi!” or “Hello!” It’s a quick way to respond, and it’s easy to remember because it rhymes with “hey.”


Wéi, nín hǎo! Wǒ shì Jennifer.
喂, 您   好! 我  是 Jennifer。
Hello. This is Jennifer speaking.

Wéi, nǐ hǎo, qǐng wèn Jié Kè zài ma?
喂,你  好, 请 问     杰 克  在  吗?
Hello, can I speak to Jack, please?

Actually, when telephones first appeared in China, “喂 (wéi)” wasn’t a greeting at all; it was a way of  finding out whether the other end could hear you. Even our ancestors knew the pain of a weak signal! Many people extend “喂 (wéi)” to “喂,您好 (wéi, nín hǎo).” It’s up to you which format you choose!


Wéi, nǐ néng tīngjiàn wǒ shuōhuà ma?
喂, 你 能      听见    我    说话     吗?
Hello, can you hear me?

Wéi, nǐ hái zài ma? Xìnhào bù hǎo, tīng bú jiàn.
喂,你 还  在 吗?  信号   不   好,听   不  见。
Hello, are you still there? The signal is weak , I can’t hear you.

But you don’t want to use “喂 (wéi)” every time you start a conversation with someone. It’s strictly reserved for talking on the phone. If you say “喂 (wéi)” to someone you meet in person, don’t be surprised if they look at you a little bit funny. Don’t use it for texting either. If you’re texting a friend, you can say “在吗 (zài ma)? Are you there?” or “嗨 (hāi) Hi” is also commonly used among trendy urbanites. And, of course, you can always simply say “你好 (nǐ hǎo)” to open a conversation via text, but it’s a bit formal.


1. How do you say “make a phone call” in Chinese?

A. 打电话 (diànhuà)
B. 接电话 (jiē diànhuà)
C. 挂电话 (guà diànhuà)

2. What’s a formal way to answer the phone?

A. 在吗?(zài ma?)
B. 喂,你好。(wéi, nǐ hǎo.)
C. 吃了吗?(chī le ma?)

See Answer Analysis

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1- А, 2 – В

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