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Max Out with These Advanced Cantonese Words

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We’ve already compiled guides on Cantonese words for beginners and intermediate learners for those who are dedicated to acquiring this fantastic language. And now, for those who have persevered and made it to the advanced level, we have also put together this advanced Cantonese words guide. If you’re looking to become a master in Cantonese and are wondering what vocabulary words you should learn next, this one’s for you!

A Woman Marking Up a Study Book

Learn the advanced Cantonese words you need!

In this article, we’ll list the most important Cantonese words for advanced learners so that you can communicate, understand, and express situations more accurately. Keep reading!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Academic Words
  2. Business Words
  3. Medical Words
  4. Legal Words
  5. General Advanced Words
  6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Academic Words

Graduation

Our first set of advanced Cantonese vocabulary words comprises terms related to academia. These words will be essential if you plan to study in Hong Kong

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaningExample
1學術 (adj.)hok6 seot6academic近年學術文章嘅出版數量增加。
gan6 nin4 hok6 seot6 man4 zoeng1 ge3 ceot1 baan2 sou3 loeng6 zang1 gaa1.
The number of academic writings being published has increased in recent years.
2意見 (n.)ji3 gin3opinion大家有咩意見或者諗法?
daai6 gaa1 jau5 me1 ji3 gin3 waak6 ze2 lam2 faat3?
Does anyone have any opinions or thoughts?
3參考書目 (n.)caam1 haau2 syu1 muk6bibliography參考書目如下。
caam1 haau2 syu1 muk6 jyu4 haa6.
Please find the bibliography below.
4結論 (n.)git3 leon6conclusion結論係令讀者留下好印象嘅最後機會。
git3 leon6 hai6 ling6 duk6 ze2 lau4 haa6 hou2 jan3 zoeng6 ge3 zeoi3 hau6 gei1 wui3.
The last chance to impress the readers is through the conclusion.
5論文 (n.)leon6 man2thesis個教授要求寫一篇三十頁嘅論文啊。
go3 gaau3 sau6 jiu1 kau4 se2 jat1 pin1 saam1 sap6 jip6 ge3 leon6 man2 aa3.       
The professor asked for a thirty-page thesis.
6隱喻 (n.)jan2 jyu6metaphor隱喻令讀者發揮想像力。
jan2 jyu6 ling6 duk6 ze2 faat3 fai1 soeng2 zoeng6 lik6.
Metaphors encourage readers to imagine.
7抄襲 (n.)caau1 zaap6plagiarism抄襲係一個好嚴重嘅罪行。
caau1 zaap6 hai6 jat1 go3 hou2 jim4 zung6 ge3 zeoi6 hang6.
Plagiarism is a serious crime.
8結構 (n.)git3 kau3structure建築結構
gin3 zuk1 git3 kau3
Architecture structure
9來源 (n.)loi4 jyun4source文章冇列明任何來源。
man4 zoeng1 mou5 lit6 ming4 jam6 ho4 loi4 jyun4.
This article does not specify the sources.
10簡報 (n.)gaan2 bou3presentation設計引人入勝嘅簡報。
cit3 gai3 jan5 jan4 jap6 sing3 ge3 gaan2 bou3.
Design a fascinating presentation.
11文學士 (n.)man4 hok6 si6Bachelor of Arts文學士適唔適合我?
man4 hok6 si6 sik1 m4 sik1 hap6 ngo5?
Does a Bachelor of Arts suit me?
12格式 (n.)gaak3 sik1format引文格式
jan5 man4 gaak3 sik1
Citation format
13研究 (n.)jin4 gau3research私人研究嘅成本好高。
si1 jan4 jin4 gau3 ge3 sing4 bun2 hou2 gou1.
Private research is very costly.
14例子 (n.)lai6 zi2example講一個你成功處理工作困難嘅例子。
gong2 jat1 go3 nei5 sing4 gung1 cyu5 lei5 gung1 zok3 kwan3 naan4 ge3 lai6 zi2.
Tell me about an example where you overcame a challenge at work.
15段 (n.)dyun6paragraph第三段
dai6 saam1 dyun6
The third paragraph
16學術寫作 (n.)hok6 seot6 se2 zok3academic writing學術寫作係申請美國大學時必備嘅能力。
hok6 seot6 se2 zok3 hai6 san1 cing2 mei5 gwok3 daai6 hok6 si4 bit1 bei6 ge3 nang4 lik6.
Academic writing is a necessary skill for applying to universities in the States.
17摘要 (n.)zaak6 jiu3abstract摘要內容必須要緊湊。
zaak6 jiu3 noi6 jung4 bit1 seoi1 jiu3 gan2 cau3.
The content of an abstract has to be tight.
18個案研究 (n.)go3 on3 jin4 gau3case study個案研究報告
go3 on3 jin4 gau3 bou3 gou3
Case study report
19介紹 (n.)gaai3 siu6introduction自我介紹
zi6 ngo5 gaai3 siu6
Self-introduction
20改寫 (n.)goi2 se2paraphrase改寫句子
goi2 se2 geoi3 zi2
Paraphrasing a sentence
21副教授 (n.)fu3 gaau3 sau6associate professor副教授都係终身嘅。
fu3 gaau3 sau6 dou1 hai6 zung1 san1 ge3.
Associate professor is also a lifelong position.
22研討會 (n.)jin4 tou2 wui2seminar學術研討會
hok6 seot6 jin4 tou2 wui2
Academic seminar
23理論 (n.)lei5 leon6theory科學理論
fo1 hok6 lei5 leon6
Scientific theory
24研究生 (n.)jin4 gau3 sang1graduate student珍妮係研究生。
zan1 nei4 hai6 jin4 gau3 sang1.
Jenny is a graduate student.
25座談會 (n.)zo6 taam4 wui2symposium佢喺文章分享對座談會嘅感悟。
keoi5 hai2 man4 zoeng1 fan1 hoeng2 deoi3 zo6 taam4 wui2 ge3 gam2 ng6.
He shared his thoughts on the symposium in an article.

2. Business Words

Business Diagram

As an advanced Cantonese learner who’s serious about your studies, you’ll greatly benefit from learning words related to the business world. Memorizing the words below will give you a leg up as you search for a job in Hong Kong and allow you to discuss a wider range of topics. 

