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Start Strong with These Cantonese Words for Beginners

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There are over 10,000 Cantonese characters. Considering the vast number of ways these characters can be combined, it would be an understatement to say that this language has a lot of words! 

    → If you want to learn more about Cantonese characters and the language’s writing system, visit our guide on CantoneseClass101.com.

A Pencil and Plastic ABC Letters on Top of an Open Notebook

Feeling overwhelmed? Keep in mind that even native Cantonese speakers only know a fraction of these words! To start having conversations, you’ll only need a few hundred basic Cantonese words. 

In this article, we’ll list the most useful Cantonese words for beginners. Knowing these words will allow you to handle many everyday situations, whether you want to talk, listen, or both. Keep reading!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Pronouns
  2. Numbers
  3. Nouns
  4. Verbs
  5. Adjectives
  6. Conjunctions
  7. Bonus: Cantonese Final Particles
  8. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Pronouns

Let’s start with a list of pronouns you should learn as a beginner.

We’ve listed below the basic personal, demonstrative, and interrogative pronouns. As you continue forward in your studies, you’ll be adding a few more to your arsenal.


A Group of People

Personal Pronouns

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning

Singular:
1ngo5I
2nei5you
3keoi5he / she / it

*There are no differences between “he,” “she,” or “it” in Cantonese. You can use 佢  in each case.
4我嘅ngo5 ge3my / mine
5你嘅nei5 ge3your / yours
6佢嘅keoi5 ge3his / her / hers / its 

Plural:
7我哋ngo5 dei6we / us
8你哋nei5 dei6you guys
9佢哋keoi5 dei6they / them
10我哋嘅ngo5 dei6 ge3our / ours 
11你哋嘅nei5 dei6 ge3your / yours
12佢哋嘅keoi5 dei6 ge3their / theirs

Demonstrative Pronouns

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1呢個ni1 go3this
2嗰個go2 go3that
3呢啲ni1 di1these
4嗰啲go2 di1

Interrogative Pronouns

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1乜嘢mat1 je5what
2邊個bin1 go3who
3邊個嘅bin1 go3 ge3whose
4幾時gei2 si4when
5邊度bin1 dou6 where
6點樣dim2 joeng2how
7點解dim2 gaai2 why

2. Numbers

As a beginner, you should be able to get by using the numbers one through ten.

    → Should you need more digits, you could check out our article on Cantonese numbers. There, you’ll find everything you need to count from 1-100 and beyond!

A Calculator
  • 1:     一 (jat1)
  • 2:     二 (ji6)
  • 3:     三 (saam1)
  • 4:     四 (sei3)
  • 5:     五 (ng5)
  • 6:     六 (luk6)
  • 7:     七 (cat1)
  • 8:     八 (baat3)
  • 9:     九 (gau2)
  • 10:    十 (sap6)

3. Nouns

Nouns are vital in our everyday conversations and we need them for effective communication. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to talk about people, objects, places, or ideas. 

Below, you’ll find several basic Cantonese nouns divided into categories.

    → The more Cantonese nouns you know, the closer you’ll be to mastering the Cantonese language! If you want to learn more nouns, check out our top 100 Cantonese nouns list!

Noun

Time

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1星期sing1 kei4week
2nin4year
3今日gam1 jat6today
4聽日ting1 jat6tomorrow
5噚日cam4 jat6yesterday
6日曆jat6 lik6calendar
7miu5second
8zung1hour
9分鐘fan1 zung1minute
10dim2o’clock

People

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1媽媽maa4 maa1mother
2爸爸baa4 baa1father
3老婆lou5 po4wife
4老公lou5 gung1husband
5neoi2daughter
6zai2son
7醫生ji1 sang1doctor
8律師leot6 si1lawyer 
9護士wu6 si6nurse 
10經理ging1 lei5manager 

Places Around Town

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1便利店bin6 lei6 dim3convenience store
2藥房joek6 fong4drugstore
3商場soeng1 coeng4shopping mall
4超市ciu1 si5supermarket
5咖啡室gaa3 fe1 sat1coffee shop / cafe
6山頂saan1 deng2The Peak
7維港wai4 gong2Victoria Harbor
8星光大道sing1 gwong1 daai6 dou6Avenue of Stars
9海洋公園hoi2 joeng4 gung1 jyun2Ocean Park
10天壇大佛tin1 taan4 daai6 fat6Tian Tan Buddha

School/Office Essentials

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1作業zok3 jip6homework
2筆記簿bat1 gei3 bou2notebook
3同學tung4 hok6classmate
4大學daai6 hok6university
5背囊bui3 nong4backpack
6鉛筆jyun4 bat1pencil
7原子筆jyun4 zi2 bat1pen
8數學sou3 hok6math
9考試haau2 si3exam
10學生hok6 saang1student

Body Parts

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1goek3foot
2teoi2leg
3tau4head
4手臂sau2 bei3arm
5sau2hand
6手指sau2 zi2finger
7身體san1 tai2body
8tou5stomach
9背脊bui3 zek3back
10hung1chest

