11 Ways of Using 好 (hǎo) in Chinese You’ve GOT to Know (with Examples)
Are you sure you know how to use “HAO” in Chinese? Think twice. It means so much more than just “good”. In fact, 好 (hǎo) is one of the most versatile words you can find in Chinese. You’ll be surprised to find out that there are altogether 11 ways you can use 好 (hǎo) in everyday life, from greeting your boss to expressing permission and purpose.
In this article, we’ll go into depth on the 11 ways of using 好 (hǎo) in Chinese and guide you through how to understand and use each, with examples!
Let’s dive in!
1. Use 好 (hǎo) by Itself as ‘Good’
Using 好 (hǎo) by itself is very simple as it directly translates to the English words “good”, “nice” or “well”. Here are some basic examples:
Nǐ shì gè hǎo rén.
You are a good guy.
Tā de xīnqíng hěn hǎo.
He’s in a good mood.
Shànghǎi shì gè hǎo dìfang.
Shanghai is a nice place.
Tāmen duì wǒ hěn hǎo.
They are very nice to me.
Nǐ Zhōngwén shuō de hěn hǎo.
You speak Chinese very well.
2. Use 好 (hǎo) for Greetings
You can use 好 (hǎo) as a way of greeting people. You probably knew the phrase “Nihao” long before you started to learn Chinese. “Nihao”, literally meaning “you good”, is used in the sense of “wishing you are good”. It’s mainly used for strangers and nodding acquaintances. If you know the title of the person you’re addressing, then it’s better to greet them by their title plus 好 (hǎo).
(family name) + title + 好 (hǎo)
Chén lǎoshī hǎo!
Hello, Teacher Chen!
Wáng zǒng hǎo!
Hello, General Manager Wang!
Tóngzhì men hǎo!
Alternatively, you can add 好 (hǎo) after (certain) time words to greet people on various occasions. For instance,
Happy new year!
3. Use 好 (hǎo) in a Tag Question for Suggestion & Request
Tag questions are short questions that are tagged to the end of a statement to ask for agreement or confirmation. These aren’t ‘true’ questions – they’re just prompting the listener to agree.
If you have something to suggest, to request, an invitation to send, or an idea to sell, you can simply tag the question “好吗 (hǎo ma)?” or “好不好 (hǎo bu hǎo)?” at the end of the sentence. In English, it’s usually translated as “all right?” or “okay?”.
statement + 好吗 (hǎo ma)/好不好 (hǎo bu hǎo)?
Wǎnshàng wǒmen chī huǒguō, hǎo ma?
Let’s have hotpot tonight, all right?
Míngtiān lái wǒ jiā wán, hǎo bu hǎo?
Come hang out at my place tomorrow, all right?
4. Use 好 (hǎo) to Say ‘Yes’
You can equally use “hao” as “yes” or “okay” in Chinese in response to a suggestion, an invitation, or a request.
Wǒmen yìqǐ qù, hǎo bu hǎo?
Let’s go together, (is it) okay?
Now, a simple 好 (hǎo) could sound a bit stiff and robotic as it does not give any implication of how you feel (you would sound like SIRI). In real life, people often combine 好 (hǎo) with different particles such as 的 (de), 啊 (a), 吧 (ba) to represent their emotions and make the communication natural.
Yes. (being tender and polite)
Sure. (I am happy to)
Okay… (I am reluctant but I compromise)
5. Use 好 (hǎo) as ‘easy’ in Combination with Verbs
While the fundamental meaning of 好 (hǎo) is “good, nice” in Chinese, you can use it before verbs to express “something is easy or convenient to do”.
Yīngyǔ hěn hǎo xué.
English is easy to learn.
好 (hǎo) + verb
Let’s look at some more examples:
Zhè bù hǎo shuō 。
It’s not easy to say.
Zhè hǎo bàn.
It’s easy to do.
Lǎobǎn bù hǎo dāng.
