Any old'china hands' out there?

Some time ago,while on a tour of mainland china ,I greeted the government guide,not the tour guide, by saying “ni hao muh”[the spelling is phonetic].

The term is correct,meaning ,roughly,how are you or even g’morning.

The gov’t man told me,quite emphatically, that"we don’t use ‘muh’ anymore in the PRC".

So–just what does "muh’mean.,in and of itself?

Is it some form of subservience?


Let me start by saying I know very little chinese but I have never heard anyone say you should not use “ni hao ma” and i have heard it used often. Nihao is hello, but literally “you good?” and I think the added ma is like an intensifier, something like “you good? how much?”
most often i have seen the first person say “ni hao” and the other person answer “ni hao ma” maybe to avoid the repetition.

I will ask my Chinese friend when I talk to her.

Well, I speak Cantonese (sorta, since I’m American born), and everything in Canto can be directly translated into Mando. In other words, they’re the exact same language, but they’re just different sounds.

Okay, the “ma” is pretty much like a thing you put at the end to emphasize that it’s a question. However, it’s something you put at the end of rhetorical questions. An example of another case would be like “Um hai a ma?”, literally meaning “it’s not, is it?” or more loosely “really??”. (Just ignore the “a” it’s just pretty much a sound put in there to make it flow more.) So anyway, you could just go “um hai?” and it would mean “It’s not?”

“Nei ho ma?(ni hao ma)” is asking “You’re good, right?”. It expresses concern for the person you’re greeting. So anyway, the “ma” is kinda optional, you can just go “nei ho?”, and you’d just be going “You’re good?” They just pretty much shorten it in more casual situations.

Again, I’m not the most reliable source of any type of lingual advice, so anyone who knows Chinese, please go ahead and correct me if I’m wrong. But otherwise, I know enough to get myself around in Hong Kong.

The “ma” ending on a sentence is the same as a question mark. Adding it turns a statement (“Ta qu le.” - “He went.”) into a question (“Ta qu le ma” - “Did he go?”)

For the basic “hello” greeting, the most common form is “Ni hao” - without the “ma” - which basically means the same thing. This is, however, an idiomatic usage and you can’t generalize this to other situations. The “ma” is not generally optional, rhetorical, nor just for emphasis.

This refers to Mandarin Chinese, which is the “official” dialect. May be somewhat different in other dialects.

>> The “ma” is not generally optional, rhetorical, nor just for emphasis

I meant in the case of nihao. Yes, so what it comes down to is that ni hao is the short version of the complete ni hao ma which correctly expresses the question “you good?”

As nihao is so common as a greeting you can leave out the ma and it will still be understood but in normal conversation you cannot leave it out.

So it seems your guide was being obnoxious (or you misunderstood him).

One thing that may be at play here is that one would use the full question “Ni hao ma?” if you were seriously inquiring as to someone’s condition, and expecting them to answer. With the idiomatic “Ni hao” being more common as a greeting, using “Ni hao ma” can give people a sense of a little too much urgency for the situation.

A similar situation in English: When being introduced to someone, most people understand the phrase “How do you do?” as an idiom that does not require a literal response. If, instead, someone asked “Are you OK?” it would leave you with a funny feeling, as if they have some reason for concern that you’re not aware of. But non-native speakers wouldn’t necessarily see the distinction between these two questions.

Still, I’m surprised that you got corrected on this one. “Ni hao ma?” is not strictly incorrect, and usually the Chinese cut non-native speakers a lot of slack. I’ve never gotten anything but warm receptions for my attempts to speak Chinese with them (unlike the French, who will sometimes insist on switching back to English rather than listen to you butcher their language.)

I feel I’ve got he drift now and I’m grateful to one and all for their help.

Just one added note—the ‘government man’ who accompanies tours in mainland China is usually a little[?] arrogant------possibly because he/she,as a party person,has one of the most highly desired jobs among the young folk of the PRC.

After all,it does beat working.

Thanks again to one and all.

Outa here