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaningExample
1經濟 (n.)ging1 zai3economics經濟可以應用喺好多範疇。
ging1 zai3 ho2 ji5 jing3 jung6 hai2 hou2 do1 faan6 cau4.
Economics is a good background for many fields.
2通脹率 (n.)tung1 zoeng3 leot2inflation rate津巴布韋係全世界通脹率最誇張嘅國家。
zeon1 baa1 bou3 wai5 hai6 cyun4 sai3 gaai3 tung1 zoeng3 leot2 zeoi3 kwaa1 zoeng1 ge3 gwok3 gaa1.
Zimbabwe has the world’s most bizarre inflation rate.
3通縮 (n.)tung1 suk1deflation通縮即係整體物價水平下降,係通脹嘅相反。
tung1 suk1 zik1 hai6 zing2 tai2 mat6 gaa3 seoi2 ping4 haa6 gong3, hai6 tung1 zoeng3 ge3 soeng1 faan2.        
Deflation means a fall in the general price level; it is the opposite of inflation.
4圖表 (n.)tou4 biu2chart個圖表顯示公司上季嘅銷售業績。
go3 tou4 biu2 hin2 si6 gung1 si1 soeng6 gwai3 ge3 siu1 sau6 jip6 zik1.
This chart shows the company’s sales from last quarter.
5每月數據 (n.)mui5 jyut6 sou3 geoi3monthly breakdown睇住個每月數據,金融形勢愈嚟愈清楚。
tai2 zyu6 go3 mui5 jyut6 sou3 geoi3, gam1 jung4 jing4 sai3 jyu6 lei4 jyu6 cing1 co2.      
Looking at the monthly breakdown, the financial situation becomes clearer.
6跌 (v.)dit3to drop最近報告濫用毒品嘅人數跌咗。
zeoi3 gan6 laam5 joek6 ge3 bou3 gou3 jan4 sou3 dit3 zo2.        
The number of reported drug abuse has decreased recently.
7反彈 (n./v.)faan2 daan6rebound無論如何,我哋都要搵辦法嚟彌補呢個新嘅反彈。
mou4 leon6 jyu4 ho4, ngo5 dei6 dou1 jiu3 wan2 baan6 faat3 lei4 nei4 bou2 ni1 go3 san1 ge3 faan2 daan6.       
At any rate, we have to find a way to compensate for that new rebound.
8穩步上升 (v.)wan2 bou6 soeng6 sing1to increase steadily睇嚟我哋每月嘅收入穩步上升。
tai2 lei4 ngo5 dei6 mui5 jyut6 ge3 sau1 jap6 wan2 bou6 soeng6 sing1.
It seems that our monthly incomes are increasing steadily.
9總銷售額 (n.)zung2 siu1 sau6 ngaak2total sales上年嘅總銷售額高過大家預期。
soeng6 nin2 ge3 zung2 siu1 sau6 ngaak2 gou1 gwo3 daai6 gaa1 jyu6 kei4.
Last year’s total sales were a lot higher than everybody had expected.
10銷售預測 (n.)siu1 sau6 jyu6 cak1sales forecast銷售預測係必要嘅商業行為。
siu1 sau6 jyu6 cak1 hai6 bit1 jiu3 ge3 soeng1 jip6 hang4 wai4.
Developing sales forecasts is a necessary business practice.
11銷售業績 (n.)siu1 sau6 jip6 zik1sales performance呢間公司嘅銷售業績咁好,應該值得投資。
ni1 gaan1 gung1 si1 ge3 siu1 sau6 jip6 zik1 gam3 hou2, jing1 goi1 zik6 dak1 tau4 zi1.
This company should be worth investing in because of its excellent sales performance.
12推廣活動 (n.)teoi1 gwong2 wut6 dung6campaign為咗推廣產品,佢哋實行一個全國推廣活動。
wai6 zo2 teoi1 gwong2 caan2 ban2, keoi5 dei6 sat6 hang4 jat1 go3 cyun4 gwok3 teoi1 gwong2 wut6 dung6.      
In order to promote the product, they are running a nationwide campaign.
13PRESENT (v.)PRE6 SEN6presentation推銷一個諗法嘅時候,最好為個PRESENT準備充足。
teoi1 siu1 jat1 go3 nam2 faat3 ge3 si4 hau6, zeoi3 hou2 wai6 go3 PRE6 SEN1 zeon2 bei6 cung1 zuk1.
The best way to sell an idea is to be well prepared for a presentation.
14講解 (v.)gong2 gaai2to explain個水手講解佢點樣俾海岸護衛隊救返。
go3 seoi2 sau2 gong2 gaai2 keoi5 dim2 joeng2 bei2 hoi2 ngon6 wu6 wai6 deoi2 gau3 faan1.
The sailor explained how he was rescued by the coast guard.
15準備 (n./v.)zeon2 bei6preparation旅行要準備好多嘢。
heoi3 leoi5 hang4 jiu3 zeon2 bei6 hou2 do1 je5.
Traveling requires a lot of preparation.
16CHECK (v.)CHECK1to check因為技術問題,我CHECK唔到個銀行戶口。
jan1 wai6 gei6 seot6 man6 tai4, ngo5 CHECK1 m4 dou2 go3 ngan4 hong4 wu6 hau2.
I can’t check my bank account due to technical problems.
17投影機 (n.)tau4 jing2 gei1projector如果呢盞燈閃下閃下,即係個投影機要修理喇。
jyu4 gwo2 ni1 zaan2 dang1 sim2 haa5 sim2 haa5, zik1 hai6 go3 tau4 jing2 gei1 jiu3 sau1 lei5 laa3.
If this light blinks, it means the projector needs to be fixed.
18會議室 (n.)wui6 ji5 sat1meeting room會議室嘅燈光可以影響成間房嘅氣氛。
wui6 ji5 sat1 ge3 dang1 gwong1 ho2 ji5 jing2 hoeng2 seng4 gaan1 fong2 ge3 hei3 fan1.        
The lighting in a meeting room can influence the atmosphere in the room.
19墨 (n.)mak6ink衫上面啲墨跡好難洗甩。
saam1 soeng6 min6 di1 mak6 zik1 hou2 naan4 sai2 lat1.
It’s very hard to get rid of the ink mark on the shirt.
20白板 (n.)baak6 baan2whiteboard要展示一啲視覺上嘅嘢,白板係最好嘅途徑。
jiu3 zin2 si6 jat1 di1 si6 gok3 soeng6 ge3 je5, baak6 baan2 hai6 zeoi3 hou2 ge3 tou4 ging3.
A whiteboard is a perfect means to demonstrate something visually.
21實體店 (n.)sat6 tai2 dim3physical store實體店會閂門,但係網上商店就可以24小時開住。
sat6 tai2 dim3 wui5 saan1 mun4, daan6 hai6 mong5 soeng6 soeng1 dim3 zau6 ho2 ji5 ji6 sap6 sei3 siu2 si4 hoi1 zyu6.
Physical stores have to close up every day, but online stores can be opened 24 hours a day.
22速遞 (n.)cuk1 dai6courier咁急?要寄速遞先趕得切喇。
gam3 gap1? jiu3 gei3 cuk1 dai6 sin1 gon2 dak1 cit3 laa3.So urgent?
Then we’ll have to send it by courier to be on time.
23物流公司 (n.)mat6 lau4 gung1 si1logistics company你有冇相熟嘅物流公司?我有一批貨要運去大陸。
nei5 jau5 mou5 soeng1 suk6 ge3 mat6 lau4 gung1 si1? ngo5 jau5 jat1 pai1 fo3 jiu3 wan6 heoi3 daai6 luk6.
Do you have a preferred logistics company? I have a number of goods to be transported to the mainland.
24負責 (v.)fu6 zaak3to take responsibility係我做錯程序,我會負責。
hai6 ngo5 zou6 co3 cing4 zeoi6, ngo5 wui5 fu6 zaak3.
I did not follow the procedures well; I will take responsibility.
25裁員 (n.)coi4 jyun4layoff裁員通知已經落咗喇,今次唔知係邊個黑仔。
coi4 jyun4 tung1 zi1 ji5 ging1 lok6 zo2 laa3, gam1 ci3 m4 zi1 hai6 bin1 go3 haak1 zai2.
The layoff notice has already been sent, but we don’t know who the unlucky ones are.

3. Medical Words

Clinic

Whether you plan to study medicine, want to land a job in the medical field, or happen to find yourself in the emergency room, you’ll want to know the following words.

