Hong Kongese Greetings

Lesson 2

In this lesson, you will learn more about conversational greetings, different ways of saying “how are you”, how to respond to how are you, the degrees of wellness. Enjoy!

Previously I have talked about the basics of how to greet one another. Now this is where it gets awkward, because usually when you greet someone in their language, if your pronunciation is good, they assume you speak the language. Aiya! The Cantonese lady already started speaking in Cantonese, what do you do? Today I will be talking more about conversational greeting. Meaning, polite and meaningless greeting without getting further into the conversation, just yet.

“How are you?” and how you can respond?

“How are you?” in Cantonese can be expressed in many many ways. The most colloquial phrase used by Hong Kongers is 你食左飯未丫? Literally you ate rice yet? As I have mentioned, food is a big culture in Hong Kong. Other than the fact that we love eating, there’s also a history of famine, or people starving because back in the days people didn’t have a lot of money or because of war or many other reasons.

The phrase, 你食左飯未丫? It is a colloquial way of asking if you are well, healthy and if you have eaten. But not actually asking if you have eaten rice. 食飯 (Literally eating rice) is just a way of saying having a mean. In that case, you can reply, 食左啦! If you have already eaten. If you haven’t, you can say 未丫! Mind you if that person you are speaking with is hospitable, they might invite you for food. Let me repeat: 你食左飯未丫? Literally you ate rice yet?

For yes: you can say: 食左啦! - I have eaten.

For No: 未丫! - I haven’t.

Another way you can say How are you, is quite simple. Previously I have introduced 你好 (Literally translated as You good or hello you) to indicate it is a question, like you good question mark, you add the word 嗎 after 你好, making it 你好嗎? Meaning you good? Or How are you?

嗎 this word has no actually meaning. There are many words like that added to the end of a sentence. Such as earlier 食左啦! And 未丫! Earlier, notice the La and Ah, they really convey no particular meaning, they are there to indicate someone’s mood or whether or not it’s a question.

- 你好嗎? You good? Or How are you?

You might also notice that people who are closer would say something like 你點丫? 點this character, literally means a dot. But don’t take it’s literally meaning here, because it doesn’t make any sense. 點 this word is often used in a question, it indicates according to its context that this sentence is a question. 你點丫? Just means how are you doing? Other times you might hear this word 點, is in for example: 點解? Meaning Why, literally, how do you explain? Or 點算? Meaning what to do? Literally what is the plan?

- 你點丫? How are you doing?

How to respond to How are you?

To respond to these How are you questions, you will need to know some Hong Kongese vocab to express mood.

For good, it’s easy, it’s simply 好 like 你好嗎? You good? Earlier, 好 means good. What about the different degrees of good?

For super good, you can say超好, 勁好 超 means 超級, super, often, the second character is omitted, but you can also include it. 勁 means powerful or amazing, so if you hear someone say, 嘩你好勁丫, it means wow you are so amazing at this.

To express pretty good, you can say: 好好 literally good good. Or you can say唔錯 literally, not bad.

Even more commonly, you can hear Hong Kongers say, Okay la, meaning I am alright. Or like in french comme si comme sa, or in german so so la la. Okay is the english word, and la is what I have mentioned, expressing your mood or emotion. Okay la expresses more of a alright to not so good kind of emotion. Not very often people would say they feel bad, 唔係咁好, meaning literally not so good. But I guess you don’t hear this often, because it is often replaced by Okay la.

Now it’s time for you to throw the ball back and ask them how they are, you would say, 你呢? Literally You question mark. 你 like I have mentioned before means you, and 呢 is to indicate that this is a question.

-你呢? And you?

List of Vocab:

- 你食左飯未丫? - Have you eaten?

(Official pronunciation: 你[nei5]食[sik6]左[jo2]飯[faan6]未[mei6]丫[a1]? I Dummy PY: 你[neigh]食[sick]左[jor]飯[fan]未[may]丫[ah]? )

- 食左啦 or 食左 - I have eaten

(Official pronunciation: 食[sik6]左[jo2]啦[la1] I Dummy PY: 食[sick]左[jor]啦[la] )

- 未丫! Or 未 - I haven’t

(Official pronunciation: 未[mei6]丫[a1] I Dummy PY: 未[may]丫[ah] )

- 你好嗎? - How are you?

(Official pronunciation: 你[nei5]好[hou2]嗎[ma3] I Dummy PY: 你[neigh]好[ho]嗎[ma] )

- 你點丫? - How are you doing?

(Official pronunciation: 你[nei5]點[dim2]丫[a1] I Dummy PY: 你[neigh]點[deem]丫[ah] )

- 好 - good

(Official pronunciation: 好[hou2] I Dummy PY: 好[ho] )

- 超好 - super good

(Official pronunciation: 超[chiu1]好[hou2] I Dummy PY: 超[chew]好[ho] )

- 勁好 - amazingly good

(Official pronunciation: 勁[ging6]好[hou2] I Dummy PY: 勁[ging]好[ho] )

- 好好 - pretty good

(Official pronunciation: 好[hou2] 好[hou2] I Dummy PY: 好[ho] 好[ho] )

- 唔錯 - not bad Okay la - I am alright

(Official pronunciation: 唔[m4]錯[cho3] I Dummy PY: 唔[um]錯[chore] )

- 唔係咁好 - not so good

(Official pronunciation: 唔[m4]係[hai6]咁[gam3]好[hou2] I Dummy PY: 唔[um]係[hi]咁[gum]好[ho] )

- 你呢? And you?

(Official pronunciation: 你[nei5]呢[ne1] I Dummy PY: 你[neigh]呢[ne / le] )