Food

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1水果seoi2 gwo2fruit
2蘋果ping4 gwo2apple
3香蕉hoeng1 ziu1banana
4西瓜sai1 gwaa1watermelon
5提子tai4 zi2grape
6菠蘿bo1 lo4pineapple
7蜜瓜mat6 gwaa1melon
8西柚sai1 jau2grapefruit
9蔬菜so1 coi3vegetable
10薯仔syu4 zai2potato
11粟米suk1 mai5corn
12大豆daai6 dau2soybean
13蕃薯faan1 syu2sweet potato
14紅蘿蔔hung4 lo4 baak6carrot
15洋葱joeng4 cung1onion
16胡椒wu4 ziu1peppers
17西蘭花sai1 laan4 faa1broccoli
18蕃茄faan1 ke2tomato
19蘑菇mo4 gu1mushroom
20腰果jiu1 gwo2cashew nut

4. Verbs

Below is a list of the 50 most useful Cantonese verbs for beginners. Of course, depending on whether you’re studying, working, or just visiting, you might have different needs. But in any case, this list is a good place to start!


Verb

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1去 heoi3go
2sik6eat
3jam2drink
4haan4walk
5ming4understand
6lam2think
7瞓覺fan3 gaau3sleep
8daap3answer
9ling1take
10做嘢zou6 je5work
11gong2talk
12tai2watch
13man6ask
14paau2run
15teng1hear
16waan2play
17認識jing6 sik1know
18bong1help
19鍾意zung6 ji3like
20sau1receive
21jung6use
22計劃gai3 waak6plan
23解釋gaai2 sik1explain
24tiu3jump
25gaau3teach
26maai5buy
27duk6read
28開始hoi1 ci2begin
29tek3 kick
30maai6sell
31離開lei4 hoi1leave 
32成為sing4 wai4become
33邀請jiu1 cing2invite
34se2write
35dang2wait
36hok6study
37分享fan1 hoeng2share
38daa2call
39記得gei3 dak1remember
40相信soeng1 seon3believe
41解決gaai2 kyut3solve
42介紹gaai3 siu6introduce
43取消ceoi2 siu1cancel
44dou3arrive
45coeng3sing
46siu3smile
47休息 jau1 sik1rest
48zyu2cook
49覺得gok3 dak1feel
50畫畫waat6 waa2draw

5. Adjectives

Another set of Cantonese beginner words you should study are basic adjectives. 

Adjectives are very important in our everyday conversations and in writing. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to describe how pretty the girl sitting next to you is or how spectacular the scenery is.


Adjective

Describing Objects

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1gou1  tall        
2dyun2 short  
3daai6big / huge
4fut3    wide
5coeng4 long
6厚 hau5thick
7sai3   small / little
8sau3 thin  
9sam1 deep        
10zaak3 narrow  

Describing People

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1勤力kan4 lik6diligent
2幽默jau1 mak6humorous
3誠實sing4 sat6honest
4有趣 jau5 ceoi3funny
5冷靜laang5 zing6calm
6怕醜paa3 cau2shy
7善良sin6 loeng4kind
8有活力jau5 wut6 lik6energetic
9親切can1 cit3friendly
10聰明cung1 ming4smart

Describing Emotions

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1不安bat1 on1anxious
2驕傲giu1 ou6proud
3gui6tired
4肚餓tou5 ngo6hungry
5baau2full
6開心hoi1 sam1happy
7傷心soeng1 sam1sad
8mun6bored
9nau1angry
10興奮hing1 fan5excited

Describing Weather

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1dung3cold
2jit6hot
3溫暖wan1 nyun5warm
4潮濕ciu4 sap1humid
5saai3sunny
6有風jau5 fung1windy
7天晴tin1 cing4sunny
8密雲mat6 wan4cloudy

6. Conjunctions

There’s a lot to say and explain when it comes to Cantonese conjunctions, but luckily, you don’t need many when you first start learning Cantonese.

→ As you progress in your studies, you might want to have a look at our complete guide on Cantonese conjunctions. You’ll learn everything about how to connect phrases, express conditions, talk about consequences, and much more.
Putting Two Puzzle Pieces Together

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1wo4and
2或者waak6 ze2or
3即使zik1 si2even if
4因為jan1 wai6since
5於是jyu1 si6so
6但係daan6 hai6but
7除非ceoi4 fei1 unless
8而且ji4 ce2also
9雖然seoi1 jin4although
10如果jyu4 gwo2if

7. Bonus: Cantonese Final Particles

In Cantonese we have a special type of word called final particles. Final particles are meaningless by themselves, but when placed at the end of a sentence, they indicate the mood or attitude of the speaker. They also serve to make speech more colloquial. Here are the top five Cantonese final particles:

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationFunction
1aa3Indicates enthusiasm and friendliness (usually in a softer tone); can also be used as a sarcastic retort
2laa3Indicates an exclamation with an emphasis on the past; “already”
3ge3Indicates humbleness or understanding; emphasis on raising the fact in a subtle way
4gaa3Emphasizes a fact that’s being raised
5lo1Indicates discontentment or sarcasm

    → Intrigued by how useful these “meaningless” final particles can be? Have a look at our full article here to see what other Cantonese final particles there are!

8. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

Ready to move on to the next level after learning all of these Cantonese beginner words? We recommend starting with our series of Cantonese beginner lessons: 

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community where you can discuss lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

Keep in mind that if you prefer a 1-on-1 learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go: How many of these words did you know already? Were most of them new to you? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese