Written vs Spoken Cantonese

As most of you already knew, spoken Cantonese is quite different than written Cantonese, which is very similar to Chinese (Mandarin).
The written Chinese used is the same everywhere (Mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan). This is called Standard Chinese.

Written Standard Chinese was largely formalised after Classical Chinese fell out of official use in the early 1900s, and was based on spoken Mandarin. Therefore, when one ‘writes in Chinese’, Mandarin speakers write as they speak, Cantonese speakers do not.

It is important to clarify the meanings of “Chinese”, “Cantonese” and “Mandarin”:
“Chinese” is 中文; 文 means “writing”.
“Cantonese” is 廣東話; 話 means “speech”.
“Mandarin” is 普通話; 話 means “”speech”.

In Hong Kong, Standard Chinese writing is used in all settings eg. signs, books, newspapers, websites, magazines, shops… So do not neglect standard written chinese! It is crucial to improve cantonese listening. It’s best to know both spoken cantonese and written chinese to really progress in cantonese. In formal written documents, Cantonese and Mandarin are the same. In fact, it’s required that all government documents in Hong Kong be written in formal Chinese, meaning it’s the same as Mandarin, and not colloquial Cantonese.

You will never see spoken Cantonese written down unless in the most informal, ‘chatty’ settings (eg. internet chat forums/gossip websites, gossip magazines, Facebook etc.), and educational purpose. For example:

Wikipedia’s articles on Beethoven Chinese
Cantonese

Other references: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Written_Cantonese

The way cantonese and mandarin is written is very similar when ignoring slang words and particles. Most cantonese/mandarin only words have a one to one correlation, following are some of the most common examples:

English Written Spoken sample sentence (Eng) sample sentence (written) sample sentence (spoken)
-’s (possessive particle)
dik1

ge3
my youth 我的童年
ngo5 dik1 tung4 nin4
我嘅童年
ngo5 ge3 tung4 nin4
also; moreover; still
waan4

zung6
three more hours 還有三個小時
waan4 jau5 saam1 go3 siu2 si4
仲有三個鐘
zung6 jau5 saam1 go3 zung1
don’t 不要
bat1 jiu3
唔好
m4 hou2
Don’t move 不要動
bat1 jiu3 dung6
唔好郁
m4 hou2 juk1
he / she / it (animal) / it (inanimate object) 他/她/牠/它
taa1

keoi5
she waited for a long time 她等了很久
taa1 dang2 liu5 han2 gau2
佢等咗好耐
keoi5 dang2 zo2 hou2 noi6
how 怎麼
zam2 mo1

dim2
How to use this? 這個怎麼用?
ze2 go3 zam2 mo1 jung6
呢個點用?
ni1 go3 dim2 jung6
now 現在
jin6 zoi6
而家
ji4 gaa1
go to cinema now 現在去戲院
jin6 zoi6 heoi3 hei3 jyun2
而家去戲院
ji4 gaa1 heoi3 hei3 jyun2
this
ze2

ni1
How to use this? 這個怎麼用?
ze2 go3 zam2 mo1 jung6
呢個點用?
ni1 go3 dim2 jung6
to be
si6

hai6
Who is she? 她是誰?
taa1 si6 seoi4
佢係邊個?
keoi5 hai6 bin1 go3
to come
loi4

lei4
I come with him 我和他一起來
ngo5 wo4 taa1 jat1 hei2 loi4
我同佢一齊嚟
ngo5 tung4 keoi5 jat1 cai4 lei4
to eat
hek3

sik6
go to eat 去吃飯
heoi3 hek3 faan6
去食飯
heoi3 sik6 faan6
to give
kap1
俾/畀
bei2
I give him a gift 我給他一份禮物
ngo5 kap1 taa1 jat1 fan6 lai5 mat6
我俾佢一份禮物
ngo5 bei2 keoi5 jat1 fan6 lai5 mat6
to move
dung6

juk1
Don’t move 不要動
bat1 jiu3 dung6
唔好郁
m4 hou2 juk1
to not have 沒有
mut6 jau5

mou5
I don’t have money 我沒有錢
ngo5 mut6 jau5 cin2
我冇錢
ngo5 mou5 cin2
to take; to pick up
naa4

lo2
I come to pick up the medicine 我來拿藥
ngo5 loi4 naa4 joek6
我嚟攞藥
ngo5 lei2 lo2 joek6
together 一起
jat1 hei2
一齊
jat1 cai4
they come together 她們一起來
taa1 mun4 jat1 hei2 loi4
佢哋一齊嚟
keoi5 dei6 jat1 cai4 lei4
very; quite (+ adjective)
han2

hou2
I am very happy 我很開心
ngo5 han2 hoi1 sam1
我好開心
ngo5 hou2 hoi1 sam1
what 什麼
sam6 mo1
乜/咩
mat1 / me1
What is that? 那個是什麼?
naa5 go3 si6 sam6 mo1
嗰個係乜?
go2 go3 hai6 mat1
yesterday 昨天
zok3 tin1
尋日/琴日
cam4 jat6 / kam4 jat6
I went to the bank yesterday 我昨天去了銀行
ngo5 zok3 tin1 heoi3 liu5 ngan4 hong4
我尋日去咗銀行
ngo5 cam4 jat6 heoi3 zo2 ngan4 hong4