How to ask, "What is she like?" in Chinese - 20 Questions to Basic Fluency #18

Last time we took a look at how to say, "What does she look like?" in Chinese.  If you missed that discussion, take some time to go back and check it out.

(see all"20 Questions to Basic Fluency.")

We know from question #17 that she is pretty.  But now we want to know about her personality and we're asking,  "What is she like?" Here is the question and answer:

Tā de xìnggé zěnmeyàng?
What is she like?


Tā hěn yóuhǎo.
She is very friendly.

We first saw the phrase 怎么样(zěnmeyàng) back in question #16, “How are you doing?”  As you can see now, we’re getting a lot of mileage out of it.  It’s useful because it works in a lot of basic patterns.  But perhaps more importantly, it gives your language ability some depth.  You no longer have to simply spell out the details of your life in objects (nouns) and actions (verbs).  Now you can use 怎么样(zěnmeyàng) get to the details about those objects and actions. You can also express your thoughts and opinions.  That’s deep stuff.  This lesson gets you to that next level.  Let’s take a look. 


The character 她(tā) means, “she.” The particle 的(de) has no meaning by itself.  When you combine
的(de) with a person’s name or a pronoun it makes that noun or pronoun possessive.  So
她的(tāde) means, “her.”  Next is the word
性格(xìnggé).  The character
性(xìng) means “character” “disposition” or “temperament.”  The character
格(gé) means “standard” or “style.”  So you can see that together
性格(xìnggé) is pretty close to the English, “personality” “disposition” or “temperament.”  Finally we come back to
怎么样(zěnmeyàng).  We took a detailed look at
怎么样(zěnmeyàng) back in question #16 so you can
go back and check it out if you are curious about the individual characters.  But in this context it is easiest to just translate
怎么样(zěnmeyàng) as “how.”  All together the literal translation is, “Her personality how?”  Now let’s check out the answer. 


The answer gives the information you’d expect (a subject and an adjective to describe it) but Chinese is unique when it comes to adjectives.  We start out with 她(tā) which means “she.”  The next word is 很(hěn) which means “very.”  But what makes Chinese different is that it doesn’t use a form of the word “to be” with adjectives.  For example, in English you might say, “She
is friendly” so you would expect the Chinese translation to be 她是友好(Tā
shì yóuhǎo). THIS IS NOT CORRECT.  Chinese doesn’t use the verb 是(shì) with adjectives in this grammar pattern.  The final word is
友好(yóuhǎo).  The character
友(yóu) means, “friend” or “friendly”and the character
好(hǎo) means, “good” so it is easy to see how
友好(yóuhǎo) matches up with “friendly” in English.    


More Info

You can replace 友好(yóuhǎo)in the answer with anyone of the adjectives below to describe a person’s physical traits.


和气-Héqì – nice, kind

吝啬-Lìnsè – mean

外向-Wàixiàng – outgoing

害羞-Hàixiū – shy

矜持-Jīnchí – reserved

平静-Píngjìng – calm

懒惰-Lǎnduò – lazy

勤奋-Qínfèn – hardworking

聪明-Cōngmíng – smart, clever

笨-Bèn – stupid

严-Yán – strict

随和-Suíhe – easy going

(photo credit Adri H)

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Comment by Shu on May 7, 2012 at 9:06am


It is the same as 她人怎么样? The difference is you add the pronoun zhe4 and the measure word ge5. Zhe4 ge5 can be omitted for it is very clear that we know whom we are talking about.


脾气 means temperament / disposition / bad temper.

You can answer with 她的脾气好。她的脾气不好。

However, usually if we said 她有脾气, it means the person has certain temper.


个性 is similar to 性格.

They all seem OK, depend on what you really want to know about that person. If you want to know about temper then you use pi2 qi4, if you want to know the character and temperament then you can use 个性 or  性格, but if you just want to know the general attribute of a certain person, then
她这个人怎么样?will do.

和善 means harmonious and kind, if a person is harmonious and kind then she or he must be nice and friendly.

Hope that helps:)

Comment by sikora on May 7, 2012 at 8:33am
Thanks Shu! That's great info. I was trying to figure out the best way to say this when I was researching and 性格 seemed to be the most common result, but I like 人 better. It's so much easier! How do these options sound to you:


And what to you think of 和善 as another way to mean friendly?

Comment by Shu on May 7, 2012 at 3:47am

Hi Matt,

Another easy way to ask the same question is: 她人怎么样?

她的性格怎么样? is more specific and it focuses on the temperament of a person only, while 她人怎么样 is more general and common.

As for 她很友好, another way to say is 她很友善。友善 means friendly and kind.

Very fine post, and I can see you made good progress on Chinese learning !!!! Keep up the excellent work.

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