Free Beginner’s Chinese Course – Lesson 3: Where are you from?

In this lesson we’ll learn how to ask which country someone is from as well as the names of a few countries. Finally we will pull the first three lessons together in a simple conversation where we greet someone, ask for their name and where they’re from.

Lesson Two Review

Before we begin, let’s review Lesson Two.


Chinese has four tones:

  • High Tone is uses a horizontal tone mark: e.g.
  • Rising Tone uses a rising tone mark above the character e.g.
  • Inflected Tone uses a falling and then rising tone mark e.g.
  • Falling tone uses a falling tone mark e,g,

Lesson Two key vocabulary

English Chinese (Pinyin)
I / me
called jiào
surname guìxìng

Lesson Two key phrases

English Chinese (Pinyin)
what’s your name? jiàoshénme
my name is… guìxìng?
my surname is… xìng...

How to ask where someone is from in Chinese

If you’re visiting China, you are likely to be asked which country you’re from. A conversation about which country you’re from would commonly look like this:

nǐ shì nǎ guórén
Which country are you from?

wǒ shì měiguó rén
I am American

Breaking down the first sentence this is:

shì guórén
shì guó rén
you are which nationality

You should already be familiar with , meaning “you”. The word shì means “is” or “are”, the new works to note here are:

  • “which”
  • “nationality” guórén

A few points:

  • “nationality” guórén is comprised of the words “country” guó and “person” rén. This is logical, if you consider that “you are which nationality” and “you are which country-person” both make sense.
  • “which” is a very common words that’s worth memorising, as it’s used in the same way we use “which” in English.

The answer to this is to say “I am <nationality>”, that is:

shì <nationality>
shì <nationality>
I am <nationality>

Here you can substitute your nationality, which is made up of <country name>+ rén, that is American is “America”Měiguó + rén, or literally “America person”. Here are some additional examples of ways to change a country name to a nationality by adding rén

  • China Zhōngguó becomes Chinese Zhōngguórén
  • America Měiguó becomes American Měiguórén
  • Canada Jiā becomes Canadian Jiārén
  • Australia zhōu becomes Australian zhōurén
  • Indian Yìn becomes Indian Yìnrén
  • Britain Yīngguó becomes British Yīngguórén
  • Check out post on Country Names in Chinese for more


This is the key vocabulary and phrases learned in this lesson.

Lesson key vocabulary

English Chinese (Pinyin)
I / me
is / am shì
nationality guórén
person rén
America Měiguó
American Měiguórén
China Zhōngguó
Chinese (national) Zhōngguórén

Lesson key phrases

English Chinese (Pinyin)
what nationality are you? shìguórén?
I am shì...rén

Sample Chinese conversation: hello, what’s your name and where are you from?

If we combine everything we’ve learned so far from the first three lessons, it’s not possible to have a basic conversation

ni hao ma?
How are you?

wo hen hao.
I’m very good/well.

ni ne?
And you?

hen hao.
Very good.

wǒ xìng lǐ. wǒ jiào wěiwěi
My surname is Li, I’m called Weiwei

nǐ guìxìng
What is your surname

wǒ xìng Smith. wǒ jiào John
My surname is Smith, I’m called John

nǐ shì nǎ guórén
Which country are you from? (literally: you are what nationality?)

wǒ shì měiguó rén
I am American

Wrapping it up

In this short lesson we’ve learned how to ask and say our nationality. We’ve also put together a basic conversation based on the first three lessons.

Here is a summary of the key points from this lesson:

  • shì...rén is how you tell someone your nationality
  • xìng is the Chinese word for surname
  • “nationality” guórén is comprised of the words “country” guó and “person” rén
  • Country names commonly end in the character for “country” guó e.g. “American” is Měiguó

Be sure to check out Lesson 4 – Introducing people in Chinese