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

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bà 爸 (father)

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ben̄ 奔 (run)

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bing ̌饼 (pancake)

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

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caǒ 草 (grass)

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can ̄餐 (meal)

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cù 醋 (vinegar)

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

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chá 茶 (tea)

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chanǵ 长 (long)

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choù 臭 (stinky)

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

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gē 哥 (older brother)

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gen ̄根 (root)

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guan ̄官 (official)

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

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qì 气 (gas, vapor, energy)

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qiań 钱 (money)

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qiú 球 (ball)

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

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xī 西 (west)

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xiaǒ 小 (small)

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xuě 血 (blood)

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

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zang ̄脏 (dirty)

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zaǒ 早 (morning)

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zì 字 (word)

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

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zhaǹ 站 (stand)

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zhǐ 纸 (paper)

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zhuǎ 爪 (claw)


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

1. ai is pronounced as in aye. Such as

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aì 爱 (love)

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laí 来 (come)

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waì 外 (outside)

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maǐ 买 (buy)

2. an is pronounced two ways:

First way is

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maň 满 (full)

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or lań 蓝 (blue)

Second way is

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yaǹ 燕 (the bird swallow).

3. ang is pronounced ahn as in

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fang ̄方 (square)

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manǵ 忙 (busy)

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ranǧ 嚷 (shout)

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

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laǒ 老 (old)

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maó 毛 (fur)

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qiaó 桥 (bridge).

5. e is pronounced as in her. Such as

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cè 策 (strategy)

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hé 盒 (box)

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rě 惹 (provoke)

6. ei is pronounced as in eight. Such as

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beì 背 (back)

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leì 累 (tired)

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meǐ 美 (beautiful)

7. en is pronounced as in open. Such as

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ben̄ 奔 (run)

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meń 门 (door)

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reń 人 (person)

8. eng is pronounced as un. Such as

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chenǵ 城 (city)

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deng̀ 凳 (stool)

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fenḡ 疯 (crazy)

9. i is pronounced in three ways:

The first sounds like the word me. Such as

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lǐ 里 (mile),

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mǐ 米 (uncooked rice)

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qì 气 (gas, vapor, energy)

The second way is when i follows c, s, and z. These words sound harder like tzu. Such as

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cì 刺 (thorn)

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sī 丝 (silk)

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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

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chī 吃 (eat)

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rì 日 (day)

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shì 事 (business)

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zhǐ 纸 (paper)

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

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là 辣 (spicy)

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fā 发 (expand)

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mǎ 马 (horse)

Words ending in ia have a hint of the i sound. Such as

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jiā 家 (family)

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xià 夏 (summer)

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

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bian ̄边 (side)

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miaǹ 面 (face)

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xiań 咸 (salty)

12. Words ending in iang are pronounced as in

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lianǵ 凉 (cool)

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jiang ̌奖 (prize),

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xiang ̄香 (fragrant)

13. Words ending in iao are pronounced as in

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biaǒ 表 (watch)

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miaò 庙 (temple),

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qiaó 桥 (bridge)

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xiaǒ 小 (small)

14. Words ending in ie are pronounced as in

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bié 别 (other)

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jiè 借 (borrow)

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xiě 写 (write)

15. Words ending in iong are pronounced as in

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qionǵ 穷 (poor)

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xionḡ 凶 (fierce)

16. Words ending in iu are pronounced as in

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liú 留 (stay, keep)

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jiǔ 酒 (wine)

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qiū 秋 (autumn)

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

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bó 薄 (thin)

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fó 佛 (Buddha)

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mó 魔 (demon)

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pò 破 (broken)

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

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choú 仇 (enemy)

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doù 豆 (bean),

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loù 漏 (leak)

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moú 谋 (strategy, plot)

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

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lonǵ 龙 (dragon)

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zhonḡ 中 (middle, central)

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

First way is to pronounce it like rule. Such as

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bù 布 (cloth)

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chū 出 (exit)

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mù 目 (eyes)

Following the consonants j, q and x, u is pronounced like the French word tu. Such as

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jú 橘 (orange)

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qǔ 取 (take)

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xū 需 (need)

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

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shuā 刷 (brush, clean)

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zhuǎ 爪 (claw)

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

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guaì 怪 (strange)

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huaì 坏 (bad)

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kuaì 快 (quick)

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shuaī 摔 (fall)

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

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chuan ̄穿 (wear)

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duaǹ 断 (broken)

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guan ̄官 (official)

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luaǹ 乱 (chaos)

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

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chuanḡ 窗 (window)

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huanǵ 黄 (yellow)

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zhuang ̄装 (install)

25. Words ending in ue are pronounced this way:

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jué 决 (decide)

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què 雀 (sparrow)

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xué 学 (learn)

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

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chuī 吹 (blow)

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shuǐ 水 (water)

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zhuī 追 (run after)

27. Words ending in un are pronounced like

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chun̄ 春 (spring)

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dun̄ 敦 (urge)

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xun̄ 薰 (smoke)

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

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duō 多 (numerous)

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guó 国 (country)

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luò 落 (falling)