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Chinese New Year
Photograph: Shutterstock / Boontoom Sae-Kor

Your Chinese New Year greetings cheat sheet

Commit these phrases to memory and watch the ang baos roll in during Chinese New Year

Written by
Time Out Singapore editors
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So you're visiting a friend's/colleague's/relative's house this Chinese New Year and you just can't find the right words to say? Here are ten essentials you should always have in your back pocket – nestled next to all those red packets. And if all else fails, make a beeline to the snack table and feast because that's what the Year of the Tiger is all about.

RECOMMENDED The ultimate guide to Chinese New Year in Singapore and a beginner's guide to Chinese New Year traditions and etiquette

The basics

新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè)
Photograph: Shutterstock/Aslysun

新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè)

Sounds like Sing neean kwai lur.

What it means Happy new year!

When to say it When you first walk through the door and everyone's too busy playing mahjong to realise how basic you're being anyway.

恭喜发财 (gōng xǐ fā cái)
Photograph: Shutterstock / Boontoom Sae-Kor

恭喜发财 (gōng xǐ fā cái)

Sounds like Kong xee far chai.

What it means Wishing you wealth.

When to say it When you want to suck up to your boss even though you already know he's making five times your salary. Tack on 红包拿来 (hóng bāo ná lái) which means 'give me a red envelope' if you're feeling a bit shameless.

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大吉大利 (dà jí dà lì)
Photograph: Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon

大吉大利 (dà jí dà lì)

Sounds like Da jee da lee.

What it means Good luck and may you profit.

When to say it When you go all in during poker and want to make your opponent fold.

年年有馀 (nián nián yǒu yú)
Photograph: Shutterstock/Wong Yu Liang

年年有馀 (nián nián yǒu yú)

Sounds like Neean neean yo yuwee.

What it means May you have an abundant year. 

When to say it When you tuck into a glorious plate of steamed marble goby or pomfret served with salted vegetables. Who wouldn't want to have fish (鱼/yú) every year?

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生意兴隆 (shēng yì xīng lóng)
Photograph: Shutterstock/WSW1985

生意兴隆 (shēng yì xīng lóng)

Sounds like Shun yee sing llong.

What it means May your business flourish.

When to say it When you're talking to a tech bro whose side hustles include bitcoin mining or whatever's cool in crypto these days.

学业进步 (xué yè jìn bù)
Photograph: Shutterstock/Tom Wang

学业进步 (xué yè jìn bù)

Sounds like Shyue yeah jing boo.

What it means May your grades improve.

When to say it When the precocious 11-year-old starts schooling you on how to #staywoke.

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心想事成 (xīn xiǎng shì chéng)
Photograph: Shutterstock/leungchopan

心想事成 (xīn xiǎng shì chéng)

Sounds like Sing hsiang shi chng.

What it means May your heart's wishes come true.

When to say it When you spy a hot girl at the party looking a little forlorn because she didn't have a date on V-day.

四季平安过旺年 (sì jì píng ān guò wàng nián)
Photograph: Shutterstock/Wong Sze Yuen

四季平安过旺年 (sì jì píng ān guò wàng nián)

Sounds like Shi jee ping ahn kuoh wahng neean.

What it means Wishing you a whole year of peace.

When to use it For when you really want to show off – upgrade from your typical four-character idioms to this seven-character one. Everyone will be saying 'wah your Chinese so good ah?' in no time.

For the Year of the Tiger

虎年大吉 (hǔ nián dà jí)
Photograph: Unsplash/Pure Julia

虎年大吉 (hǔ nián dà jí)

Sounds like Who nian da jee. 

What it means Good luck in the Year of the Tiger.

When to say it When you get tired of basic phrases like 新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè) and feel ready to level up your game. 

福虎凌云 (fú hǔ líng yún)
Photograph: Unsplash/Benjamin Raffetseder

福虎凌云 (fú hǔ líng yún)

Sounds like Foo hoo ling yoon. 

What it means Soar into the clouds with the lucky tiger. 

When to say it When you want to throw your relative off with your awesome Mandarin skills before they can ask you, "married already?"

Still clueless about Chinese New Year?

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