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaningExample
1專科 (n.)zyun1 fo1specialists (medical)有冇專科醫生推薦?
jau5 mou5 zyun1 fo1 ji1 sang1 teoi1 zin3?
Any recommended specialist doctors?
2醫科 (n.)ji1 fo1medical studies人人都想讀醫科。
jan4 jan4 dou1 soeng2 duk6 ji1 fo1.
Everyone wants to pursue medical studies.
3法醫 (n.)faat3 ji1forensics法醫人類學家
faat3 ji1 jan4 leoi6 hok6 gaa1
Forensic anthropologist
4診斷 (n.)can2 dyun6diagnosis必須以進一步嘅調查確定診斷。
bit1 seoi1 ji5 zeon3 jat1 bou6 ge3 diu6 caa4 kok3 ding6 can2 dyun6.
It’s necessary to conduct further investigation to confirm the diagnosis.
5症狀 (n.)zing3 zong6symptom新型冠狀病毒嘅症狀
san1 jing4 gun1 zong6 beng6 duk6 ge3 zing3 zong6
The symptoms of COVID-19
6藥物 (n.)joek6 mat6drug藥物可能有副作用。
joek6 mat6 ho2 nang4 jau5 fu3 zok3 jung6.
The drug may contain side effects.
7藥物敏感 (n.)joek6 mat6 man5 gam2drug sensitivity我有藥物敏感。
ngo5 jau5 joek6 mat6 man5 gam2.
I have drug sensitivity. 
8食物中毒 (n.)sik6 mat6 zung3 duk6food poisoning我應該係食物中毒。
ngo5 jing1 goi1 hai6 sik6 mat6 zung3 duk6.
I probably got food poisoning.
9腹部絞痛 (n.)fuk1 bou6 gaau2 tung3abdominal cramps症狀包括腹部絞痛
zing3 zong6 baau1 kut3 fuk1 bou6 gaau2 tung3
Symptoms include abdominal cramps
10食慾不振 (n.)sik6 juk6 bat1 zan3loss of appetite症狀包括食慾不振
zing3 zong6 baau1 kut3 sik6 juk6 bat1 zan3
Symptoms include loss of appetite
11發燒 (n.)faat3 siu1fever症狀包括發燒
zing3 zong6 baau1 kut3 faat3 siu1
Symptoms include fever
12乏力 (n.)fat6 lik6fatigue症狀包括乏力
zing3 zong6 baau1 kut3 fat6 lik6
Symptoms include fatigue
13反胃 (n.)faan2 wai6nausea症狀包括反胃
zing3 zong6 baau1 kut3 faan2 wai6
Symptoms include nausea
14嘔 (n.)au2vomiting症狀包括嘔
zing3 zong6 baau1 kut3 au2
Symptoms include vomiting
15肚屙 (n.)tou5 o1diarrhea症狀包括腹瀉
zing3 zong6 baau1 kut3 tou5 o1
Symptoms include diarrhea
16頭痛 (n.)tau4 tung3headaches症狀包括頭痛
zing3 zong6 baau1 kut3 tau4 tung3
Symptoms include headaches
17牙痛 (n.)ngaa4 tung3toothaches症狀包括牙痛
zing3 zong6 baau1 kut3 ngaa4 tung3
Symptoms include toothaches
18肌肉痛 (n.)gei1 juk6 tung3muscle pain症狀包括肌肉痛
zing3 zong6 baau1 kut3 gei1 juk6 tung3
Symptoms include muscle pain
19關節痛 (n.)gwaan1 zit3 tung3joint pain症狀包括關節痛
zing3 zong6 baau1 kut3 gwaan1 zit3 tung3
Symptoms include joint pain
20過敏反應 (n.)gwo3 man5 faan2 jing3allergic reaction我有過敏反應。
ngo5 jau5 gwo3 man5 faan2 jing3.
I got an allergic reaction.
21花粉過敏 (n.)faa1 fan2 gwo3 man5hay fever我有花粉過敏。
ngo5 jau5 faa1 fan2 gwo3 man5.
I got hay fever.
22濕疹 (n.)sap1 can2eczema我有濕疹。
ngo5 jau5 sap1 can2.
I got eczema.
23類固醇 (n.)leoi6 gu3 seon4steroid我對類固醇過敏。
ngo5 deoi3 leoi6 gu3 seon4 gwo3 man5.
I am allergic to steroids.
24胃潰瘍 (n.)wai6 kui2 joeng4peptic ulcers我有胃潰瘍。
ngo5 jau5 wai6 kui2 joeng4.
I got peptic ulcers.
25免疫系統疾病 (n.)min2 jik6 hai6 tung2 zat6 beng6autoimmune disease我有免疫系統疾病。
ngo5 jau5 min2 jik6 hai6 tung2 zat6 beng6.
I got an autoimmune disease.

4. Legal Words

Gavel

As you enter an advanced level of Cantonese, learning a bit of legal vocabulary will help you sound better educated and allow you to discuss important topics with greater accuracy. Here are just a few of the key terms you should know. 

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaningExample
1法庭 (n.)faat3 ting4court法庭係進行法律聆訊嘅地方。
faat3 ting4 hai6 zeon3 hang4 faat3 leot6 ling4 seon3 ge3 dei6 fong1.
A court is a place where the adjudication of legal disputes is carried out.
2結論 (n.)git3 leon6decision上訴法庭嘅結論
soeng5 sou3 faat3 ting4 ge3 git3 leon6
Decision from Court of Appeal
3案件 (n.)on3 gin2case民事案件
man4 si6 on3 gin2
A civil case
4陪審團 (n.)pui4 sam2 tyun4jury陪審團係普通香港市民。
pui4 sam2 tyun4 hai6 pou2 tung1 hoeng1 gong2 si5 man4
The jury consists of ordinary Hong Kong citizens.
5審判 (n.)sam2 pun3trial審判結果
sam2 pun3 git3 gwo2
Trial result
6合同 (n.)hap6 tung4contract請細閱及簽訂合同。
cing2 sai3 jyut6 kap6 cim1 ding3 hap6 tung4.
Please review and sign the contract.
7罰款 (n.)fat6 fun2fine佢非法泊車需要交罰款。
keoi5 fei1 faat3 paak3 ce1 seoi1 jiu3 gaau1 fat6 fun2.
He received a fine for parking illegally.
8疑犯 (n.)ji4 faan2suspect疑犯揸車走甩咗。
ji4 faan2 zaa1 ce1 zau2 lat1 zo2.
The suspect did a hit and run.
9拉 (v.)laai1arrest警方拉咗兩名疑犯。
ging2 fong1 laai1 zo2 loeng5 ming4 ji4 faan2.
The police arrested two suspects.
10檢控 (v.)gim2 hung3 prosecute佢被檢控。
keoi5 bei6 gim2 hung3
He is being prosecuted.
11被告 (n.)bei6 gou3defendant被告申請保釋。
bei6 gou3 san1 cing2 bou2 sik1.
The defendant applied for bail.
12法律 (n.)faat3 leot6law好多讀法律嘅學生去打政府工。
hou2 do1 duk6 faat3 leot6 ge3 hok6 saang1 heoi3 daa2 zing3 fu2 gung1.
Many students of law take government jobs.
13律師 (n.)leot6 si1lawyer律師正為犯人辯護。
leot6 si1 zing3 wai6 faan6 jan4 bin6 wu6.
The lawyer is defending the criminal.
14定罪 (n.)ding6 zeoi6conviction定罪紀錄
ding6 zeoi6 gei2 luk6
Conviction record
15原告 (n.)jyun4 gou3plaintiff原告取得補償。
jyun4 gou3 ceoi2 dak1 bou2 soeng4.
The plaintiff is reimbursed.
16立法 (n.)laap6 faat3legislation立法部門
laap6 faat3 bou6 mun4
Legislative branch
17保證 (n.)bou2 zing3pledge消極保證
siu1 gik6 bou2 zing3
Negative Pledge 
18有罪 (adj.)jau5 zeoi6guilty佢被判有罪。
keoi5 bei6 pun3 jau5 zeoi6.
He is found guilty.
19判決 (n.)pun3 kyut3verdict佢質疑判決。
keoi5 zat1 ji4 pun3 kyut3.
He questions the verdict.
20指控  (v.)zi2 hung3accuse佢被指控偷車。
keoi5 bei6 zi2 hung3 tau1 ce1.
He is accused of car theft.
21犯法 (adj.)fan6 faat3illegal吸食大麻喺香港係犯法嘅。
kap1 sik6 daai6 maa4 hai2 hoeng1 gong2 hai6 faan6 faat3 ge3.
Smoking marijuana is illegal in Hong Kong.
22證據 (n.)zing3 geoi3evidence如果你可以揾到證據就最好啦。
jyu4 gwo2 nei5 ho2 ji5 wan2 dou2 zing3 geoi3 zau6 zeoi3 hou2 laa1.
If you can find evidence, that would be good.
23證明 (v.)zing3 ming4to prove所有證據都證明你就係殺人兇手。
so2 jau5 zing3 geoi3 dou1 zing3 ming4 nei5 zau6 hai6 saat3 jan4 hung1 sau2.
All of the evidence proves that you are the killer.
24破產 (n.)po3 caan2to go bankrupt就算佢破產,佢老婆都冇離開佢。
zau6 syun3 keoi5 po3 caan2, keoi5 lou5 po4 dou1 mou5 lei4 hoi1 keoi5.
Even when he went bankrupt, his wife still didn’t leave him.
25手續 (n.)sau2 zuk6procedures請辦理手續。
cing2 baan6 lei5 sau2 zuk6.
Please handle the procedures.

