Lesson 4: Where are you from?

第四课 你是哪国人?

In this lesson, we will learn how to ask a person’s nationality or where this person is from. In Chinese, the way to ask this question is very easy. All you need to do is to add the word Rén 人 after the country’s name. In order to have a better understanding regarding this, let’s refer to the dialogue below. This dialogue is between Peter, an Australian and Li Xin from Taiwan.


Li Xin:  Hello, Peter?

Peter :   Hello, Li Xin. Where are you from?

Li Xin:  I’m from Taiwan (I’m Taiwanese). How about you?

Peter :   I’m from Australia. (I’m Australian)

LiXin:   Australia is a beautiful country.

Peter:    Thank you. Taiwan is a beautiful country too.

Li Xin:  Are you busy now?

Peter:    No, not really. Why?

Li Xin:  Do you want to go for a cup of coffee?

Peter:    That’s a great idea.


李心                   你好,彼得。

彼得                   你好,李心。你是哪国人?

李心                   我是台湾人。你呢?

彼得                   我是澳洲人。

李心                   澳洲是个美丽的国家。

彼得                   谢谢。台湾也很美丽。

李心                   你现在忙吗?

彼得                   不是很忙。有什么事吗?

李心                   你要去喝杯咖啡吗?

彼得                   好主意。


LǏ Xīn:    Nǐ Haǒ, Bǐ Dé

Bǐ Dé:     Nǐ Haǒ, LǏ Xīn. Nǐ Shì Nǎ Guó Rén?

LǏ Xīn:   Wǒ Shì Taí Wān Rén. Nǐ Ne?

Bǐ Dé:    Wǒ Shì Aò Zhoū Rén.

Lǐ Xīn:   Aò Zhoū Shì Gě Meǐ Lì Dě Guó Jiā

Bǐ Dé:    Xiě Xie. Taǐ Wān Yě Hěn Meǐ Lì.

Lǐ Xīn:   Nǐ Xiàn Zaì Máng Ma?

Bǐ Dé:    Bú Shì Hěn Máng. Yoǔ Shěn Me Shì Ma?

Lǐ Xīn:   Nǐ Yaò Qù Hē Beī Kā Feī Ma?

Bǐ Dé:    Haǒ Zhǔ Yi.


Below is a list of words which we would like to emphasize for this lesson. Further explanation has been provided on each of the words listed in the table so that you can understand how to use them correctly.


Simplified Chinese PinYin English
Haǒ Good, well, ok,to be fond of
Nǎ, Neǐ Which
Shì Yes, is, am, are
Ma Question particle
Ne Question particle




The word Haǒ carries a different meaning when used in different context. Haǒ can mean OK/Alright in a Yes or No question . For example, 你要去吃午餐吗?(Nǐ Yaò Qù Cī Wǔ Cān Ma?) you want to have lunch together? meaning OK/alright. You can say Haǒ De 好的 or just Haǒ.


Haǒ can also mean good as in 这个人很 This person is very good. Over here, the word Haǒ is used as an adjective describing a person. When used as a verb, the word haǒ 好 can be expressed as 我好喜他 (Wǒ Haǒ Xǐ Huan Tā) I like him very much.


Na / Nei


You can pronounce this word as Na / Nei. The difference in pronunciation does not affect the meaning of the word. The word Na means “which / where” as in 你是国人?in the dialogue we have just learned. Na has an indefinite implication. When you are not certain about something, you can ask the question using Na . For example, Where is the book? 书在?(Shū Zaì Na?)



Shì , like the word Haǒ, has different meaning when placed in different context. Shì is yes when you are asking a Yes or No question. This is similar to Haǒ. For example, 你叫玛丽吗?(Nǐ Jiaò Mǎ Lì Ma?) Is your name Mary? You can say Shì meaning Yes. If the answer is no, you can answer by adding Bù 不 in front of the word是 to mean No 不是 (Bù Shì).


When using Shì as a verb, it is placed right after the subject. This is the same as in English. For example, 她我妈妈 (Tā Shì Wǒ Mā Ma   ) She is my mother. The word 她 means she in English. We use the Chinese word 他 when referring to he. And 它 (It)  when talking about things or animals.




Ma is an interrogative particle for question. You will expect a Yes or No answer when asked. In the dialogue above, Li Xin asked Peter whether he is busy. She said你现在忙吗?(Nǐ Xiàn Zaì Máng Ma?). To that, Peter said 不是很忙 (Bú Shì Hěn Máng) No, not really. In the future, when someone ask you a question ending in Ma, be sure to say Yes or No to him/her. You do not need to repeat the whole sentence, you could just say Shì or Bú Shì 不.




Ne and Ma are similar in that they are both particle for question. However, they are not interchangeable. You cannot ask 你现在忙?instead of你现在忙? Ne has a similar meaning as What about? How about? in English. When asked a question ending in Ne , you don’t answer Yes or No. For example, in the dialogue above, Li Xin asked Peter the same question, where are you from? after she told Peter that she is from Taiwan. Peter answered He is Australian 我是澳洲人 (Wǒ Shì Aò Zhoū Rén) rather than Yes Shì or No Bú Shì 不. Please remember that Ne and Ma should be answered differently.


How to say your nationality:


It is super easy to say your nationality in Chinese. As we have explained in the very beginning, all you need to do is to add the word Rén 人 after the name of your country. For example, When you want to say I am an American, you just say 美国人 (Meǐ Guó Rén) in front of your country name 美国 America. Below are some more examples of nationalities you might be interested to know.

韩国人 Korean Hán Guó Rén
新加坡人 Singaporean Xīn Jiā Pō Rén
印尼人 Indonesian Yìn Ní Rén
中国人 Chinese Zhōng Guó Rén
马来西亚人 Malaysian Mǎ Laí Xī Yà Rén

That is all for today. We hope you have enjoyed the lesson and hope to see you at the next lesson.
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