Hokkien: How Do You Say “Have You Eaten?”

by | Aug 10, 2018 | Hokkien, Hokkien - How Do You Say

Listen to Podcast | Hokkien: How Do You Say “Have You Eaten?”

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New Words

EnglishHokkienOur Romanization
Have you eaten you fill yet?食饱未?
Jiak ba beh?
Have you eaten?食未?
Jiak beh?
Have you eaten?
Are you done with your meal?
Jiak ho beh?

Podcast Transcript | Hokkien: How Do You Say “Have You Eaten?”

Hello everyone, welcome to Hokkien – How Do You Say Podcast on My name is Eugene and in less than 5 minutes, you will learn how to greet people in Hokkien in 3 different ways!

Let’s start!

Listen to these phrases:


食未? and


Do they sound similar to you?

食饱未 means “have you eaten your fill yet”;

食未 means “have you eaten yet”.

The third phrase – 食好未 – has a dual meaning. It means “have you eaten yet” which is similar to 食未, or you can use it to ask if someone is done with their meal.

For example, at a hawker centre, if you are eyeing the seat of someone who looks as though he has finished eating, you can head up to him, and ask 食好未?

You may now be wondering why greetings among Hokkien or Chinese people revolve around food. One story is that in the olden days, there is a lack of food and people did not always have enough to eat. As such, asking about whether somebody has had a meal yet is a good way to show that you care about their well-being.

Now, here’s a growing culture or taboo. In current days, the 2nd and 3rd phrase, namely 食未 and 食好未, are preferred over the first phrase 食饱未. This is because the first phrase – 食饱未 – seems to imply that the subject of your greeting is not affluent enough to eat his or her fill.

Alright, let’s do a recap now. The 3 phrases are:


食未? and


Hope all our listeners learnt something today. In our next post, you will learn 2 more common greeting phrases to greet your family, friends and co-workers!

Thank you for listening in to Hokkien – How Do You Say Podcast on!

Love what you are reading? We’ve got lots more to share during our Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese express workshops. Join us to pick up words and phrases for everyday use in Singapore. More importantly, you can help to keep these languages alive!

Our Philosophy for Learning Hokkien in Singapore

The pronunciation of Hokkien words varies from one region to another. For example, Penang Hokkien sounds different from Taiwanese Hokkien. At, we want to make learning Hokkien fun, easy and practical for daily conversations in Singapore. As such, we think it is important to listen to how Singaporeans speak Hokkien. To do that, we have an ongoing process of collecting audio recordings from at least 100 Hokkien-speaking seniors in Singapore and thereafter based our audio pronunciation on the most commonly-heard version.

In similar nature, rather than trying to figure out which Hokkien romanization system to use (e.g. Pe̍h-ōe-jī or Taiwan Romanization System), we encourage you to form your own phonics, so that you make an association with these Hokkien words in the quickest way possible. To illustrate, the formal romanization of the English word, “eat”, is “chia̍h” in Hokkien. However, in our podcast transcript, you’ll find that we use “jiak”, which we think relates to us better. That said, you may use other romanization (e.g “chiah”, “jia”, etc), as long as it helps you to make sense of what you hear.


  1. Peter McGrath

    Thank you your message regarding learning Hokkien. However, it seems far too advanced for me in as much as I do not understand the written word. Basically, all I want is to have a good Hokkien vocabulary so that I can talk to Hokkien speaking Chinese people. I already know a few words but not enough to hold a conversation. Incidentally, I have written a novel in which one of the main characters is a Singapore born Chinese woman who speaks Hokkien. I use some of the Hokkien words I know but I’m not sure they are correct and this is one of the reasons I want to learn.


      Hi Peter, thanks for the feedback. Our “How Do You Say” series is intended to be a podcast to help English-speakers to learn some basic Hokkien words. As such, you can ignore the written words and focus on the audio clip instead. The transcript is merely an added feature for our listeners or readers who wish to have a visual copy or make notes, while they listen to the podcast.

      Tip: Use the transcript as a supplementary tool for learning. For example, you can pause the audio clip at any time and indicate your own romanization for these Chinese characters in the transcript. To make an association with these words as quickly as possible, we encourage beginners to form their own phonics instead. Alternatively, you can also use our suggested romanization (i.e. found in the New Words table, at the top of each page), based on how it’s commonly heard in Singapore. Such practices may help you to further internalize how these Hokkien words sound.

  2. Peter

    Hello Peter, Don’t know if you will see this as it is 18 months since you posted your message. Interesting that you have written a novel where your character is a Hokkien-speaking Chinese woman.
    I have a work in progress where my main character is a 17-year-old Chinese girl who speaks Hokkien. My Hokkien is very limited as well despite the fact that I have had an association with Singapore for over 50 years.


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