11 Ways of Using 好 (hǎo) in Chinese You’ve GOT to Know (with Examples)

11 Ways of Using 好 (hǎo) in Chinese You've GOT to Know

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:

  • 你是个人。
    Nǐ shì gè hǎo rén.
    You are a good guy.
  • 他的心情很
    Tā de xīnqíng hěn hǎo.
    He’s in a good mood.
  • 上海是个地方。
    Shànghǎi shì gè hǎo dìfang.
    Shanghai is a nice place.
  • 他们对我很
    Tāmen duì wǒ hěn hǎo.
    They are very nice to me.
  • 你中文说得很
    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).

Pattern 

(family name) + title + 好 (hǎo)

  • 叔叔
    Shūshu hǎo!
    Hello, uncle!
  • 陈老师
    Chén lǎoshī hǎo!
    Hello, Teacher Chen!
  • 王总
    Wáng zǒng hǎo!
    Hello, General Manager Wang!
  • 同志们
    Tóngzhì men hǎo!
    Hello, comrades!
  • 首长
    Shǒuzhǎng hǎo!
    Hello, leader!
Use 好 (hǎo) for Greetings

Alternatively, you can add 好 (hǎo) after (certain) time words to greet people on various occasions. For instance,

  • 早上
    Zǎoshang hǎo!
    Good morning!
  • 晚上
    Wǎnshàng hǎo!
    Good evening!
  • 新年
    Xīnnián hǎo!
    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?”.

Pattern

statement + 好吗 (hǎo ma)/好不好 (hǎo bu hǎo)?

  • 晚上我们吃火锅,吗?
    Wǎnshàng wǒmen chī huǒguō, hǎo ma?
    Let’s have hotpot tonight, all right?
  • 让她知道,吗?
    Bié ràng tā zhīdào, hǎo ma?
    Don’t let her know, okay?
  • 明天来我家玩,
    Míngtiān lái wǒ jiā wán, hǎo bu hǎo?
    Come hang out at my place tomorrow, all right?
  • 我们一起去,
    Wǒmen yìqǐ qù, hǎo bu hǎo?
    Let’s go together, okay?

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.

  • 我们一起去,好不好?
    Wǒmen yìqǐ qù, hǎo bu hǎo?
    Let’s go together, (is it) okay?


    Hǎo.
    Yes.

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.

Compare these.

  • 好。
    Hǎo.
    Yes. (emotionless)

  • Hǎo de.
    Yes. (being tender and polite)

  • Hǎo a.
    Sure. (I am happy to)

  • Hǎo ba.
    Okay… (I am reluctant but I compromise)
Use 好 (hǎo) to Say ‘Yes’

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.

For example,

  • 英语很学。
    Yīngyǔ hěn hǎo xué.
    English is easy to learn.

Pattern

好 (hǎo) + verb

Let’s look at some more examples:

  • 这不说。
    Zhè bù hǎo shuō 。
    It’s not easy to say.
  • 办。
    Zhè hǎo bàn.
    It’s easy to do.
  • 老板不当。
    Lǎobǎn bù hǎo dāng.
    It’s not easy to be the boss.
    (literally, the boss is not easy to be)
  • 这个字很写。
    Zhège zì hěn hǎo xiě.
    This character is easy to write.
  • 意大利面非常做。
    Yìdàlì miàn fēicháng hǎo zuò.
    Spaghetti is easy to make.
  • 新手机很用。
    Xīn shǒujī hěn hǎo yòng.
    The new cell phone is easy to use.
  • 以前工作很找。
    Yǐqián gōngzuò hěn hǎo zhǎo.
    In the past, jobs were easy to find.
  • 这个语法点很懂。
    Zhège yǔfǎ diǎn hěn hǎo dǒng.
    This grammar point is easy to understand.
  • 特斯拉很开。
    Tèsīlā hěn hǎo kāi.
    A Tesla is easy to drive.
Use 好 (hǎo) as “easy” in Combination with Verbs

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.

  • 这个菜太好吃了!
    Zhège cài tài hǎochī le!
    This dish is so tasty!
  • 好吃的菜
    hǎochī de cài
    delicious dish

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)

    这白茶真好喝
    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

    我觉得她很好看
    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

    这是谁的歌?好听死了
    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

    有人觉得榴莲的味道很好闻
    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

    你知道附近有什么好玩的地方?
    Nǐ zhīdào fùjìn yǒu shénme hǎowán de dìfang?
    Do you know of any fun place nearby? (“easy/nice to play” place)
Use 好 (hǎo) in Compound Words

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)!”.

Pattern

好 (hǎo) + adjectives

Let’s see some examples!

  • 今天我高兴!
    Jīntiān wǒ hǎo gāoxìng!
    I am so happy today!
  • 那个人奇怪!
    Nàge rén hǎo qíguài!
    That guy is really weird!
  • 外面冷!
    Wàimiàn hǎo lěng!
    It’s so cold outside!
  • 你们的宝宝可爱!
    Nǐmen de bǎobao hǎo kě’ài!
    Your baby is so cute!
  • 这个菜吃!
    Zhège cài hǎo nánchī!
    That dish is really disgusting!