It’s not easy to be the boss.
(literally, the boss is not easy to be)
Zhège zì hěn hǎo xiě.
This character is easy to write.
Yìdàlì miàn fēicháng hǎo zuò.
Spaghetti is easy to make.
Xīn shǒujī hěn hǎo yòng.
The new cell phone is easy to use.
Yǐqián gōngzuò hěn hǎo zhǎo.
In the past, jobs were easy to find.
Zhège yǔfǎ diǎn hěn hǎo dǒng.
This grammar point is easy to understand.
Tèsīlā hěn hǎo kāi.
A Tesla is easy to drive.
You can replace 好 (hǎo) with 容易 (róngyì), the standard word for “easy” in all above examples. 容易 (róngyì) just sounds more formal.
6. Use 好 (hǎo) in Compound Words
Some “好 (hǎo) + verb” combinations appear so often in Chinese that they sort of have become compound words themselves already, with a meaning on their own. (their Pinyin are often written without any space in between)
One of the most outstanding examples would be “好吃 (hǎochī)”. Following the previous pattern, you would probably think that it means “something is easy to eat”, but actually it means it tastes good (therefore “eating it” is easy, or nice).
好hǎo + 吃 chī = 好吃 hǎochī
easy (to) + eat → nice to eat → tasty, delicious
And you use this type of words as adjectives in Chinese.
Zhège cài tài hǎochī le!
This dish is so tasty!
hǎochī de cài
好 (hǎo) can be used in the same way for a few other words (the verbs in these words are mostly related to senses such as “look”, “listen”, “smell” etc). Here are some common examples:
- 好 hǎo + 喝 hē = 好喝 hǎohē
easy (to) + drink → nice to drink → tasty, delicious (describing drinks)
Zhè bái chá zhēn hǎohē!
This white tea is really tasty! (easy/nice to drink)
- 好 hǎo + 看 kàn = 好看 hǎokàn
easy (to) + look at → nice to look at → good-looking, pretty
Wǒ juéde tā hěn hǎokàn.
I think she’s very pretty. (easy/nice to look at)
- 好 hǎo + 听 tīng = 好听 hǎotīng
easy (to) + listen to → nice to listen to → good-sounding, melodious
Zhè shì shéi de gē? Hǎotīng sǐ le!
Whose song is this? Sounds so beautiful! (easy/nice to listen to)
- 好 hǎo + 闻 wén= 好闻 hǎowén
easy (to) + sniff → nice to sniff → good-smelling, fragrant
Yǒu rén juéde liúlián de wèidào hěn hǎowén.
Some people think the smell of durian is very pleasant. (easy/nice to sniff)
- 好 hǎo + 玩 wán = 好玩 hǎowán
easy (to) play → nice to play → fun, interesting
Nǐ zhīdào fùjìn yǒu shénme hǎowán de dìfang?
Do you know of any fun place nearby? (“easy/nice to play” place)
7. Use 好 (hǎo) to Intensify Adjectives
In regular conversational Chinese, people often use 好 (hǎo) to intensify the degree of adjectives. The sentences can be translated as ‘’(subject) is really or so (adjective)!”.
好 (hǎo) + adjectives
Let’s see some examples!
Jīntiān wǒ hǎo gāoxìng!
I am so happy today!
Nàge rén hǎo qíguài!
That guy is really weird!
Wàimiàn hǎo lěng!
It’s so cold outside!
Nǐmen de bǎobao hǎo kě’ài!
Your baby is so cute!
Let’s take it up a notch!
Nǐ de Zhōngwén hǎo hǎo!
Your Chinese is really good!
Don’t be daunted by the double 好 (hǎo)! It’s pretty simple. The first 好 (hǎo) is used to intensify the adjective “good”, which turns out to be 好 (hǎo) as well in Chinese.
Zhège cài hǎo hǎochī!
