Pronunciation

I have had several requests from readers for a guide to help them pronounce Chinese characters in pinyin 拼 音. So, here it is. Because of the computer, I was able to insert the sound after each character to illustrate its pronunciation. Please wait a few moments for the page to load.

Part One: Pronunciation of Consonants which begin a Chinese word

1. b is pronounced abruptly. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/01-ba-father.mp3|titles=01-ba-father]
bà 爸 (father)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/01-ben-run.mp3|titles=01-ben-run]
ben̄ 奔 (run)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/01-bing-pancake.mp3|titles=01-bing-pancake]
bing ̌饼 (pancake)

2. c is pronounced like ts in bits. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/02-cao-grass.mp3|titles=02-cao-grass]
caǒ 草 (grass)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/02-can-meal.mp3|titles=02-can-meal]
can ̄餐 (meal)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/02-cu-vinegar.mp3|titles=02-cu-vinegar]
cù 醋 (vinegar)

3. ch is pronounced like ch in chop. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/03-cha-tea.mp3|titles=03-cha-tea]
chá 茶 (tea)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/03-chang-long.mp3|titles=03-chang-long]
chanǵ 长 (long)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/03-chou-stinky.mp3|titles=03-chou-stinky]
choù 臭 (stinky)

4. g is pronounced abruptly and `hard’ as in go. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/04-ge-older-brother.mp3|titles=04-ge-older-brother]
gē 哥 (older brother)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/04-gen-root.mp3|titles=04-gen-root]
gen ̄根 (root)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/04-guan-official.mp3|titles=04-guan-official]
guan ̄官 (official)

5. q is pronounced ch as in chin. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/05-qi-gas.mp3|titles=05-qi-gas]
qì 气 (gas, vapor, energy)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/05-qian-money.mp3|titles=05-qian-money]
qiań 钱 (money)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/05-qiu-ball.mp3|titles=05-qiu-ball]
qiú 球 (ball)

6. x is pronounced sh as in ship or a hard she with the teeth clenched. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/06-xi-west.mp3|titles=06-xi-west]
xī 西 (west)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/06-xiao-small.mp3|titles=06-xiao-small]
xiaǒ 小 (small)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/06-xue-blood.mp3|titles=06-xue-blood]
xuě 血 (blood)

7. z is pronounced `hard’ as in beds. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/07-zang-dirty.mp3|titles=07-zang-dirty]
zang ̄脏 (dirty)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/07-zao-morning.mp3|titles=07-zao-morning]
zaǒ 早 (morning)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/07-zi-word.mp3|titles=07-zi-word]
zì 字 (word)

8. zh is pronounced j as in jug. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/08-zhan-stand.mp3|titles=08-zhan-stand]
zhaǹ 站 (stand)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/08-zhi-paper.mp3|titles=08-zhi-paper]
zhǐ 纸 (paper)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/08-zhua-claw.mp3|titles=08-zhua-claw]
zhuǎ 爪 (claw)


Part Two: Pronunciation of letters in the middle of a Chinese word

1. ai is pronounced as in aye. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Ai.mp3|titles=Ai]
aì 爱 (love)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Lai.mp3|titles=Lai]
laí 来 (come)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Wai.mp3|titles=Wai]
waì 外 (outside)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Mai.mp3|titles=Mai]
maǐ 买 (buy)

2. an is pronounced two ways:

First way is
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Man.mp3|titles=Man]
maň 满 (full)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Lan.mp3|titles=Lan]
or lań 蓝 (blue)

Second way is
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/03_yan.mp3|titles=03_yan]
yaǹ 燕 (the bird swallow).

3. ang is pronounced ahn as in

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Fang.mp3|titles=Fang]
fang ̄方 (square)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Mang.mp3|titles=Mang]
manǵ 忙 (busy)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Rang.mp3|titles=Rang]
ranǧ 嚷 (shout)

4. ao is pronounced ow as in owl. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Lao.mp3|titles=Lao]
laǒ 老 (old)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Mao.mp3|titles=Mao]
maó 毛 (fur)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Qiao.mp3|titles=Qiao]
qiaó 桥 (bridge).