5. General Advanced Words

進 - Progress

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaningExample
1論盡 (adj.)leon6 zeon6clumsy新嚟個司機好論盡。
san1 lei4 go3 si1 gei1 hou2 leon6 zeon6.
The new driver is very clumsy.
2揦西 (adj.)laa2 sai1sloppy; slipshod; careless and unsystematic要成功,一定唔可以揦西。
jiu3 sing4 gung1, jat1 ding6 m4 ho2 ji5 laa2 sai1.
In order to succeed, one must not be sloppy.
3鹹濕 (adj.)haam4 sap1lustful; perverted你正一鹹濕佬!
nei5 zing3 jat1 haam4 sap1 lou2!
You’re such a pervert!
4搵笨 (v.)wan2 ban6to cheat; to con; to trick; to fool你唔好搵我笨。
nei5 m4 hou2 wan2 ngo5 ban6.
Don’t you fool me.
5放飛機 (v.)fong3 fei1 gei1to stand somebody up; to fail to keep an appointment你成日放人飛機,所以冇人再約你。
nei5 sing4 jat6 fong3 jan4 fei1 gei1, so2 ji5 mou5 jan4 zoi3 joek3 nei5.        
You always stand people up, so no one asks you out anymore.
6發錢寒 (v.)faat3 cin2 hon4to be obsessed with money細細個就發錢寒,有冇攪錯!
sai3 sai3 go3 zau6 faat3 cin2 hon4, jau5 mou5 gaau2 co3!        
So obsessed with money at this young age? That’s ridiculous!
7眼紅 (v.)ngaan5 hung4to be jealous of (someone)眼紅人哋即係對自己冇信心。
ngaan5 hung4 jan4 dei6 zik1 hai6 deoi3 zi6 gei2 mou5 seon3 sam1.
Being jealous of others means that one lacks self-confidence.
8發火 (v.)faat3 fo2to lose one’s temper講起就發火!
gong2 hei2 zau6 faat3 fo2!
I’m pissed off when speaking of that!
9劈酒 (v.)pek3 zau2binge drinking晚晚都去劈酒,小心你個肝呀!
maan5 maan5 dou1 heoi3 pek3 zau2, siu2 sam1 nei5 go3 gon1 aa3!        
You go binge drinking every night. Take care of your liver!
10貓咗 (adj.)maau1 zo2to be drunk佢次次貓咗都會打畀前女友。
keoi5 ci3 ci3 maau1 zo2 dou1 wui5 daa2 bei2 cin4 neoi5 jau5.
Every time he got drunk, he’d call his ex-girlfriend.
11斷片 (adv.)tyun5 pin2blackout (after drinking too much)我未試過飲酒飲到斷片。
ngo5 mei6 si3 gwo3 jam2 zau2 jam2 dou3 tyun5 pin2.
I’ve never drunk to the point of blacking out.
12啤一啤 (v.)be1 jat1 be1to have a pint of beer together放工得唔得閒去啤一啤?
fong3 gung1 dak1 m4 dak1 haan4 heoi3 be1 jat1 be1?
Free to go for a drink after work?
13眼花 (v.)ngaan5 faa1to have blurry vision人老咗,就開始眼花。
jan4 lou5 zo2, zau6 hoi1 ci5 ngaan5 faa1.
As we age, we start to have blurry vision.
14老花 (adj.)lou5 faa1presbyopia老花眼鏡
lou5 faa1 ngaan5 geng2
reading glasses
15四眼 (adj.)sei3 ngaan5four-eyes唔好叫人四眼仔,冇禮貌。
m4 hou2 giu3 jan4 sei3 ngaan5 zai2, mou5 lai5 maau6.    
Don’t call people four-eyes; it’s rude.
16鬥雞 (adj.)dau6 gai1cross-eyed我細個有鬥雞,不過之後做手術整返好。
ngo5 sai3 go3 jau5 dau6 gai1, bat1 gwo1 zi1 hau6 zou6 sau2 seot6 zing2 faan1 hou2.
I was cross-eyed when I was younger, but it was fixed after surgery.
17菠蘿蓋 (n.)bo1 lo4 goi3kneecap菠蘿蓋後面嘅軟骨
bo1 lo4 goi3 hau6 min6 ge3 jyun5 gwat1 cartilage at the back of the kneecap
18厚多士 (adj.)hau5 do1 si2nosy阿嬸你厚多士呀
aa3 sam2 nei5 hau5 do1 si2 aa3!
Ma’am, you’re so nosy!
19蝦碌 (adj.)haa1 luk1clumsy; outtakes (or bloopers)成龍最出名係佢啲蝦碌鏡頭。
sing4 lung4 zeoi3 ceot1 meng2 hai6 keoi5 di1 haa1 luk1 geng3 tau4.
Jackie Chan is famous for his blooper reels.
20食軟飯 (n.)sik1 jyun5 faan6an action in which a man depends on his woman for monetary support or has a sugar-mama我勸你離開佢,佢淨係識得食軟飯。
ngo5 hyun3 nei5 lei4 hoi1 keoi5, keoi5 zing6 hai6 sik1 dak1 sik6 jyun5 faan6.
I advise you to leave him; he’s only using you for financial support.
21白鴿眼 (adj.)baak6 gaap3 ngaan5snobbish邊個教到你咁白鴿眼㗎?
bin1 go3 gaau3 dou3 nei5 gam3 baak6 gaap3 ngaan5 gaa3?
Who taught you to be this snobbish?
22食死貓 (v.)sik6 sei2 maau1to take the blame for others’ wrongdoings我呀姐迫我食死貓。
ngo5 aa3 ze1 bik1 ngo5 sik6 sei2 maau1.        
My manager forced me to take the blame.
23打蛇餅 (adj.)daa2 se4 beng2a queue that is too long, forming a zig-zag pattern因為交通意外,巴士站度打晒蛇餅。
jan1 wai6 gaau1 tung1 ji3 ngoi6, baa1 si2 zaam6 dou6 daa2 saai3 se4 beng2.        
There’s a long line at the bus stop because of the traffic accident.
24軟皮蛇 (n.)jyun5 pei4 se4a lazy person unwilling to get things done而家啲後生仔個個都軟皮蛇咁。
ji4 gaa1 di1 hau6 saang1 zai2 go3 go3 dou1 jyun5 pei4 se4 gam2.        
Teenagers nowadays are lazy and don’t have motivation.
25吹水 (v.)ceoi1 ngau4to boast; to brag; to talk big佢成日都吹水,所以冇人信佢講嘅嘢。
keoi5 sing4 jat6 dou1 ceoi1 seoi2, so2 ji5 mou5 jan4 seon3 keoi5 gong2 ge3 je5.
He’s always bragging, so no one believes his words anymore.
26搶眼 (adj.)coeng2 ngaan5eye-catching; dazzling; attractive佢揸住架好搶眼嘅車。
keoi5 zaa1 zyu6 gaa3 hou2 coeng2 ngaan5 ge3 ce1.
He’s driving a very attractive car.
