Guide: How to Say “Is” in Mandarin

In Mandarin Chinese, the word “is” is an essential part of constructing sentences. Whether you want to express something formally or informally, knowing how to use “is” correctly is crucial. This guide will provide you with tips, examples, and regional variations, if necessary, to help you navigate this concept effectively.

Formal Ways to Say “Is” in Mandarin

When speaking formally in Mandarin, it’s important to use the appropriate vocabulary and phrasing. Here are some formal ways to express “is”:

1. 是 (shì)

The most common and versatile formal word for “is” in Mandarin is “是” (shì). It is used in various contexts to show equivalence or identity between the subject and the predicate. For example:

他是医生 (Tā shì yīshēng) – He is a doctor.

这本书是我的 (Zhè běn shū shì wǒ de) – This book is mine.

2. 在 (zài)

Another formal way to express “is” in Mandarin is through the word “在” (zài). While it primarily means “at” or “in,” it can also be used in certain contexts to indicate existence or location, which implies “is.” For example:

他在家 (Tā zài jiā) – He is at home.

这里有很多人在等 (Zhèlǐ yǒu hěnduō rén zài děng) – There are many people waiting here.

Informal Ways to Say “Is” in Mandarin

In informal situations, Mandarin speakers commonly use different phrasings to express “is.” Here are some informal ways to say “is” in Mandarin:

1. 是 (shì)

Yes, “是” (shì) also applies to informal contexts. However, when used conversationally, it is often shortened to a single character “是” (shì) or even “是的” (shì de). For instance:

他是个好人 (Tā shì gè hǎo rén) – He is a good person.

是的,没错 (Shì de, méi cuò) – Yes, that’s right.

2. 哦 (ó)

In informal Mandarin, people sometimes use the word “哦” (ó) as a filler when responding to statements. Though it does not directly mean “is,” its usage often implies agreement or acknowledgment. For example:

好哦 (Hǎo ó) – Ok, good.

我知道哦 (Wǒ zhīdào ó) – I know, got it.

Regional Variations

Although Mandarin is the standard language in China, it’s worth mentioning regional variations when it comes to saying “is.” Here are a few examples:

1. 是唔是 (sì m zhō sì)

In Cantonese, a dialect spoken in parts of southern China and Hong Kong, “是唔是” (sì m zhō sì) can be used informally to ask if something “is” or “isn’t” true:

佢係唔係真嘅?(Kéui hāi m̀h hāi jān ge?) – Is he really?


Mastering the various ways to say “is” in Mandarin, whether formally or informally, is essential for effective communication. Remember to use “是” (shì) for formal contexts, and feel free to use shortened versions like “是” (shì) or “是的” (shì de) in informal situations. Additionally, be aware of regional variations like “是唔是” (sì m zhō sì) in Cantonese when needed. Practice using these phrases in your daily conversations, and you’ll soon become more confident in expressing “is” in Mandarin Chinese.

Written by Alan Leo

Hi there, I'm Alan, your friendly language enthusiast! As you can probably tell from the posts I've authored, I'm a real whizz at Mandarin. I have a knack for breaking down complex language elements into easy-to-understand guides (互动的指南). When I'm not learning new ways to say words like "coffee" (咖啡) or "Bullies" (欺负人的人) in Mandarin, I love to spend my free time kayaking, drinking (yes, you guessed it) coffee and searching for the perfect dumpling (饺子). Trust me, once you embrace the beauty of Mandarin, you'd say it's 真棒 (awesome)! So, ready to learn Mandarin the fun way? Let's get started!

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