5. e is pronounced as in her. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Ce.mp3|titles=Ce]
cè 策 (strategy)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/He.mp3|titles=He]
hé 盒 (box)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Re.mp3|titles=Re]
rě 惹 (provoke)

6. ei is pronounced as in eight. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Bei.mp3|titles=Bei]
beì 背 (back)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Lei.mp3|titles=Lei]
leì 累 (tired)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Mei.mp3|titles=Mei]
meǐ 美 (beautiful)

7. en is pronounced as in open. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Ben.mp3|titles=Ben]
ben̄ 奔 (run)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Men.mp3|titles=Men]
meń 门 (door)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Ren.mp3|titles=Ren]
reń 人 (person)

8. eng is pronounced as un. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Cheng.mp3|titles=Cheng]
chenǵ 城 (city)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Deng.mp3|titles=Deng]
deng̀ 凳 (stool)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Feng.mp3|titles=Feng]
fenḡ 疯 (crazy)

9. i is pronounced in three ways:

The first sounds like the word me. Such as
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Li.mp3|titles=Li]
lǐ 里 (mile),
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Mi.mp3|titles=Mi]
mǐ 米 (uncooked rice)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Qi.mp3|titles=Qi]
qì 气 (gas, vapor, energy)

The second way is when i follows c, s, and z. These words sound harder like tzu. Such as
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Ci.mp3|titles=Ci]
cì 刺 (thorn)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Si.mp3|titles=Si]
sī 丝 (silk)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/08_zi.mp3|titles=08_zi]
zì 字 (word)

The third way is when i follows ch, r, sh and zh. These words have an er sound with the tongue curled against the roof of the mouth
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Chi.mp3|titles=Chi]
chī 吃 (eat)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Ri.mp3|titles=Ri]
rì 日 (day)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Shi.mp3|titles=Shi]
shì 事 (business)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/08-zhi-paper.mp3|titles=08-zhi-paper]
zhǐ 纸 (paper)

10. Words ending in a and ia are pronounced like the English words ah or lard. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/La.mp3|titles=La]
là 辣 (spicy)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Fa.mp3|titles=Fa]
fā 发 (expand)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Ma.mp3|titles=Ma]
mǎ 马 (horse)

Words ending in ia have a hint of the i sound. Such as
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Jia.mp3|titles=Jia]
jiā 家 (family)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Xia.mp3|titles=Xia]
xià 夏 (summer)

11. Words ending in ian are pronounced similar to send or yen. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Bian.mp3|titles=Bian]
bian ̄边 (side)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Mian.mp3|titles=Mian]
miaǹ 面 (face)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Xian.mp3|titles=Xian]
xiań 咸 (salty)

12. Words ending in iang are pronounced as in

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Liang.mp3|titles=Liang]
lianǵ 凉 (cool)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Jiang.mp3|titles=Jiang]
jiang ̌奖 (prize),
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Xiang.mp3|titles=Xiang]
xiang ̄香 (fragrant)

13. Words ending in iao are pronounced as in

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Biao.mp3|titles=Biao]
biaǒ 表 (watch)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Miao.mp3|titles=Miao]
miaò 庙 (temple),
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Qiao.mp3|titles=Qiao]
qiaó 桥 (bridge)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/14-xiao.mp3|titles=14-xiao]
xiaǒ 小 (small)

14. Words ending in ie are pronounced as in

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Bie.mp3|titles=Bie]
bié 别 (other)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Jie.mp3|titles=Jie]
jiè 借 (borrow)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Xie.mp3|titles=Xie]
xiě 写 (write)

15. Words ending in iong are pronounced as in

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Qiong.mp3|titles=Qiong]
qionǵ 穷 (poor)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Xiong.mp3|titles=Xiong]
xionḡ 凶 (fierce)

