Open Class Chinese - Daily Mandarin-

Have You Eaten?

At round mealtime, when Chinese people meet, it is common to greet each other by saying, “ 你 吃 了吗 (nǐ chī le ma)? “ (Have you eaten yet?), or the " 你 nǐ ", or "you" is omitted for simplicity in everyday usage.  You need to be familiar to use ” 吃 了 吗? chī le ma ?" as it is most often used between friends, co-workers and neighbors at mealtime. Let us talk about how to use and respond to it as follows.

Listen to conversation

Play the audio track

00:00 / 00:28

小 王 , 你 去 哪 儿 了 ?

xiǎo wánɡ , nǐ qù nǎr le ?

Where did you go, Xiao Wang?

00:00 / 00:03

我 去 吃 饭 了 , 你 吃 了 吗 ?

wǒ qù chī fàn le , nǐ chī le mɑ?

I went to lunch. Have you eaten yet?

00:00 / 00:03

还 没 吃 。

hái méi chī。

No, I haven't.

00:00 / 00:02

你 忙 什 么 呢 ? 怎 么 还 不 去 吃 饭 ?

nǐ mánɡ shén me ne ? zěn me hái bú qù chī fàn ?

What are you up to? How come you are not going to eat?

00:00 / 00:04

没 关 系 , 我 还 不 饿一 会 儿 再 吃 。

méi ɡuān xi , wǒ hái bú è 。 yí huìr zài chī 。

It doesn't matter. I'm not hungry yet. I’ll eat later.

00:00 / 00:05

你 的 工 作 做 完 了 吗 ?

nǐ de ɡōnɡ zuò zuò wán le mɑ ?

Have you finished your work?

00:00 / 00:03

还 没 做 完 。

hái méi zuò wán 。

I haven’t done yet.

00:00 / 00:02

好, 我 们 一 会 儿

hǎo , nà wǒ men yí huìr jiàn !

Ok, see you later then!

00:00 / 00:03

一 会 儿 见 !

yí huìr jiàn !

See you later!

00:00 / 00:02

Vocabulary to know

00:00 / 00:02

还 [ hái ] (adv)

Still, yet

00:00 / 00:03

他 还 没 有 起 床。

tā hái méi yǒu qǐ chuánɡ。

He hasn't got up yet.

00:00 / 00:03

没 (没有) [ méi (méi yǒu) ] (adv)

Not, did not, there is not

00:00 / 00:03

教 室 里 没 有(没)人。

jiào shì lǐ méi yǒu (méi) rén。

There is no one in the classroom..

00:00 / 00:01

什么 [ shén me ] (pron)

What

00:00 / 00:02

那 是 什 么 ?

nà shì shén me ?

What’s that?

00:00 / 00:02

怎么 [ zěn me ] (pron)

How (indicating nature, condition or manner)

00:00 / 00:03

怎 么 打 开 这 个 盒 子 ?

zěn me dǎ kāi zhè ɡe hé zi ?

How do I open this box?

00:00 / 00:03

没关系 [ méi ɡuān xi ]

That is okay, it doesn’t matter

00:00 / 00:04

没 关 系 ,你 又 不 是 故 意 的。

méi ɡuān xi ,nǐ yòu bú shì ɡù yì de。

It doesn’t matter, you didn’t mean it.

00:00 / 00:02

饿 [ è ] (adj)

Hungry

00:00 / 00:02

饿死了!

è sǐ le !

I'm starving!

00:00 / 00:02

一会儿 [ yí huìr ] (n)

A moment

00:00 / 00:03

可 以 等 我 一 会 儿 吗 ?

kě yǐ děng wǒ yí huìr ma ?

Can you wait for a moment?

00:00 / 00:02

再 [ zài ] (adv)

To go

00:00 / 00:03

请 再 说 一 遍 !

qǐnɡ zài shuō yí biàn !

Please say again!

00:00 / 00:02

工作 [ ɡōnɡ zuò ] (v/n)

To work, job

00:00 / 00:02

他 正 在 工 作。

tā zhènɡ zài ɡōnɡ zuò.

He is working now.

Rules of Grammar

Use of "了le " and " 没 méi (没有 méi yǒu) "

  • " 了 le " and "‘没 méi (没 有 méi yǒu) " both can be used in the past tense

  • However, " 了 le " is used after a verb to indicate the action of the verb is completed, and "没 méi (没 有 méi yǒu) " ’is used before a verb to express that someone did not do something or something did not happen.

Example: 

  1. " 听 tīnɡ "  (listen)
      -- Use of " 了 le " after a verb ( 听 tīnɡ ) to show an action is completed, it becomes " 听了tīnɡ le ", means "listened"
    --  Use of " 没 méi " before a verb ( 听 tīnɡ ) to show something did not happen, it becomes "没 有 听 méi yǒu tīnɡ ", means "did not listen".

  2. Similar for "吃 chī "  (eat), we have " 吃 了chī le" (ate) and "没 吃 méi chī " (did not eat).


Use of question words " 什 么 shén me (what) ", " 怎 么 zěn me (how) " and " 哪 儿 nǎr (where) "

  • In English, question words  are always placed in the beginning of a sentence.

  • In contrast, in Mandarin, question words can be placed either in a subject position or in an object position .

Example: 

  • "你 吃 什 么 ? nǐ chī shén me ? " (What do you eat?)

  • "你 怎 么 来 的 ? nǐ zěn me lái de ? " (How did you come here?)

  • "你 去 哪 儿 ? nǐ qù nǎr ?" (Where are you going?)

Write Chinese

没有 [méi yǒu ] (adv)

什么 [ shén me ] (pron)

Extended Learning

1. "你 吃 了 吗 ? nǐ chī le ma?" (Have you eaten?)


"你 吃 了 吗 (nǐ chī le ma)?" literally translates to "Have you eaten?".  The " 你 nǐ ", or "you" is often omitted for simplicity in everyday usage. There are a few allusions behind the origins of this greeting. One of them was that people, in the past, did not have enough food to eat, they often asked about whether someone had taken a meal yet in order to show the good care about their well being.


Like “How are you?” in English, you need to be familiar to use " 吃 了 吗? chī le ma ? " for greeting at mealtime as it is most often used between friends, co-workers and neighbors.


When people ask whether you have eaten or not, you can reply:

(a)    “ 吃 了chī le “ (You have eaten)
(b)    “ 没 吃 méi chī “ (You have not eaten)

Beware that if you respond that you have not eaten, you are often asked to sit and join a meal together. However, as " 吃 了 吗? chī le ma ?" is not an actual invitation for a meal, in Chinese courtesy, you are expected to politely decline the offer.

You can avoid the awkward situation about such an unexpected meal invitation by replying, " 没 呢,这 就 去 méi ne, zhè jiù qù。" (Not yet, I'm going right now), instead of simply responding " 没 吃 méi chī。". Because you are going to eat, your peers do not feel the pressure to request you to sit and offer you food.


2. Common meal names for parts of a day are as follows:


  • Breakfast: 早餐 zǎo cān / 早饭 zǎo fàn

  • Lunch: 午餐 wǔ cān / 午饭 wǔ fàn

  • Dinner:  晚餐 wǎn cān / 晚饭 wǎn fàn

  • Late-night snacks: 宵夜 xiāo yè / 夜宵 yè xiāo

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