27頭耷耷 (adj.)tau4 dap1 dap1head drooping; depressed佢比賽輸咗,頭耷耷咁返屋企。
keoi5 bei2 coi3 syu1 zo2, tau4 dap1 dap1 gam2 faan1 uk1 kei2.
He lost the match and went home with his head low.
28夾手夾腳 (adv.)gaap3 sau2 gaap3 goek3to work together; to do something together夾手夾腳砌埋個台,快啲收工。
gaap3 sau2 gaap3 goek3 cai3 maai4 go3 toi4, faai3 di1 sau1 gung1.
Let’s finish building the stage together as soon as possible so we can get off work sooner.
29面阻阻 (adj.)min6 zo2 zo2to be in conflict or acrimony (usually of two parties)你哋成日面阻阻,影響到其他同事。
nei5 dei6 sing4 jat6 min6 zo2 zo2, jing2 hoeng2 dou2 kei4 taa1 tung4 si6.
You two are always in conflict, and it negatively affects other coworkers too.
30脆卜卜 (adj.)ceoi3 bok1 bok1crispy; crunchy; brittle個蛋糕入面有啲嘢脆卜卜,咩嚟㗎?
go3 daan6 gou1 jap6 min6 jau5 di1 je5 ceoi3 bok1 bok1, me1 lai4 gaa3?
There’s something crunchy inside the cake. What is it?
31軟腍腍 (adj.)jyun5 nam4 nam4soft and pliable糯米糍軟腍腍,我鍾意食。
no6 mai5 ci4 jyun5 nam4 nam4, ngo5 zung1 ji3 sik6.
Glutinous rice dumplings are soft. I love it.
32軟癩癩 (adj.)jyun5 laai4 laai4flaccid; lineless; powerless唔好成日軟癩癩攤喺梳化 。
m4 hou2 sing4 jat6 jyun5 laai4 laai4 taan1 hai2 so1 faa2.
Don’t flaccidly lay on the sofa all day.
33硬繃繃 (adj.)ngaang6 baang1 baang1hard; tight; stubborn佢份人硬繃繃,一啲都唔肯變通。
keoi5 fan6 jan4 ngaang6 baang1 baang1, jat1 di1 dou1 m4 hang2 bin3 tung1.
He is so stubborn and refuses to adapt to the circumstances.
34散修修 (adj.)saan2 sau1 sau1loose; messy啲嘢散修修,快啲執好佢。
di1 je5 saan2 sau1 sau1, faai3 di1 zap1 hou2 keoi5.
This stuff is so messy; tidy up.
35輕飄飄 (adj.)heng1 piu1 piu1very light; floating你個喼輕飄飄,冇嘢喺入面㗎?
nei5 go3 gip1 heng1 piu1 piu1, mou5 je5 hai2 jap6 min6 gaa4?
Your suitcase is so light. Is it empty?
36密質質 (adj.)mat6 zat1 zat1packed; cramped; dense地鐵成日都密質質,好逼。
dei6 tit3 sing4 jat6 dou1 mat6 zat1 zat1, hou2 bik1.
The subway is always so packed and crowded.
37出貓 (v.)ceot1 maau1cheating (on a test)我個仔俾人捉到考試出貓。
ngo5 go3 zai2 bei2 jan4 zuk1 dou2 haau2 si3 ceot1 maau1.
My son got caught cheating on an exam.
38出馬 (v.)ceot1 maa5to take the role or initiative to tackle a situation; to deal with a problem今晚大廚出馬,實有好嘢食。
gam1 maan5 daai6 cyu2 ceot1 maa5, sat6 jau5 hou2 je5 sik6.
The big chef is on duty; there’ll be some good food tonight for sure.
39金牛 (n.)gam1 ngau4HK$1000 bill假金牛
gaa2 gam1 ngau4
counterfeit HK$1000 bills
40火牛 (n.)fo2 ngau4electric transformer; adapter; charger呢個火牛係邊部機㗎?
ni1 go3 fo2 ngau4 hai6 bin1 bou6 gei1 gaa3?
Which appliance is this charger for?
41O嘴 (adv.)ou1 zeoi2shocked; puzzled; speechless; jaw-dropping; mouth-opening間餐廳貴到O嘴呀!
gaan1 caan1 teng1 gwai3 dou3 O1 zeoi2 aa3!
The restaurant is shockingly expensive!
42R晒頭 (adv.)aau1 saai3 tau4to be totally clueless or confused; perplexed呢本書咁深,睇到我R晒頭。
ni1 bun2 syu1 gam3 sam1, tai2 dou3 ngo5 aau1 saai3 tau4.
This book is so difficult, I’m perplexed.
43好瘀 (adj.)hou2 jyu2embarrassing or to be embarrassed佢喺全校面前向佢表白,但係俾佢拒絕,好瘀呀。
keoi5 hai2 cyun4 haau6 min6 cin4 hoeng3 keoi5 biu2 baak6, daan6 hai6 bei2 keoi5 keoi5 zyut3, hou2 jyu2 aa3.
He confessed his love to her in front of the whole school and got rejected. How embarrassing!
44眼白白 (adv.)ngaan5 baak6 baak6helplessly; not being able to make amends眼白白睇住佢走甩咗。
ngaan5 baak6 baak6 tai2 zyu6 keoi5 zau2 lat1 zo2.
I could only (helplessly) watch him run away.
45穿煲 (v.)cyun1 bou1to let a secret out; to fail in covering up something再咁落去,一定穿煲。
zoi3 gam2 lok6 heoi3, jat1 ding6 cyun1 bou1.
If it goes on like this, the secret will be out.
46長氣 (adj.)coeng4 hei3talkative; mumbling你咁長氣,我怕咗你。
nei5 gam3 coeng4 hei3, ngo5 paa3 zo2 nei5.
You’re too talkative; I give up.
47拗柴 (v.)aau2 caai4to twist one’s ankle我次次著高踭鞋都拗柴。
ngo5 ci3 ci3 zoek3 gou1 zaang1 haai4 dou1 aau2 caai4.
Every time I wear high heels, I twist my ankle.
48回水 (n.)wui4 seoi2reimbursement; refund啲觀眾個個喺度嗌「回水」。
di1 gun1 zung3 go3 go3 hai2 dou6 aai3 wui4 seoi2.
The whole audience is yelling, “Refunds!”
49浸過鹹水 (adj.)zam3 gwo3 haam4 seoi2to have lived/studied abroad咪以為浸過鹹水就高人一等。
mai5 ji5 wai4 zam3 gwo3 haam4 seoi2 zau6 gou1 jan4 jat1 dang2.
Don’t think that you’re better than others just because you’ve lived abroad.
50掘 (v.)gwat6to stare in a hostile manner; to glare佢淨係掘咗佢一眼,就冇再講嘢。
keoi5 zing6 hai6 gwat6 zo2 keoi5 jat1 ngaan5, zau6 mou5 zoi3 gong2 je5.
She only glared at him, and didn’t say anything anymore.

