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.
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Vocabulary to know
Rules of Grammar
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