This dish is so tasty！
Here, the first 好 (hǎo) is used to intensify the adjective “tasty”, which is 好吃 (hǎochī) in Chinese (we just walked you through the origin of the word).
8. Use 好 (hǎo) to Intensify Verbs
Besides adjectives, 好 (hǎo) can also be used before certain psychological verbs related to feelings or emotions (e.g. think, like) as well as some modal verbs (e.g. can, will) to intensify the degree. This is similar to saying “really” or “very much” in English. Again, 好 (hǎo), when used to express exclamation, mainly appears in spoken Chinese.
Wǒ hǎo xiǎng shuìjiào!
I really want to sleep!
Wǒ hǎo xǐhuan tā!
I really like her!
Māma hǎo ài nǐ!
Mommy loves you so much!
Wǒ hǎo xīwàng zhè shì jiǎ xīnwén！
I really hope it’s fake news！
Nǐ hǎo néng chī!
You really can eat! (You ate so much!)
Nǐ hǎo huì xiǎngshòu shēnghuó!
You really know how to enjoy life!
Differences between 很 (hěn), 非常 (fēicháng), 好 (hǎo)
好 (hǎo) conveys a much stronger tone than “很 (hěn)”. It’s at the same intensity level as “非常 (fēicháng)”, which literally means “abnormally” or “extraordinarily”. The difference is that “非常 (fēicháng)” is used for description (just as 很 hěn), while “好 (hǎo)” is used for exclamation. In this sense, it’s very much like the adverb “真 (zhēn)”, only that 好 (hǎo) is more colloquial.
Tā fēicháng cōngmíng.
He’s extremely smart. (stating a fact)
Tā hǎo cōngmíng!
He is so smart! (expressing approbation or admiration)
Note that 好 (hǎo) can only be used to express your own feelings, emotions or opinions. That explains why you can’t use 好 (hǎo) in the following sentence.
Tīngshuō tā hǎo cōngmíng.
Use it for what you think, rather than what you hear!
For plain statements, use 非常 (fēicháng) instead for the same intensity.
Tīngshuō tā fēicháng cōngmíng.
I’ve heard that he is extremely smart.
9. Use 好 (hǎo) as a Result Complement
English speakers use different verbs to distinguish the stage of an action. For instance, to ‘look’ and ‘see’, to ‘listen’ and ‘hear’. In Chinese, result complements can be added to the action verb, to indicate whether the action was done or not, or how well it’s done. In other words, they specify the outcome of the action.
好 (hǎo) is one of the most frequently used result complements in Chinese. It indicates an action is completed, or it’s done well.
verb + 好 (hǎo)
Let’s have a look at each one in turn.
好 (hǎo): Action Completed
This is the most common meaning of 好 (hǎo) when it’s used as a result complement. You can think of it as “finish” or “complete” in English with a connotation of success (similar to “accomplish”).
Wǒmen gāng chī hǎo wǎnfàn.
We just finished eating dinner.
Qù Zhōngguó de jīpiào wǒ mǎi hǎo le.
I have (successfully) completed buying the airline ticket to China.
Zhè běn shū nǐ kàn hǎo le ma?
Have you completed reading this book?
Wǒ hái méi zuò hǎo zuòyè.
I haven’t completed doing homework.
Bié jìnlái, wǒ hái méi chuān hǎo yīfu.
Don’t come in, I still haven’t finished putting on clothes.
Nǐ xiǎng hǎo zhōumò qù nǎr le ma?
Have you managed to think of a place to go for the weekend?
Obviously, these are literal translation, in English, you would say something like “Have you finished the book?”, “I’ve bought the ticket”, “Have you come up with any idea..?”. It’s always important to remember that Chinese grammatical patterns rarely match up exactly with those in other languages.
好 (hǎo): Action Done Well
Alternatively, you can use 好 (hǎo) after the verb to indicate that the action is carried out well or properly.
Xué hǎo yīngwén hěn zhòngyào.