Let’s take it up a notch!

你的中文
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.

这个菜好吃
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.

  • 想睡觉!
    Wǒ hǎo xiǎng shuìjiào!
    I really want to sleep!
  • 喜欢她!
    Wǒ hǎo xǐhuan tā!
    I really like her!
  • 妈妈爱你!
    Māma hǎo ài nǐ!
    Mommy loves you so much!
  • 希望这是假新闻!
    Wǒ hǎo xīwàng zhè shì jiǎ xīnwén!
    I really hope it’s fake news!
  • 能吃!
    Nǐ hǎo néng chī!
    You really can eat! (You ate so much!)
  • 会享受生活!
    Nǐ hǎo huì xiǎngshòu shēnghuó!
    You really know how to enjoy life! 
Use 好 (hǎo) to Intensify Verbs

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.

  • 非常聪明。
    fēicháng cōngmíng.
    He’s extremely smart. (stating a fact)
  • 聪明!
    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.

× 听说他聪明。
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.

√ 听说他非常聪明。
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 its 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.

Pattern

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”).

  • 我们刚吃晚饭。
    Wǒmen gāng chī hǎo wǎnfàn.
    We just finished eating dinner.
  • 去中国的机票我买了。
    Qù Zhōngguó de jīpiào wǒ mǎi hǎo le.
    I have (successfully) completed buying the airline ticket to China.
  • 这本书你看了吗?
    Zhè běn shū nǐ kàn hǎo le ma?
    Have you completed reading this book?
  • 我还没做作业。
    Wǒ hái méi zuò hǎo zuòyè.
    I haven’t completed doing homework.
  • 别进来,我还没穿衣服。
    Bié jìnlái, wǒ hái méi chuān hǎo yīfu.
    Don’t come in, I still haven’t finished putting on clothes.
  • 你想周末去哪儿了吗?
    Nǐ xiǎng hǎo zhōumò qù nǎr le ma?
    Have you managed to think of a place to go for the weekend?
Use 好 (hǎo) as a Result Complement

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.

  • 英文很重要。
    Xué hǎo yīngwén hěn zhòngyào.
    It’s important to master English. (learn well)
  • 家长们,请看你们的小孩。
    Jiāzhǎng men, qǐng kàn hǎo nǐmen de xiǎohái.
    Parents, please watch your children. (look well)
  • 你们听,我只说一遍。
    Nǐmen tīng hǎo, wǒ zhǐ shuō yí biàn.
    Guys, listen to me attentively, I’ll only say it once. (listen well)
  • 你要记我说的话。
    Nǐ yào jì hǎo wǒ shuō de huà.
    Be sure to remember what I said. (remember well)
  • 上次的HSK我没考
    Shàng cì de HSK wǒ méi kǎo hǎo.
    I didn’t do well on my last HSK exam. (examine well)
  • 在学校你要照顾自己,吃,喝,穿
    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) 
好 indicates Action Done 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.

Pattern

verb + 好 (hǎo)

  • 我们走了吗?
    Wǒmen hǎo zǒu le ma?
    Can we go now?
  • 来了。
    Nǐ hǎo lái le.
    You can come now.
  • 这里吸烟吗?
    Zhèli hǎo xīyān ma?
    Can I smoke here?
  • 我们休息一下吗?
    Wǒmen hǎo xiūxi yí xià ma?
    Can we take a break?
  • 你不在这里停车。
    Nǐ bù hǎo zài zhèli tíng chē.
    You can’t park your car here.
Use 好 (hǎo) to Express Permission

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, 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.
  • 我每天很早出门,上班不迟到。
    Wǒ měitiān hěn zǎo chūmén, hǎo shàngbān bù chídào.
    I leave home very early everyday, so that (I) won’t be late for work.
  • 我们走在后面,单独在一起。
    Wǒmen zǒu zài hòumiàn, hǎo dāndú zài yìqǐ.
    We dropped back so as to be alone.
  • 说大点声,让大家听到你。
    Shuō dà diǎn shēng, hǎo ràng dàjiā tīng dào nǐ.
    Speak louder, so that everyone can hear you.
  • 他说话很小声,不打扰到别人。
    Tā shuōhuà hěn xiǎo shēng, hǎo bù dǎrǎo dào biérén.
    He spoke softly so as not to disturb others.
  • 他决定写一本自传,让人们更了解他。
    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.
Use 好 (hǎo) to Express Purpose

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.

  1. Use 好 (hǎo) by itself as ‘good’.
  2. Use 好 (hǎo) to greet people.
  3. Use 好 (hǎo) in a tag question to raise a suggestion or request.
  4. Use 好 (hǎo) to say ‘yes’ along with particles.
  5. Use 好 (hǎo) as “easy” before verbs.
  6. Use 好 (hǎo) in compound words that have meanings on their own.
  7. Use 好 (hǎo) to intensify adjectives.
  8. Use 好 (hǎo) to intensify verbs.
  9. Use 好 (hǎo) as a verb complement to specify the result of an action.
  10. Use 好 (hǎo) to express permission.
  11. 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!