I've been looking at some questions and I found in some of the answers that 你吃了吗 was identified as slang. I would have translated it as "have you eaten?", but I'm not sure since it's slang. I'm learning Mandarin without being in China, so I haven't been able to pick up much slang. What does 你吃了吗?mean? What other slang words are there?


4 Answers 4


What does 你吃了吗?mean?

"Have you eaten?"
The original meaning of this sentence is to confirm the action of eating. For example,
"The time to take medicine has passed. Have you taken it?"
"This cake is very delicious. Did you eat it?"

Nobody knows when it became a greeting. The reason may be something as most people speculate: hunger breeds discontentment. (Foodstuff is all-important to the people.) The most important thing to sustain life is food.

Therefore, the common meanings of this sentence are probably the two above.

What other slang words are there?

Ⅰ. The synonymous greetings of 你吃了嗎?:


  ⒈ 可以不加「你」,因為這句話的主詞很明顯。
  ⒉ 「嗎」可以改用「沒(有)」。
  ⒊ 這些似乎不是俚語,只是一般用語。
  ⒈ We can leave out 你 because the subject of this sentence is obvious.
  ⒉ We can use 沒(有)instead of 嗎.
  ⒊ These do not seem to be slang, but common words.

二、 其他的「打招呼」用語:
Ⅱ. Other greetings:

In addition to 您好, 嗨, 哈囉 and the like, some common greetings are listed below.

  ⒈ 和時間相關的:
  ⒈ Time-related:


    晚安 before bed is not a greeting phrase, of course, when we see somebody.

  ⒉ 和對方動作或外觀相關的:
  ⒉ Relating to their action or appearance:

    ˙ 早上(Morning)

      ˙ 對孩童(To children)

        ˙ 去學校啊?
        ˙ (去)上學啊?
        ˙ Going to school?

      ˙ 對上班族(To (office) workers)

        ˙ 去工作啊?
        ˙ (去)上班啊?
        ˙ Going to work?

      ˙ 對主婦(To housewives)

        ˙ 去市場啊?
        ˙ Going to the market?
        ˙ (去)買菜啊?
        ˙ Going food shopping?

    ˙ 回家時段 (Late afternoon)

      ˙ 放學了啊?
      ˙ Are classes over?
      ˙ Coming back from school?
      ˙ 下班了啊?
      ˙ Getting off work?
      ˙ 回來了啊?
      ˙ Coming back?
      ˙ 累不累啊?
      ˙ Tired?
      ˙ Are you tired?

    ˙ 晚餐後 (Evening)

      ˙ 去散步啊?
      ˙ Taking a walk?
      ˙ 去逛夜市啊?
      ˙ Going to the night market?

    ˙ 過年時 (Chinese New Year)

      ˙ 恭喜!恭喜!
      ˙ Gōng Xĭ! Gōng Xĭ!
      ˙ Congratulations!
      ˙ 去拜年啊?
      ˙ Going to pay New Year's call?

    ˙ 穿著運動服 (Wearing sportswear)

      ˙ (要)去運動啊?
      ˙ Going to exercise?

    ˙ 牽著狗 (Walking with a dog)

      ˙ 遛狗啊?
      ˙ Walking the dog?

    There are many greetings like these.

Ⅲ. Other slang words:

  It's too broad to answer.

Two sentences must be specified.

⒈ 你吃飽了嗎?

  This is a very common sentence in Taiwan. That is, the literal meaning is extended to be a greeting.

  But, it implies "stupid" in mainland China. It does not show this meaning literally. I guess it is because the pronunciations of these two sentences in English are extremely similar.

  你吃飽了嗎?Are you full?
  你很愚蠢嗎?Are you fool?

  So, do not casually say this in mainland China.

⒉ 吃飽了嗎?

  The pronunciation of this sentence is close to a very indecent Korean curse.

  吃飽了嗎 chī bǎo le ma
  ○○○○ xi paer nao ma

  Thus, do not say this to the Koreans.

  • But, it implies "stupid" in mainland China. Can you provide any source for it? As someone from China, I have never heard the impliciation before. If a guest visits a Chinese host and has food over there, after the guest finishes the food, it is the expected norm for the the host to ask "你吃飽了嗎"(are you full), to show the hospitality. Commented May 30, 2021 at 9:40
  • I guess it is because the pronunciations of these two sentences in English are extremely similar. I cannot agree with this. Why would Chinese people be offended by the pronouciation of English translation? It is like saying two Chinese will avoid speaking "那个" with each other because it sounds like N* word in English. Commented May 30, 2021 at 9:41

As I was told by my teacher, it likely goes back to times when people didn't always have enough food. It's a curteous way of showing interest in the other persons wellbeing as well as being a greeting or opening to a conversation.


It's a common way of greeting someone. The literal translation is "have you eaten?" but in reality it's closer to "how are you doing?" or something along those lines. It also takes the forms of 吃了吗? and 吃了没有?.


Just means have you already eaten.

But actuallly, it just means:

你吃了吗? How are you? 吃了, 你呢? Fine, thank you. and you? 我也吃过了。 I'm fine too.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.