It’s important to master English. (learn well)
Jiāzhǎng men, qǐng kàn hǎo nǐmen de xiǎohái.
Parents, please watch your children. (look well)
Nǐmen tīng hǎo, wǒ zhǐ shuō yí biàn.
Guys, listen to me attentively, I’ll only say it once. (listen well)
Nǐ yào jì hǎo wǒ shuō de huà.
Be sure to remember what I said. (remember well)
Shàng cì de HSK wǒ méi kǎo hǎo.
I didn’t do well on my last HSK exam. (examine well)
Zài xuéxiào nǐ yào zhàogù hǎo zìjǐ, chī hǎo, hē hǎo, chuān hǎo.
Take good care of yourself at school, eat well, drink well, stay warm. (dress well)
Admittedly, it could be a bit challenging to differentiate between “action completed” or “action done well” at the beginning, for instance, “吃好 (chī hǎo)” could mean both “finish eating” and “eat well” depending on the context. But don’t worry, just observe how native speakers use the word on different occasions and you’ll know the ropes quickly.
10. Use 好 (hǎo) to Express Permission
In spoken Chinese, you can use 好 (hǎo) like 可以 (kěyǐ) to ask for or give permission.
verb + 好 (hǎo)
Wǒmen hǎo zǒu le ma?
Can we go now?
Nǐ hǎo lái le.
You can come now.
Zhèli hǎo xīyān ma?
Can I smoke here?
Wǒmen hǎo xiūxi yí xià ma?
Can we take a break?
Nǐ bù hǎo zài zhèli tíng chē.
You can’t park your car here.
11. Use 好 (hǎo) to Express Purpose
Last but not least, you can use 好 (hǎo) to express purpose in Chinese in the sense of “for the sake of” or “for the convenience of”. In English, it’s usually translated as “so that” or “so as to”.
Let’s see some examples!
- 我们早点去吧, 好坐到第一排。
Wǒmen zǎo diǎn qù ba, hǎo zuò dào dì yī pái.
Let’s go early, so that (we can) sit in the first row.
Wǒ měitiān hěn zǎo chūmén, hǎo shàngbān bù chídào.
I leave home very early everyday, so that (I) won’t be late for work.
Wǒmen zǒu zài hòumiàn, hǎo dāndú zài yìqǐ.
We dropped back so as to be alone.
Shuō dà diǎn shēng, hǎo ràng dàjiā tīng dào nǐ.
Speak louder, so that everyone can hear you.
Tā shuōhuà hěn xiǎo shēng, hǎo bù dǎrǎo dào biérén.
He spoke softly so as not to disturb others.
Tā juédìng xiě yì běn zìzhuàn, hǎo ràng rénmen gèng liǎojiě tā.
He decided to write an autobiography, so that people would know him better.
Quick Recap: How to Use 好 (hǎo) in Chinese
好 (hǎo) is truly one of the most versatile words in Mandarin Chinese. There are altogether 11 ways you can use 好 (hǎo) in daily life.
- Use 好 (hǎo) by itself as ‘good’.
- Use 好 (hǎo) to greet people.
- Use 好 (hǎo) in a tag question to raise a suggestion or request.
- Use 好 (hǎo) to say ‘yes’ along with particles.
- Use 好 (hǎo) as “easy” before verbs.
- Use 好 (hǎo) in compound words that have meanings on their own.
- Use 好 (hǎo) to intensify adjectives.
- Use 好 (hǎo) to intensify verbs.
- Use 好 (hǎo) as a verb complement to specify the result of an action.
- Use 好 (hǎo) to express permission.
- Use 好 (hǎo) to express purpose.
All right, that’s everything you need to know about 好 (hǎo) in Chinese! Give it plenty of practice and you’ll be able to use it like a pro!
Don’t forget to check other grammar articles on ImproveMandarin.Com’s Grammar Channel. Remember, grammar is the glue that holds the pieces of language together! 谢谢 (xièxie) for reading this article!