Chinese Grammar - Make a Phone Call

Updated: May 16, 2020

How to make a phone call in Mandarin

Learning Highlight

  • Learn how to make a phone call in Mandarin Chinese.

When you are calling or answering a call over phone, what do you say in Mandarin?

You can say “喂, wéi”, it means “Hello”.

However, be careful you should pronounce “喂, wéi” in an up tone. If you pronounce “喂, wéi” in a down tone, it might make your phone-call receiver feels that you’re angry with your receiver.

After your phone call getting connected, you can say: "你在干嘛呢, nǐ zài gàn má ne?" (What are you doing?).

In Mandarin, you can say:


nǐ zài gàn má ne?

What are you doing?

你在干嘛呢, nǐ zài gàn má ne?” is an informal but common way to say ”What are you doing?”

  • “nǐ” means you

  • 在...呢, zài... ne” is a structure used to indicate an action is in progress

  • 干嘛, gàn má” is a verb-object form, literally means “do what”.

How do you respond when a person says, " What are you doing ? ”

You can reply using “在...呢, zài... ne” phase.

A grammatical structure is as follows:

Subject + "在, zài" + verb-object form + "呢, ne"
(主语 ++ 动词宾语词组 +)

In this structure, the Subject can be "我 (I)", "我们 (we)", "他 (he)", etc.

Let’s take more examples. If you are watching TV while receiving a call, you can say


wǒ zài kàn diàn shì ne

If he is making a phone call, you can say


tā zài dǎ diàn huà ne.

If we are eating Chinese food, you can say


wǒ men zài chī zhōng guó cài ne.

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