How to Say “Eat” in Hokkien: Formal and Informal Ways, Tips, and Examples

In this guide, we will explore the various ways to say “eat” in Hokkien, including both formal and informal expressions. Hokkien, also known as Minnan, is a dialect spoken mainly in the southern part of Fujian province in China, as well as in Taiwan, Singapore, and other parts of Southeast Asia. It has several regional variations, but we will focus on the commonly used ones.

Formal Ways to Say “Eat” in Hokkien

When it comes to formal expressions, Hokkien has a set of words that are typically used in polite and formal situations. Here are a few examples:

1. Chia̍h (食)

This is the most common word for “eat” in Hokkien. It is pronounced as “chia̍h” and is used in both formal and informal contexts. For example:

Formal: Jió chia̍h bún-tê (你食飯呢?) – Have you eaten rice?

Informal: Lâng chia̍h běh-bē (人食米) – People eat rice.

2. Chia̍h-pá-bu̍t (食飽)

This expression specifically means “to have eaten enough” or “to be full.” It is used to show politeness and contentment with a meal. Here are some examples:

Formal: Chi̍t-ciōng chia̍h-pá-bu̍t kiàn-liāu, kiàn-iû bōe-cho̍h (這頓食飽緊咧,然後無錯) – This meal is satisfying, and there are no mistakes.

Informal: Lâng m̄-chi̍t-mn̄g chia̍h-pá-bu̍t iōng-lâi (人毋這樣食飽來) – People don’t come after having eaten enough like this.

Informal Ways to Say “Eat” in Hokkien

Informal expressions in Hokkien are often colloquial and can vary across different regions. Below are some commonly used informal ways to say “eat” in Hokkien:

1. Chi̍ak (食飯)

This term is commonly used in casual conversations and is pronounced as “chi̍ak.” It is equivalent to the English word “eat.” Here are a few examples:

Informal: Lâng chi̍ak m̄-tsia̍h běh-bē ē-kha-boeh (人食無講米也可飽) – People can be full without eating rice.

Informal: Chi̍t boé saⁿ-tshiú chi̍ak tshit-khoo (一個星期食七球) – Eat seven meals in a week.

2. Kāi (开)

This word is pronounced as “kāi” and is often used to refer to “having a meal” or “eating.” Here are a couple of examples:

Informal: Chi̍t-pái m̄-tháu kāi-pa̍k (一敗毋收開肚) – Don’t give up after one failure.

Informal: Tuí sī-chō· kāi-mih (返是做嘅開米) – It’s time to eat rice.

Regional Variations

Although Hokkien has some regional variations, the differences in how to say “eat” are not significant. The formal and informal expressions mentioned earlier are generally understood across different Hokkien-speaking regions.

Tips for Learning Hokkien Expressions

If you are interested in learning Hokkien expressions, here are some tips that might help:

1. Practice Speaking

The best way to improve your Hokkien is by practicing speaking. Find language exchange partners or join language meetups to practice with native speakers.

2. Listen to Hokkien Conversations

Expose yourself to authentic Hokkien conversations by listening to podcasts, watching videos, or joining forums where people speak Hokkien.

3. Use Language Learning Apps

Language learning apps like “Learn Hokkien – Drops” or “HelloTalk” can help you practice vocabulary and phrases specific to Hokkien.

4. Immerse Yourself in Hokkien Culture

Explore Hokkien culture, literature, and movies to gain a deeper understanding of the language and its nuances.


Hokkien, or Minnan, offers various ways to express the concept of “eat” in both formal and informal settings. Words like “chia̍h” and “chia̍h-pá-bu̍t” are commonly used in polite and formal situations, while “chi̍ak” and “kāi” are more commonly used in informal conversations. Remember to practice speaking and immerse yourself in Hokkien culture to become more fluent in using these expressions. Enjoy your journey of learning Hokkien, and remember to have fun with it!

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