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
bà 爸 (father)

ben̄ 奔 (run)

bing ̌饼 (pancake)

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

caǒ 草 (grass)

can ̄餐 (meal)

cù 醋 (vinegar)

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

chá 茶 (tea)

chanǵ 长 (long)

choù 臭 (stinky)

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

gē 哥 (older brother)

gen ̄根 (root)

guan ̄官 (official)

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

qì 气 (gas, vapor, energy)

qiań 钱 (money)

qiú 球 (ball)

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

xī 西 (west)

xiaǒ 小 (small)

xuě 血 (blood)

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

zang ̄脏 (dirty)

zaǒ 早 (morning)

zì 字 (word)

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

zhaǹ 站 (stand)

zhǐ 纸 (paper)

zhuǎ 爪 (claw)


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

1. ai is pronounced as in aye. Such as

aì 爱 (love)

laí 来 (come)

waì 外 (outside)

maǐ 买 (buy)

2. an is pronounced two ways:
First way is

maň 满 (full)

or lań 蓝 (blue)

Second way is

yaǹ 燕 (the bird swallow).

3. ang is pronounced ahn as in

fang ̄方 (square)

manǵ 忙 (busy)

ranǧ 嚷 (shout)

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

laǒ 老 (old)

maó 毛 (fur)

qiaó 桥 (bridge).

5. e is pronounced as in her. Such as

cè 策 (strategy)

hé 盒 (box)

rě 惹 (provoke)

6. ei is pronounced as in eight. Such as

beì 背 (back)

leì 累 (tired)

meǐ 美 (beautiful)

7. en is pronounced as in open. Such as

ben̄ 奔 (run)

meń 门 (door)

reń 人 (person)

8. eng is pronounced as un. Such as

chenǵ 城 (city)

deng̀ 凳 (stool)

fenḡ 疯 (crazy)

9. i is pronounced in three ways:
The first sounds like the word me. Such as

lǐ 里 (mile),

mǐ 米 (uncooked rice)

qì 气 (gas, vapor, energy)

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

cì 刺 (thorn)

sī 丝 (silk)

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

chī 吃 (eat)

rì 日 (day)

shì 事 (business)

zhǐ 纸 (paper)

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

là 辣 (spicy)

fā 发 (expand)

mǎ 马 (horse)Words ending in ia have a hint of the i sound. Such as

jiā 家 (family)

xià 夏 (summer)

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

bian ̄边 (side)

miaǹ 面 (face)

xiań 咸 (salty)

12. Words ending in iang are pronounced as in

lianǵ 凉 (cool)

jiang ̌奖 (prize),

xiang ̄香 (fragrant)

13. Words ending in iao are pronounced as in

biaǒ 表 (watch)

miaò 庙 (temple),

qiaó 桥 (bridge)

xiaǒ 小 (small)

14. Words ending in ie are pronounced as in

bié 别 (other)

jiè 借 (borrow)

xiě 写 (write)

15. Words ending in iong are pronounced as in

qionǵ 穷 (poor)

xionḡ 凶 (fierce)

16. Words ending in iu are pronounced as in

liú 留 (stay, keep)

jiǔ 酒 (wine)

qiū 秋 (autumn)

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

bó 薄 (thin)

fó 佛 (Buddha)

mó 魔 (demon)

pò 破 (broken)

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

choú 仇 (enemy)

doù 豆 (bean),

loù 漏 (leak)

moú 谋 (strategy, plot)

19. Words ending in ong are pronounced as oong. Such as
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lonǵ 龙 (dragon)

zhonḡ 中 (middle, central)

20. Words ending in u are pronounced in two ways:
First way is to pronounce it like rule. Such as

bù 布 (cloth)

chū 出 (exit)

mù 目 (eyes)

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

jú 橘 (orange)

qǔ 取 (take)

xū 需 (need)

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

shuā 刷 (brush, clean)

zhuǎ 爪 (claw)

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

guaì 怪 (strange)

huaì 坏 (bad)

kuaì 快 (quick)

shuaī 摔 (fall)

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

chuan ̄穿 (wear)

duaǹ 断 (broken)

guan ̄官 (official)

luaǹ 乱 (chaos)

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

chuanḡ 窗 (window)

huanǵ 黄 (yellow)

zhuang ̄装 (install)

25. Words ending in ue are pronounced this way:

jué 决 (decide)

què 雀 (sparrow)

xué 学 (learn)

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

chuī 吹 (blow)

shuǐ 水 (water)

zhuī 追 (run after)

27. Words ending in un are pronounced like

chun̄ 春 (spring)

dun̄ 敦 (urge)

xun̄ 薰 (smoke)

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

duō 多 (numerous)

guó 国 (country)

luò 落 (falling)