Last modified on 16 May 2012, at 21:45

Chinese (Mandarin)/Pronunciation of Initials


About Chinese  —  How To Use This Textbook  —  How To Study Chinese  —  Writing in Chinese  —  Pinyin Basics  —  Initials  —  Finals  —  Tones


Lessons: Pron. - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 Search inside this book using Google
Subpages: Examples - Exercises - Stroke Order

Remember, since hearing is very important for learning to speak, audio samples and the voices of native speakers should be your constant companions.

Pronunciation of initialsEdit

Pinyin IPA Explanation Examples
b [p]
unaspirated p, as in spit
帮 bāng, to help
包 bāo, (Chinese) bun
p [pʰ] as in English 炮 pào, gun; cannon
m [m] as in English 马 mǎ, horse
f [f] as in English 风 fēng, wind
d [t]
unaspirated t, as in stand
大 dà, big
刀 dāo, knife
t [tʰ] as in English 头 tóu, head
n [n] as in English 男 nán, male
l [l] as in English 老 lǎo, old
g [k]
unaspirated k, as in skill
格 gé, grid
歌 gē, song
k [kʰ] as in English 看 kàn, to see
h [x]
like the English h if followed by "a"; otherwise it is pronounced more roughly (not unlike the Scots ch)
好 hǎo, good
喝 hē, to drink
画 huà, to draw
j [tɕ]
like q, but unaspirated. (To get this sound, first take the sound halfway between joke and check, and then slowly pass it backwards along the tongue until it is entirely clear of the tongue tip.) While this exact sound is not used in English, the closest match is the j in ajar, not the s in Asia; this means that "Beijing" is pronounced like "bay-jing", not like "beige-ing".
叫 jiào, to call
家 jiā, home, family
近 jìn, close
尖 jiān, sharp
q [tɕʰ] like j above, but with strong aspiration. Similar to church; pass it backwards along the tongue until it is free of the tongue tip 气 qì, air, gas
桥 qiáo, bridge
x [ɕ]
like sh, but take the sound and pass it backwards along the tongue until it is clear of the tongue tip; very similar to the final sound in German ich, Portuguese enxada, luxo, xícara, puxa, and to huge or Hugh in some English dialects
小 xiǎo, little, small
心 xīn, heart
想 xiǎng, to think; to want
zh [tʂ]
ch with no aspiration (take the sound halfway between joke and church and curl it upwards); very similar to merger in American English, but not voiced
长 zhǎng, to grow
中 zhōng, center, middle
重 zhòng, heavy
ch [tʂʰ] Like zh above, but with strong aspiration. Similar to chin, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to nurture in American English, but strongly aspirated 吃 chī, to eat
茶 chá, tea
sh [ʂ]
as in shinbone, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to undershirt in American English
沙 shā, sand
手 shǒu, hand
上 shàng, up, on
r [ɻ]
similar to the English r in rank, but with the lips spread and with the tongue curled upwards
日 rì, sun
热 rè, hot
z [ts] unaspirated c (halfway between beds and bets), (more common example is suds) 紫 zǐ, purple
c [tsʰ] like ts, aspirated (more common example is cats) 草 cǎo, grass
次 cì, time(s)
s [s] as in sun 送 sòng, to send
y [j], [ɥ] as in English. If followed by a u, pronounce it with rounded lips 月 yuè, moon
音 yīn, tone
w [w] as in English 外 wài, outside

About Chinese  —  How To Use This Textbook  —  How To Study Chinese  —  Writing in Chinese  —  Pinyin Basics  —  Initials  —  Finals  —  Tones


Lessons: Pron. - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 Search inside this book using Google
Subpages: Examples - Exercises - Stroke Order