Where are you going? (Beginner)

Tom recently moved to Beijing. He is renting an apartment in a Hutong. There are more traditional Chinese neighborhoods, places teeming with life and usually small alleys tucked between or behind other large buildings.Tom is really enjoying living in such an interesting place, but he has a problem: whenever Tom encounters the landlord, the man says to him, “去哪儿呀?(Qù nǎr ya?) Where are you going?.” Tom knows what the question means, and at first he answers in great detail. He says things like, “I’m going to the store to buy food for the weekend,” or “I’m going to a restaurant with some friends.” But as time goes by, and the landlord keeps asking the same question whenever they meet, Tom begins to feel uncomfortable. He gets the feeling that his landlord is trying to keep an eye on him.
In fact, “去哪儿呀? (Qù nǎr ya?)” or “你去哪儿呀? (Nǐ qù nǎr ya?) Where are you going?,” is a traditional way of greeting someone in China. “你 (nǐ)” means you, “去 (qù)” means to go and “哪儿 (nǎr)” means where. Probably the most important word in the question is the modal particle “呀 (ya).” This word at the end of a question shows that somebody cares about you beyond the details of your reply. Similar questions in English are: “All right?” and “What’s up?” You can respond to these questions, but the answer is not really important. It is the same in Chinese. When someone asks “去哪儿呀? (Qù nǎr ya?),” it is best to answer vaguely, such as “出去走走 (chūqù zǒuzou) I’m going for a walk.”, or “出去一下 (chūqù yí xià) I’m just going out.”, or “有事出去一下 (yǒu shì chūqù yí xià) I’m going out; I have something to do.” etc. Westerners, like Tom, may misunderstand this greeting and answer with too much detail.


1.        John, qù nǎr ya?
    Ellie: John,去哪儿呀?

           John. Where are you going?

            Yǒu shì chūqù yí xià.
    John: 有   事   出去   一下。

            I’m going out; I have something to do.
2.                   Lǐ āyí, nǐ qù nǎr ya?
            Emily: 李阿姨,你去哪儿呀?

                      Aunt Lee, where are you going?

                      Chūqu zǒuzou.
    Auntie Wu: 出去     走走。

                      Just going for a walk.
1. If a Chinese person asks you, “去哪儿呀? (Qù nǎr ya?),” what do they mean?
A. They want to know where you are going.
B. They want to show they care about you, but not so much the details of your reply.
C. They don’t care about you.
2.         Nǐ hǎo Andy, qù nǎr ya?
    Mike: 你好 Andy,去哪儿呀?
            Hello, Andy. Where are you going?

    Andy: _______。

A. 谢谢 (Xièxie) Thanks
B. 出去走走 (Chūqu zǒuzou) Just go for a walk
C. 对不起 (Duìbuqǐ) Sorry
Answers to the practice questions: 1. B     2. B

HSK Test
General Chinese (Beginner Level)
General Chinese (Intermediate Level)

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