Lí hó! - Hello!

It is appropriate to start off the introduction to Min Nan with the common greeting: Lí hó. Below is a dialogue between two people meeting each other for the first time.

The Han characters provided below are for reference and are consistent with the Taiwanese Minnan Recommended Hanzi Usage (台灣閩南語推薦用字) which has been promoted by the government of Taiwan. Individual usage may vary from speaker to speaker based on preference.


Dialogue 1Edit

Simplified Characters Traditional Characters
Jenny: 你好。 Jenny: 你好。
Owen: 你好。 Owen: 妳好。
Jenny: 我叫Jenny。你叫啥物名? Jenny: 我叫Jenny。你叫啥物名?
Owen: 我叫Owen。 Owen: 我叫Owen。
POJ English
Jenny: Lí hó. Jenny: Hello.
Owen: Lí hó. Owen: Hello.
Jenny: Góa kiò Jenny. Lí kiò sím-mih miâ? Jenny: I'm Jenny. What's your name?
Owen: Góa kiò Owen. Owen: I'm Owen.

Dialogue 2Edit

Simplified Characters Traditional Characters
Jeanne: 怹是啥人?­ Jeanne: 怹是啥人?
Owen: 伊是Amy,伊是中国人。伊是Tony,是美国人。 Owen: 伊是Amy,伊是中國人。伊是Tony,是美國人。
Jeanne: 你嘛是美国人是無? Jeanne: 你嘛是美國人是無?
Owen: 毋是,我是英国人。你呢?你是佗位的人? Owen: 毋是,我是英國人。妳呢?妳是佗位的人?
Jeanne: 我是法国人。 Jeanne: 我是法國人。

POJ English
Jeanne: In sī siáⁿ-lâng? Jeanne: Who are they?
Owen: I sī Amy, i sī Tiong-kok-lâng. I sī Tony, sī Bí-kok-lâng. Owen: She is Amy. She's Chinese. He's Tony, an American.
Jeanne: Lí mā-sī Bí-kok-lâng sī-bò·? Jeanne: You are also American, aren't you?
Owen: M̄-sī. Góa sī Eng-kok-lâng. Lí neh? Lí sī tó-ūi ê lâng? Owen: No, I'm British. How about you? Where are you from?
Jeanne: Góa sī Hoat-kok-lâng. Jeanne: I'm French.


Note: Visit this lesson's Stroke Order subpage to see images and animations detailing how to write the following characters. Audio files of the words are linked from the POJ when available. Problems listening? See media help.

Simplified (traditional in parentheses if different) POJ Part of speech English [‍m.‍]
1. (m.=, f.=) (pro) you (singular)
2. (adj) good
3. góa (pro) I, me
4. góan / gún (pro) we, us (not including you)
5. lán (pro) we, us (including you)
6. i (pro) he, him, she, her
7. in (pro) they, them
8. kiò (v) to be named
9. 啥物 sím-mih / siáⁿ-mih (pro) what
10. miâ (n) name
11. (v) to be (am/is/are)
12. 啥人 siáⁿ-lâng / siáng (pro) who, whom
13. () kok (n) country
14. lâng (n) person
15. (adv) also
16. neh (part) (question particle for known context)
17. 佗位 tó-ūi (pro) where
18. 是無 sī-bò· (adv) is it or is it not?

Proper NounsEdit

Simplified (traditional) POJ English
1. 中国 (中國) Tiong-kok China
2. 美国 (美國) Bí-kok America
3. 英国 (英國) Eng-kok Britain
4. 法国 (法國) Hoat-kok France


Basic SentencesEdit

The sentence structure of Min Nan is very similar to that of English in that they both follow the pattern of Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). Unlike many languages, verbs in Min Nan aren't conjugated and noun and adjective endings don't change. They are never affected by things such as time or person.

S + V + O

1. 我叫Amy。

Góa kiò Àiměi.
I'm called Amy.

Sentences using [是]Edit

Sī, the equational verb to be, can be used as the English is or equals. Sī can only be used to equate combinations of nouns, noun phrases, and pronouns. In Min Nan, sī, the "to be" verb, is not used with adjectives, as it is in English, as in, "He is cold."

S + 是 + O


Simplified Characters Traditional Characters
我是中国人。 我是中國人。
Góa sī Tiong-kok-lâng.
I am a Chinese person.

2. 伊是Jenny。

I sī Jenny.
She is Jenny.


Simplified Characters Traditional Characters
怹是英国人。 怹是英國人。
In sī Eng-kok-lâng.
They are English.
Sī is negated when preceded by .

S + m̄ + 是 + O

1. 伊毋是Tony。

I m̄-sī Tony.
He is not Tony.


Simplified Characters Traditional Characters
我毋是美国人。 我毋是美國人。
Góa m̄-sī Bí-kok-lâng.
I am not American.

The question particle sī-bò· [是無]Edit

When used with sī (是), adding the modal particle sī-bò· [是無] to the end of a sentence makes a statement into a question. There is no change in word order as in English. The implication of this type of question is that you are fairly confident that the answer will be as you thought.

The declarative example sentence in #1 is transformed into an interrogative in #2.

1. 伊是Jenny。

I sī Jenny.
She is Jenny.

2. 伊是Jenny是無?

I sī Jenny sī-bò·?
She is Jenny, isn't she?

The question particle ne [呢]Edit

Using the ending modal particle neh [呢] makes a question when the context is already known, similar to saying "How about...?" in English. A common circumstance is when you wish to repeat a question that was just asked for another subject. Simply add neh to the end of the noun or pronoun to ask "How about this".

1. 我叫Tony, 你呢?

Góa kiò Tony, lí neh?
I'm called Tony. How about you?


Simplified Characters Traditional Characters
Amy是中国人, 伊呢? Amy是中國人, 伊呢?
Amy sī Tiong-kok-lâng, i neh?
Amy is Chinese. How about him?

Question wordsEdit

Like particles, question words make statements into questions without changing the order of the sentence. To make one, simply substitute the question word in for the place the subject would be in the answer.

1. 怹是佗位的人?

In sī tó-ūi ê lâng?
Where are they from?


Simplified Characters Traditional Characters
啥人是美国人? 啥人是美國人?
siáⁿ-lâng sī Bí-kok-lâng?
Who is American?

3. 伊是啥人?

I sī siáⁿ-lâng?
Who is she?