The different replies with 好 hǎo in Chinese

I decided to write this post because I was getting confused with the different ways of using 好 hǎo to reply in Chinese.  

It wasn't so much that I was slow to reply but rather I would say the most recent 好+ word that I had heard as a response and I was not really taking into account the feeling / different uses that each one has.

I selected a few that I hear regularly to cover below and I give my thoughts on how they are used but please correct me or add additional notes in the comments.

好 - hǎo - good / well / proper / good to / easy to / very / so

好 means many things but specifically this post deals with using it as a response to what another person just said.  If I hear 好 as a response to something, I tend to assume it's 'okay, good'. It's acknowledging the situation but focusing more on it being okay or good rather than focusing on agreement with what the person said.


好的 - hǎo de - okay, I agree

Although I am sure it's okay to use 好 and 好的 interchangeably it seems like people tend to use 好的 more when they agree with what someone said. It may not be good or bad but it is 'okay' or 'I agree (with you)'.


好吧 - hǎo ba - 'okay, ugh' or 'okay, fine' or right? okay?

This one is my favorite because I associate with a little kid who doesn't want to do her homework. Parents are harassing the kid to do it and finally she relents and agrees to do it.  You're agreeing but you're not happy about it or it's not the ideal scenario.  好吧 is also used to soften suggestions - You're going to pick up that trash, right?  In that sentence, 好吧 functions like the 'right?' on the statement.


好了 - hǎo le - ready, +吗 ready?

This isn't used as frequently as a response but is still good to know early on. The full way to say ready is 准备好了zhǔn bèi hǎo le but often shortened to just 好了. Similarly if you want to know if something is ready you can just ask 好了吗? hǎo le ma?


好啊 - hǎo a, ā - okay, great

The tone for 啊 makes a difference - á = eh? what? - à = uhm, ah okay, ǎ = surprise or doubt, ā = suprise, positive.  For me it seems like that when you hear 好啊 that it usually is closer to happy agreement or unexpected agreement, which I translate as like 'okay, great!'.  Obviously it depends on how the person says it but generally speaking I found it to be positive.


What do you think?  Am I using these properly or do you have other 好 replies to add in the comments below?


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Comment by Julia Balo on April 11, 2012 at 5:06pm

很有意思 ! 谢谢 :)

Comment by Brandon on April 11, 2012 at 8:12am

Cool, thanks Kevin.

Comment by 凯文 on April 10, 2012 at 10:58pm

great post !  so simple and so useful


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Comment by Thomas Doherty on April 7, 2012 at 9:48pm

When with Cantonese speakers change  hǎo to hoh ... Ni Hao =  Nay Hoh.   They like to hear    Hoh Hoh   as the answer.   Hoh-yeah means OK.  

Comment by jono1001 on December 22, 2011 at 8:30am

Very useful simple explanations. More posts like this one please.

Comment by alf on December 3, 2011 at 6:35pm

Henry.generally speaking,好的 can't be used for 'better'.'better' is a comparative degree,accordingly,you should say ‘比较好' if you want to express 'better' in chinese.

Comment by Henry Chen on December 3, 2011 at 8:05am

could 好的 mean better?

Comment by Brandon on December 2, 2011 at 2:37pm

Thanks @Indira, 不用谢!

@alf thanks for the extra examples. The two different 好了's, including pleading, is really interesting & actually it makes a lot of sense now that you explained it that way.  I have definitely heard that usage before but had not yet made the connection to 'that's enough'. Excellent.

Comment by alf on December 2, 2011 at 1:27pm

Brandon you have understood these words pretty well,好's short for 好的 is often used in casual conversation between acquaintances .好吧's used for reply when someone's at last persuaded(forced) to agree to do sth which he was reluctant to do in the first place.好了 has a different meaning with different a normal tone, it's analogous to "done/ok”.in a pleading tone,it means 'it's enough,don't do(bring up) it again'.it's my comprehension. thanks for sharing. have fun.

Comment by Indira Santos on December 2, 2011 at 8:53am

very good post brandon! 很好! 谢谢!=]

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