How to use hao in Chinese

One of the first things that a beginning student of the Chinese language learns to say is: 你好! (Nǐhǎo! Hello!) The character (hǎo) is made up of (nǚ female) and (zǐ person). 女子 (nǚzǐ) is the Chinese word for women, who are generally perceived as the fairer gender with a kindly disposition and a great capacity to love and nurture.

You will be pleased to know that (hǎo) occurs in many commonly used Chinese words. However, it doesn’t take on the same meaning in all of these words. We can loosely sort these words into three groups.

The following words utilize the standard meaning of the word (hǎo), such as well, good, fine, nice, kind, friendly, easy and in good health.

好好 (hǎohǎo) means nice, nicely, or properly. 好好先生 (hǎohǎoxiānshēng) refers to a goody-goody who doesn’t want to offend anybody.

好意 (hǎoyì)means kindness, good intention, well-intentioned, or with good intentions.

好吃 (hǎochī) means tasty (tastes good).

好过 (hǎoguò) means to have an easy time or to be in easy circumstances. On the other hand, 不好受 (bù hǎoshòu) is to feel uncomfortable or ill at ease.

好处 (hǎochù) is a benefit or an advantage.

好歹 (hǎodǎi) means anyhow, in any case, no matter in good or bad way.

好端端 (hǎoduānduān) is to be in perfectly good condition or good health.

要好 (yàohǎo) is to be on good terms or to be friendly with someone. 相好 (xiānghǎo) means to be on intimate terms. As a noun, this word refers to an intimate friend, a lover or a mistress.

也好 (yěhǎo) could be translated to “may as well” or “okay”, “fine”.

好办 (hǎnbàn) means easy to handle.

好在 (hǎozài) means fortunately or luckily.

The adjective 好走 (hǎo zǒu) can be used to describe an easy route. The sentence, 好走. (Hǎo zǒu.) is commonly uttered to departing guests to wish them a safe walk home.

The following words and phrases contain (hào), pronounced in the fourth tone, which means to like, to love, or to be prone to.

好吃 (hàochī) means to be very fond of foods.

好客 (hàokè) is used to describe people who are hospitable.

好战 (hàozhàn) means to be belligerent (said of a country or nation).

好奇 (hàoqí) means to be curious.

好学 (hǎoxué) means to be studious.

好大喜功 (hàodàxǐgōng) is a phrase describing someone with an excessive craving for greatness, success, or credit.

The following examples shows a few additional ways in which (hǎo) is used in common speech.

好一个 (hǎoyīgè) translates to “what a”. Remember the Chinese folksong “Jasmin Flower”? Please note the difference in the unit of measure used.

Hǎo yī duǒ měilì de mòli huā!
What a beautiful jasmin flower!

As an adverb that means “very” or “quite”, (hǎo) can be used interchangeably with (hěn), such as in 好多 (hǎoduō quite a few, a lot of) and 好高兴 (hǎo gāoxìng awfully happy).

好不容易 (hǎo bù róngyì), or sarcastically, 好容易 (hǎoróngyì), is a way of expressing the sentiment of having accomplished something with great difficulty.

In the following expressions, (hǎo) sort of takes on the meaning of 可以 (kěyǐ may, can).

好比 (hǎobǐ) means for example, to be just like, or can be compared to.

好像 (hǎoxiàng) means to seem like.

只好 (zhǐhǎo) is an adverb that means to have no choice but to.

正好 (zhènghǎo) means just in time, just right, or as it happens.

伸出手来, 我好帮你搽药膏.
Extend your hand, so I may apply the ointment for you.
Shēnchū shǒu lái, wǒ hǎo bāng nǐ chá yàogāo.

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