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

Did you know any of these words already, or were they all new to you? Now that you’ve learned these more advanced vocabulary words, you can try writing different sentences on your own! 

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

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Cantonese Negation: Learn How to Form Negative Sentences

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There seems to be a stigma attached to saying “no” nowadays. In certain cultures and social circles, it’s even considered rude or inappropriate to do so!

But contrary to popular belief, saying no is a powerful way to safeguard your emotional health. It shows that you take responsibility for yourself and that you respect your own desires, wishes, and emotions. Expressing negative statements or rejection appropriately is also vital to effective communication.

A Woman Holding Her Hands in Front of Her to Say No or Stop

Wondering how to express “no” and negate statements in Cantonese? In this article, we’ll guide you through the most important aspects of Cantonese negation so that you can start asserting yourself with confidence! 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Negate a Statement
  2. Give a Negative Response
  3. Other Negating Words and Phrases
  4. Double Negatives
  5. Bonus: How to Tell “Past”, “Present” and “Future” in Cantonese
  6. Why is CantoneseClass101 the Best Place to Learn Cantonese?

1. Negate a Statement

Cantonese negation is quite simple. Depending on the context—whether you’re referring to the past, present, or future—there are four main ways you can negate a sentence.

1 – Negating the past

To make a past-tense sentence negative in Cantonese, we add a character both before and after the verb. There are two sets of characters we can add to show negation:

The 1st Way

  • Chinese: 未 + verb + 過
  • Romanization: mei6 + verb + gwo3

Example 1: 

我未去過英國。
ngo5 mei6 heoi3 gwo3 jing1 gwok3
I have never been to the U.K.

Example 2: 

我未食過烏冬。
ngo5 mei6 sik6 gwo3 wu1 dung1
I have never had udon.

Udon

The 2nd Way:

  • Chinese: 冇 + verb + 過
  • Romanization: mou5 + verb + gwo3

Example 1: 

我冇試過嗰間餐廳。
ngo5 mou5 si3 gwo3 go2 gaan1 caan1 teng1
I have never tried that restaurant.

Example 2: 

我冇食過嘢。
ngo5 mou5 sik6 gwo3 je5
I didn’t eat.

There is a subtle difference between these two methods of Cantonese negation: The first method puts an emphasis on “never ever,” while the second one focuses on the “no” part. You may use either one to express negation in the past tense.

2 – Negating the present

To negate a sentence about the present, we just need to add a character for “no” or “negation,” in front of the verb. This character is 唔 (m4).

  • Chinese: 唔 + verb
  • Romanization: m4 + verb

Example 1: 

我唔識講普通話。
ngo5 m4 sik1 gong2 pou2 tung1 waa2
I don’t know how to speak Mandarin.

Example 2: 

我唔食蘋果。
ngo5 m4 sik6 ping4 gwo2
I don’t eat apple.

3 – Negating the future

To negate a sentence about the future, we add 唔會 (m4 wui5) in front of the verb. 

  • Chinese: 唔會 + verb
  • Romanization: m4 wui5 + verb

Example 1:

 我之後唔會繼續讀書喇。
ngo5 zi1 hau6 m4 wui5 gai3 zuk6 duk6 syu1 laa3
I will not pursue my studies.

Example 2: 

我唔會返屋企。
ngo5 m4 wui5 faan1 uk1 kei2
I am not going back home.

2. Give a Negative Response

We also use the character 唔 (m4) to give negative responses to questions. We simply put 唔 before the verb.

  • Chinese: 唔 + verb
  • Romanization: m4 + verb

For example, the Cantonese equivalent for “No, it isn’t,” is 唔係 (m4 hai6). Here, 唔 is “no” and 係 is “be.”

Question: 

你係唔係Mary啊?
nei5 hai6 m4 hai6 Mary aa3
Are you Mary?

Answer: 

唔係。
m4 hai6
No, I am not.

A Group Conversation

Let’s take a look at one more example. The Cantonese equivalent of “No, I don’t want it,” is 唔想 (m4 soeng2). Here, 唔 is “no” and 想 is “want.”

Question: 

你想唔想食麵啊?
nei5 soeng2 m4 soeng2 sik6 min6 aa3
Do you want to get noodles?

Answer: 

唔想。
m4 soeng2
No, I don’t want to.

3. Other Negating Words and Phrases

Of course, there are some other words and phrases used for negation in Cantonese. Feel free to try using these as well to liven up your conversations, to make a point clearer, or to give a stronger negative response.

1. 好少

  • Romanization: hou2 siu2
  • Meaning: barely / hardly / seldom

Example:

我返學好少遲到。
ngo5 faan1 hok6 hou2 siu2 ci4 dou3
I seldom go to school late.

2. 從來唔

  • Romanization: cung4 loi4 m4
  • Meaning: never

Example:

我從來唔飲酒。
ngo5 cung4 loi4 m4 jam2 zau2
I don’t drink. / I never drink.

3. 無再

  • Romanization: mou3 zoi3
  • Meaning: no more / not anymore

Example:

我哋無再聯絡喇。
ngo5 dei6 mou3 zoi3 lyun4 lok3 laa3
We don’t talk anymore.

An Exclamation Mark

4. 唔會再

  • Romanization: m4 wui5 zoi3
  • Meaning: no longer

Example:

佢唔會再喺你身邊。
keoi5 m4 wui5 zoi3 hai2 nei5 san1 bin1
He will no longer be there for you.

5. 冇人

  • Romanization: mou5 jan4
  • Meaning: no one / nobody

Example:

嗰度偏僻冇人住。
go2 dou6 pin1 pik1 mou5 jan4 zyu6
No one lives there; it’s too far away.

6. 都唔係

  • Romanization: dou1 m4 hai6
  • Meaning: neither

Example:

呢個都唔係我嘅錯。
ni1 go3 dou1 m4 hai6 ngo5 ge3 co3
Neither is it my fault.

4. Double Negatives

Cantonese also has double negatives. We add the characters 唔係唔 (m4 hai6 m4) in front of the verb.

  • Chinese: 唔係唔 + verb
  • Romanization: m4 hai6 m4 + verb

Example 1: 

唔係唔想覆,而係對覆訊息有恐懼。
m4 hai6 m4 soeng2 fuk1, ji4 hai6 deoi3 fuk1 seon3 sik1 jau5 hung2 geoi6
It’s not that I don’t want to reply (to you), it’s more like I’m scared about messages and alerts in general.

Example 2: 

唔係唔想覆你電話,係未有時間呀。
m4 hai6 m4 soeng2 fuk1 nei5 din6 waa2, hai6 mei6 jau5 si4 gaan3 aa3
It’s not that I don’t want to call back, I just don’t have the time yet.

5. Bonus: How to Tell “Past”, “Present” and “Future” in Cantonese

We negate a sentence differently based on the time we’re referring to—but how can you tell whether a sentence is “past,” “present,” or “future” in Cantonese?

