Expressing Friendship: How to Say Friend in Chinese

Elly Kim9 min
Created: Mar 20, 2024Last updated: Mar 29, 2024
How to Say Friend in Chinese

Walking life’s path alone can feel empty. A friend fills that void with shared joy and common concerns. In China, friendships hold a unique spot in everyday interactions, symbolized by specific terms in their language. If you want to say friend in Chinese, this article will aid you. We’ll go over formal and informal usages, respect rules, and cultural aspects surrounding friendship in China.

Differences between Eastern and Western Notions of Friendship

Friendship is at the heart of many great tales, from ancient myths to modern movies. Yet, its meaning can change across time and place. The contrasting concepts in Eastern and Western cultures serve as a prime example.

In the West, friends often meet in informal situations. They share hobbies, interests, and personal stories. They bond through laughter, tears, and shared experiences. Many believe a friend is someone you trust and feel comfortable with.

The Eastern understanding of friendship varies from this Western model. Specifically, in Chinese culture, it carries additional layers of complexity. Friendship in China tends to be more formal and reserved; it involves duties, respect for rules, and clear boundaries. Knowing how to say friends in Chinese is also essential, as many terms convey various levels of closeness. 

In China, friends often share a long history. It is common for Chinese mates to know one another since childhood or school years. This longevity results in a depth of understanding that strengthens their bond. Here, friendship is not just about mutual likeability but an unspoken bond of loyalty and trust.

In addition, rites and rituals play a governing role in the Chinese perception of friendship. For example, companions usually prioritize respect over personal comfort. They keep formalities in place, even in their daily interactions. Also, there is an emphasis on mutual aid. Friends are expected to help each other in times of need. If one person faces a problem, the other will step in without a second thought.

A Close Bond: How to Say Friend in Chinese

In Chinese, you can refer to a companion in several ways. The choice depends on the type of relationship, situation, or location; each word bears unique emotional shades. We’ll explore these terms next, along with their context of use:

  • 朋友 (Péngyǒu) – Friend

The term that most directly translates to ‘friend’ in Mandarin is 朋友 (Péngyǒu). It can refer to friends of any gender, age, or status. It also applies universally across all settings – whether formal or informal. In conversation, Chinese people use it often to refer to their friends.

我很高兴认识你,我们可以成为好朋友。(Wǒ hěn gāoxìng rènshì nǐ, wǒmen kěyǐ chéngwéi hǎo péngyǒu.) – I’m happy to meet you; we can become good friends.

  • 同学 (Tóngxué) – Classmate

This Chinese word for a friend specifically refers to individuals who study together, either in school or other educational settings. It implies a bond formed through shared learning experiences. Tóngxué can evolve into deeper friendships rooted in the common challenges and achievements of academic life.

我们是高中同学。(Wǒmen shì gāozhōng tóngxué.) – We are high school classmates.

  • 好友 (Hǎoyǒu) – Good friend

Hǎoyǒu signifies a level of friendship deeper than péngyǒu. It’s reserved for mates who share a strong, intimate bond. This term conveys a sense of loyalty and deep connection that withstands the test of time.

他是我的好友,我们互相信赖。(Tā shì wǒ de hǎoyǒu, wǒmen hùxiāng xìnlài.) – He is my good friend; we trust each other.

  • 知己 (Zhījǐ) – Confidant

Zhījǐ goes beyond the general concept of friendship to describe someone who truly understands you, often better than others do. This term is used for friends who can share secrets and personal thoughts without judgment.

在这个世界上,找到一个真正的知己很难。(Zài zhège shìjiè shàng, zhǎodào yīgè zhēnzhèng de zhījǐ hěn nán.) – It’s hard to find a true confidant in this world.

  • 闺蜜 (Guīmì) – Best friend (female)

Guīmì is used among women to describe a best friend in Chinese. It reflects a very close and intimate friendship, similar to that of sisters. This term captures the essence of female bonding and support.

她是我的闺蜜,我们无话不谈。(Tā shì wǒ de guīmì, wǒmen wú huà bù tán.) – She is my best friend; we talk about everything.

  • 挚友 (Zhìyǒu) – Close friend

Zhìyǒu denotes a companion with whom one shares a deep, heartfelt connection. This term for my friend in Chinese is used for those who have been through many of life’s ups and downs together.

他是我一生的挚友。(Tā shì wǒ yīshēng de zhìyǒu.) – He is my close friend for life.

  • 老友 (Lǎoyǒu) – Old Friend

Lǎoyǒu is a term for mates who have known each other for a long time. It suggests longevity and a profound understanding and respect that have developed over the years.

无论多久不见,他始终是我的老友。(Wúlùn duōjiǔ bù jiàn, tā shǐzhōng shì wǒ de lǎoyǒu.) – No matter how long we don’t see each other, he is always my old friend.


Formal Uses: The Matter of Respect When Saying Friend in Chinese Language

In China, respect shapes linguistic choices. The term one uses to refer to a friend can convey formality or intimacy, age, status, or role. Below, we will examine how Chinese speakers adapt the use of this word in formal contexts:

  • 同事 (Tóngshì) – Colleague

This term applies in professional contexts, referring to people you work with. While not necessarily close friends, there is respect and formality in the relationship.

我们是公司的同事。 (Wǒmen shì gōngsī de tóngshì.) – We are colleagues in the company. 

  • 老师 (Lǎoshī) – Teacher

An important figure in Chinese culture, the teacher earns respect and honor. The term can be used to address educators in formal settings and friends who provide guidance and wisdom.