16. Words ending in iu are pronounced as in

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Liu.mp3|titles=Liu]
liú 留 (stay, keep)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Jiu.mp3|titles=Jiu]
jiǔ 酒 (wine)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Qiu.mp3|titles=Qiu]
qiū 秋 (autumn)

17. Words ending in o are pronounced as in more. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Bo.mp3|titles=Bo]
bó 薄 (thin)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Fo.mp3|titles=Fo]
fó 佛 (Buddha)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Mo.mp3|titles=Mo]
mó 魔 (demon)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Po.mp3|titles=Po]
pò 破 (broken)

18. Words ending in ou are pronounced as in dough. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Chou.mp3|titles=Chou]
choú 仇 (enemy)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Dou.mp3|titles=Dou]
doù 豆 (bean),
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Lou.mp3|titles=Lou]
loù 漏 (leak)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Mou.mp3|titles=Mou]
moú 谋 (strategy, plot)

19. Words ending in ong are pronounced as oong. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Long.mp3|titles=Long]
lonǵ 龙 (dragon)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Zhong.mp3|titles=Zhong]
zhonḡ 中 (middle, central)

20. Words ending in u are pronounced in two ways:

First way is to pronounce it like rule. Such as
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Bu.mp3|titles=Bu]
bù 布 (cloth)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Chu.mp3|titles=Chu]
chū 出 (exit)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Mu.mp3|titles=Mu]
mù 目 (eyes)

Following the consonants j, q and x, u is pronounced like the French word tu. Such as
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Ju.mp3|titles=Ju]
jú 橘 (orange)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Qu.mp3|titles=Qu]
qǔ 取 (take)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Xu.mp3|titles=Xu]
xū 需 (need)

21. Words ending in ua are pronounced like wa. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Shua.mp3|titles=Shua]
shuā 刷 (brush, clean)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Zhua.mp3|titles=Zhua]
zhuǎ 爪 (claw)

22. Words ending in uai are pronounced like why. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Guai.mp3|titles=Guai]
guaì 怪 (strange)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Huai.mp3|titles=Huai]
huaì 坏 (bad)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Kuai.mp3|titles=Kuai]
kuaì 快 (quick)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Shuai.mp3|titles=Shuai]
shuaī 摔 (fall)

23. Words ending in uan are pronounced like waan. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Chuan.mp3|titles=Chuan]
chuan ̄穿 (wear)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Duan.mp3|titles=Duan]
duaǹ 断 (broken)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Guan.mp3|titles=Guan]
guan ̄官 (official)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Luan.mp3|titles=Luan]
luaǹ 乱 (chaos)

24. Words ending in uang are pronounced like waang. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Chuang.mp3|titles=Chuang]
chuanḡ 窗 (window)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Huang.mp3|titles=Huang]
huanǵ 黄 (yellow)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Zhuang.mp3|titles=Zhuang]
zhuang ̄装 (install)

25. Words ending in ue are pronounced this way:

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Jue.mp3|titles=Jue]
jué 决 (decide)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Que.mp3|titles=Que]
què 雀 (sparrow)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Xue.mp3|titles=Xue]
xué 学 (learn)

26. Words ending in ui are pronounced like may. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Chui.mp3|titles=Chui]
chuī 吹 (blow)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Shui.mp3|titles=Shui]
shuǐ 水 (water)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Zhui.mp3|titles=Zhui]
zhuī 追 (run after)

27. Words ending in un are pronounced like

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Chun.mp3|titles=Chun]
chun̄ 春 (spring)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Dun.mp3|titles=Dun]
dun̄ 敦 (urge)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Xun.mp3|titles=Xun]
xun̄ 薰 (smoke)

28. Words ending in uo are pronounced similar to war. Such as

[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Duo.mp3|titles=Duo]
duō 多 (numerous)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Guo.mp3|titles=Guo]
guó 国 (country)
[audio:http://chinesecharacteraday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Luo.mp3|titles=Luo]
luò 落 (falling)