Unlike in English, there is no such concept as “tenses” or verb conjugation in Cantonese. Instead, we use additional words to indicate the time of an event or action when necessary.

A Clock

Keep in mind, however, that these additional words aren’t always necessary. We can usually tell whether an event happened in the past, present, or future from the context. 

Let’s take a look at a few of these words: 

Indicating “the past”:

  • Additional words to be placed after the verb to indicate the past:
    • 咗 (zo2) – have done
    • 過 (gwo3) – tried
    • 完 (jyun4) – did
    • 曬 (saai3) – completed
  • Additional words to be placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 啱啱 (aam1 aam1) – just now
    • 頭先 (tau4 sin1) – a moment ago
    • 前排 (cin4 paai2) – a while back
    • 幾個禮拜之前 (gei2 go3 lai5 baai3 zi1 cin4) – a few weeks ago
    • 上個月 (soeng6 go3 jyut6) – last month
    • 舊年 (gau6 nin2) – last year

Indicating “the present” / “the present continuous”:

  • Additional word to be placed before the verb to indicate the present:
    • 喺度 (hai2 dou6) – be / doing
  • Additional words to be placed after the verb to indicate the present:
    • 緊 (gan2) – in progress
    • 住 (zyu6) – doing
  • Additional word to be placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 而家 (ji4 gaa1) – now

Indicating “the future”:

  • Additional word to be placed before the verb to indicate the future:
    • 會 (wui5) – will
  • Additional words to be placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 到時 (dou3 si4) – then
    • 陣間 (zan6 gaan1) – later
    • 跟住 (gan1 zyu6) – and then
    • 之後 (zi1 hau6) after
    • 聽日 (ting1 jat6) – tomorrow
    • 後日 (hau6 jat6) – the day after tomorrow
    • 下個禮拜 (haa6 go3 lai5 baai3) – next week
    • 下個月 (haa6 go3 jyut6) – next month
    • 出年 (ceot1 nin2) – next year

6. Why is CantoneseClass101 the Best Place to Learn Cantonese?

CantoneseClass101.com

Learning how to say no is just one part of learning a language—there’s so much more to study and practice! 

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 the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program for Premium PLUS students! 

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

Before you go, we’d love to hear from you! What did you think of this lesson, and did we help you gain the confidence to say no in Cantonese? 

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

Are There Tenses in Cantonese?

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Depending on how long you’ve been learning Cantonese, you may already have an idea of how simple Cantonese grammar is. You may have even heard that Cantonese is “tenseless.”

A Sand Glass

But if that’s the case, how does one express the past, present, or future? In this article, CantoneseClass101.com will cover everything you need to know about expressing the different tenses in Cantonese—it’s easier than you think!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Cantonese “Tenses”
  2. How to Express the Past
  3. How to Express the Present
  4. How to Express the Future
  5. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Cantonese “Tenses”

A Signpost with Signs for Now, Tomorrow, and Yesterday

Cantonese is considered a tenseless language. In contrast to European languages like English or French, it has neither conjugation nor the concept of tenses. We don’t modify verbs to express the timing of an action; instead, we use additional words to serve this function when necessary. That said, we can usually tell from the context whether an event happened in the past, present, or future. 

2. How to Express the Past

Below, you’ll find different words you can use to express the past tense in Cantonese along with examples.

Ancient Civilization

 1 – Word(s) to be placed before the verb

  • 有 (jau5) – did
    • Example sentence: 我有返學。
    • Romanization: ngo5 jau5 faan1 hok6.
    • Meaning: I did go to school.

Note: We use the word “有” the same way we use the word “did” in Englishwe add it in front of the verb to add emphasis to it.

2 – Word(s) to be placed after the verb

  • 咗 (zo2) – have done
    • Example sentence: 我同朋友一齊喺戲院睇咗場戲。
    • Romanization: ngo5 tung4 pang4 jau5 jat1 cai4 hai2 hei3 jyun2 tai2 zo2 coeng4 hei3.
    • Meaning: I have watched a movie at the cinema with my friends.
  • 過 (gwo3) – tried
    • Example sentence: 試過但係失敗咗。
    • Romanization: si3 gwo3 daan6 hai6 sat1 baai6 zo2.
    • Meaning: (I) tried but failed.
  • 完 (jyun4) – did
    • Example sentence: 我做完功課喇。
    • Romanization: ngo5 zou6 jyun4 gung1 fo3 laa3.
    • Meaning: I finished my homework.
  • 晒 (saai3) – completed
    • Example sentence: 我做晒啲嘢喇。
    • Romanization: ngo5 zou6 saai3 di1 je5 laa3.
    • Meaning: I completed all my work.

Note: “完” and “晒” are quite similarand in the examples above, they are interchangeable. You could say “我做晒功課喇” or  “我做完啲嘢喇.” The subtle difference between the two is that we tend to use “完” to emphasize the completion/end of something, whereas we use “晒” to imply the effort involved in finishing the work.

3 – Word(s) to be placed at the beginning of the sentence or right after the subject

Each of the following words can be placed either at the beginning of a sentence or after the subject. For example, for the first word below (啱啱), you could say “我啱啱同朋友一齊喺戲院睇戲” or “啱啱我同朋友一齊喺戲院睇戲.” They are the same.

  • 啱啱 (aam1 aam1) – just now
    • Example sentence: 我啱啱同朋友一齊喺戲院睇戲。
    • Romanization: ngo5 aam1 aam1 tung4 pang4 jau5 jat1 cai4 hai2 hei3 jyun2 tai2 hei3.
    • Meaning: My friend and I went to the cinema for movies just now.
  • 頭先 (tau4 sin1) – just now
    • Example sentence: 頭先唔小心撞到你,唔好意思。
    • Romanization: tau4 sin1 m4 siu2 sam1 zong6 dou2 nei5, m4 hou2 ji3 si3.
    • Meaning: Sorry for hitting you just now.

Note: “啱啱” and “頭先” are the same and can be used interchangeably.

  • 前排 (cin4 paai2) – a while back
    • Example sentence: 前排我識咗個好有趣嘅人。
    • Romanization: cin4 paai2 ngo5 sik1 zo2 go3 hou2 jau5 ceoi3 ge3 jan4.
    • Meaning: I met an interesting person a while back.
  • 以前 (ji5 cin4) – before
    • Example sentence: 我以前見過你。
    • Romanization: ngo5 ji5 cin4 gin3 gwo3 nei5. 
    • Meaning: I saw you (before).
  • 之前 (zi1 cin4) – before
    • Example sentence: 我之前喺度做野。
    • Romanization: ngo5 zi1 cin4 hai2 dou6 zou6 je5. 
    • Meaning: I used to work here (before).

Note: “以前” and “之前” are similar and they both mean “before.” The subtle difference between the two is that “以前” usually refers to things that happened years ago, while “之前” tends to be about things that happened a few weeks/months ago.

  • 幾個禮拜之前 (gei2 go3 lai5 baai3 zi1 cin4) – a few weeks ago
    • Example sentence: 幾個禮拜之前我同一位網上紅人食晚飯。
    • Romanization: gei2 go3 lai5 baai3 zi1 cin4 ngo5 tung4 jat1 wai2 mong5 soeng6 hung4 jan4 sik6 maan5 faan6.
    • Meaning: I had dinner with an Internet celebrity a few weeks ago.
  • 上個月 (soeng6 go3 jyut6) – last month
    • Example sentence: 我上個月考咗英文能力檢定試。
    • Romanization: ngo5 soeng6 go3 jyut6 haau2 zo2 jing1 man4 nang4 lik6 gim2 ding6 si3.
    • Meaning: I took an English proficiency test last month.
  • 舊年 (gau6 nin2) – last year
    • Example sentence: 我舊年去咗加拿大。
    • Romanization: ngo5 gau6 nin2 heoi3 zo2 gaa1 naa4 daai6.
    • Meaning: I went to Canada last year.