你是我的老师,我从你那儿学到了很多。(Nǐ shì wǒ de lǎoshī, wǒ cóng nǐ nàr xué dào le hěnduō.) – You are my teacher; I have learned a lot from you.

  • 前辈 (Qiánbèi) – Senior/elder

This Chinese word for a friend shows respect for someone older or with more experience. You would use it formally to refer to elders or mentors.

他是我的前辈, 我对他非常尊敬. (Tā shì wǒ de qiánbèi, wǒ duì tā fēicháng zūnjìng.) – He is my senior, I respect him a lot.

  • 义气 (Yìqì) – Righteous friend

This term refers to honorable companions who stand by you in difficult times. In formal settings, it signifies friendships based on shared values and mutual respect.

他为人义气, 是我深深敬仰的朋友 (Tā wéirén yìqì, shì wǒ shēnshēn jìngyǎng de péngyǒu.) – He is a righteous friend whom I deeply admire.

Common Expressions Used Among Friends in Mandarin

Building connections often means mastering shared phrases. In Mandarin, friends use certain expressions to strengthen bonds. Here are a few common terms that reflect kindness and friendly sentiment among peers:

  • 你好吗?(Nǐ hǎo ma?) – How are you?

This phrase reflects care and concern for a friend’s well-being. It indicates that you value their health and happiness.

你好吗,我的朋友?(Nǐ hǎo ma, wǒ de péngyǒu?) – How are you, my friend?

  • 我想你。(Wǒ xiǎng nǐ.) – I miss you.

This expression conveys longing to see or talk to a friend. It shows that you’re thinking about them.

我想你,我的老朋友。(Wǒ xiǎng nǐ, wǒ de lǎo péngyǒu.) – I miss you, my old friend.

  • 谢谢你。(Xièxiè nǐ.) – Thank you.

Gratitude is universal and strengthens bonds. Using this phrase shows your appreciation towards your friend.

谢谢你,帮我了。(Xièxiè nǐ, bāng wǒ le.) – Thank you for helping me.

  • 我祝你幸福。(Wǒ zhù nǐ xìngfú.) – I wish you happiness.

This heartfelt message shows that true friends want the best for each other.

在你生日这天,我祝你幸福。(Zài nǐ shēngrì zhè tiān, wǒ zhù nǐ xìngfú.) – On your birthday, I wish you happiness.

  • 我们永远是朋友。(Wǒmen yǒngyuǎn shì péngyǒu.) – We will always be friends.

This phrase signifies the endurance of a strong friendship over time and change.

不管发生什么,我们永远是朋友。(Bùguǎn fāshēng shénme, wǒmen yǒngyuǎn shì péngyǒu.) – No matter what happens, we will always be friends. 

  • 别担心。(Bié dānxīn.) – Don’t worry.

A way of providing assurance to a friend, showing concern for their worries or troubles.

别担心,我在这儿。(Bié dānxīn, wǒ zài zhè’er.) – Don’t worry, I’m here.

Learn Chinese and Other Languages with Promova

Dive into the world of languages with Promova, your one-stop solution to mastering Chinese, English, German, Spanish, Korean, and other tongues. Our platform offers all the tools you need for effective learning, from guided courses and personalized tutoring to a blog full of enriching content. 

Our guided courses equip you with the tools to tackle language barriers head-on. You receive access to lessons that focus on vocabulary expansion and grammar proficiency. They also provide practical exercises to solidify your understanding of the material. Available on the web and in our mobile app, they allow you to study at your convenience.

For a more tailored learning experience, opt for our 1x1 lessons in English. These sessions connect you with experienced tutors who customize lessons to fit your specific needs, whether in exam preparation or improving conversation skills. Sign up today and enjoy a free trial lesson that offers a glimpse into the personalized attention you can expect.

If collaborative interaction appeals more, our group lessons invite you to engage in discussions with peers. These sessions encourage active participation and provide ample opportunities to practice English in real-life scenarios.

Our platform also hosts a blog – an invaluable tool for broadening language understanding outside traditional lessons. The blog features many topics, from intricate grammar explanations to tips on how to learn Chinese and other tongues.


The concept of friendship varies across cultures. The terms for a friend in the Chinese language carry nuances of respect, trust, and loyalty. Whether you are talking to a longstanding companion or a new acquaintance, the right word can express the depth and nature of your bond. So, learn these Chinese terms and enrich your communication with mates.


How has modernization influenced friendship dynamics in China?

Technology has facilitated maintaining contact and forming new connections. Still, Chinese culture continues to value deep-rooted traditional aspects, such as loyalty and mutual support within friendships.

Are there any specific gifts to give a close Chinese friend?

Yes, popular gifts include tea, silk scarves, and handicrafts. However, cultural nuances must be considered. Clocks symbolize death, while pears represent separation in China, so avoid gifting these items.

Is the concept of brotherhood recognized in Chinese friendships?

Yes, close male friendships in China often reflect elements of brotherhood. The term Xiōngdì, colloquially used among men, signifies a bond that transcends conventional friendship, similar to a familial tie.

Where can I learn Chinese online?

The BBC Languages offers an introductory Mandarin course on its website, featuring videos and interactive exercises. The Open Culture collection also provides a list of free language lessons you can download, including Mandarin Chinese courses from renowned universities. The Chinese language learning app by Promova is also a great tool for learning the tongue. It has a wide range of courses for all skill levels.