3. How to Express the Present

And now it’s time to learn how to express the present in Cantonese. There are four words in total that are used to represent “present,” so read on to find out what they are and how to use them!

A Man Pointing to His Wristwatch

1 – Word(s) to be placed before the verb

  • 喺度 (hai2 dou6) – be / doing
    • Example sentence: 喺度諗緊咩呀?
    • Romanization: hai2 dou6 nam2 gan2 me1 aa3?
    • Meaning: What are you thinking about?

2 – Word(s) to be placed after the verb

  • 緊 (gan2) – in progress
    • Example sentence: 我等緊你。
    • Romanization: ngo5 dang2 gan2 nei5.
    • Meaning: I am waiting (for you).
  • 住 (zyu6) – doing
    • Example sentence: 佢攞住個咪唱歌
    • Romanization: keoi5 lo2 zyu6 go3 mai1 coeng3 go1.
    • Meaning: He is singing while holding a mic.

3 – Word(s) to be placed at the beginning of the sentence or right after the subject

  • 而家 (ji4 gaa1) – now
    • Example sentence: 你而家去邊?
    • Romanization: nei5 ji4 gaa1 heoi3 bin1?
    • Meaning: Where are you going now?

4. How to Express the Future

Last but not least, let’s learn how to express the future in Cantonese.

A Group of Children

1 – Word(s) to be placed before the verb

  • 會 (wui5) – will
    • Example sentence: 今個禮拜六我哋會結婚。
    • Romanization: gam1 go3 lai5 baai3 luk6 ngo5 dei6 wui5 git3 fan1.
    • Meaning: We will get married this Saturday.

2 – Word(s) to be placed at the beginning of the sentence or right after the subject

  • 到時 (dou3 si4) – then
    • Example sentence: 到時再講。
    • Romanization: dou3 si4 zoi3 gong2.
    • Meaning: (We) will talk then.
  • 陣間 (zan6 gaan1) – later
    • Example sentence: 陣間去邊食飯好?
    • Romanization: zan6 gaan1 heoi3 bin1 sik6 faan6 hou2?
    • Meaning: Where shall we go for lunch?
  • 跟住 (gan1 zyu6) – and then
    • Example sentence: 司機,唔該先去旺角,跟住去油麻地。
    • Romanization: si1 gei1, m4 goi1 sin1 heoi3 wong6 gok3, gan1 zyu6 heoi3 jau4 maa4 dei2.
    • Meaning: Mr. Driver, please first go to Mongkok and then to Yau Ma Tei.
  • 之後 (zi1 hau6) – after
    • Example sentence: 聽日之後就要走。
    • Romanization: ting1 jat6 zi1 hau6 zau6 jiu3 zau2.
    • Meaning: (I) will have to leave after tomorrow.
  • 聽日 (ting1 jat6) – tomorrow
    • Example sentence: 聽日又到星期一要返工。
    • Romanization: ting1 jat6 jau6 dou3 sing1 kei4 jat1 jiu3 faan1 gung1.
    • Meaning: Tomorrow is Monday and we gotta go to work again.
  • 後日 (hau6 jat6) – the day after tomorrow
    • Example sentence: 我後日會同朋友出去玩。
    • Romanization: ngo5 hau6 jat6 wui5 tung4 pang4 jau5 ceot1 heoi3 waan2.
    • Meaning: I will be hanging out with friends the day after tomorrow.
  • 下個禮拜 (haa6 go3 lai5 baai3) – next week
    • Example sentence: 下個禮拜就端午節喇。
    • Romanization: haa6 go3 lai5 baai3 zau6 dyun1 ng5 zit3 laa3.
    • Meaning: It’s Mid-Autumn Festival next week.
  • 下個月 (haa6 go3 jyut6) – next month
    • Example sentence: 我下個月會去英國。
    • Romanization: ngo5 haa6 go3 jyut6 wui5 heoi3 jing1 gwok3.
    • Meaning: I will be going to the UK next month.
  • 出年 (ceot1 nin2) – next year
    • Example sentence: 出年我就十八歲喇。
    • Romanization: ceot1 nin2 ngo5 zau6 sap6 baat3 seoi3 laa3.
    • Meaning: I will be eighteen next year.

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

Fascinated by the Cantonese language and want to learn more? 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 to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video lessons, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one 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, let us know in the comments how you feel about expressing tenses in Cantonese now. More confident, or do you still have some questions? We’ll do our best to help.

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

How Long Does it Take to Learn Cantonese?

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Some of you might have heard about how difficult it is to learn Cantonese. After all, Cantonese is a tonal language with its own writing system based on thousands of Chinese characters

Do you fancy to learn Cantonese but want to get a rough idea of how long it’s gonna take? Or maybe you’ve already passed the beginner stage and would like to see how your progress compares to that of your peers?

A Timer

Today at CantoneseClass101, we’ll answer the question: How long does it take to learn Cantonese? 

Our answers will be based on the three levels of Cantonese proficiency: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. This will give you a rough idea of what to expect throughout your Cantonese learning journey and serve as a benchmark. 

Let’s get to it!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. The Many Factors Involved
  2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve a Beginner Level?
  3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve an Intermediate Level?
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve an Advanced Level?
  5. Tools to Facilitate Your Language Learning Journey
  6. Why is CantoneseClass101 Great for Learning Cantonese?

1. The Many Factors Involved

Before we talk about how long it will take to reach each level, there are a few key factors we need to consider. They’ll impact how fast you can learn Cantonese, so keep them in mind when coming up with your own estimate!

Cantonese vs. the languages you know

Cantonese is quite different from most languages. For one, it’s a tonal language that relies on pitches to distinguish between words. It also uses a completely different writing system than English does. Cantonese uses characters that are composed of parts that depict physical objects or abstract ideas—there are thousands of characters and each one carries a sound and a meaning. 

If you know Mandarin, which is also a tonal language that uses characters, chances are that you’ll pick Cantonese up much faster!

Your motivation

How much time and effort you’re willing to spend makes a huge difference. Are you learning Cantonese because of your partner? Or are you a big fan of Cantonese movies? Having a goal or a strong reason will help you strive for success and overcome any hurdles along the way!

Your language learning resumé & age

A Resume

It’s not easy to learn a new language, but having previous experience will speed up your progress. This is because you’ll already know how and where to start! Also, the more languages you’re exposed to, the easier it gets to decipher their logic and understand the inner workings of their grammar and structures.

Of course, age matters too. It’s easier to memorize new words and rules while you’re young. Studies have found that language-learning ability declines at age 18. The sooner you learn a language, the better!

Are you planning to learn the Chinese characters too?

Chinese characters are logograms. Each Chinese character is unique with its own pronunciation, and you’ll need to memorize 2000-3000 of them to read a newspaper. It does take a bit of time to recognize how the characters look and how to write them. 

If you only want to learn how to speak Cantonese, you might want to consider studying only the romanization (i.e. the jyutping system) and bypass the learning of Chinese characters. This will speed up the learning curve a lot.

2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve a Beginner Level?

A Baby with Some Books

Beginner-Level Skills

  • CEFR Equivalent: A1-A2

Speaking & Listening

You should be able to conduct basic and simple conversations (self-introductions, asking for directions, ordering food) and know some survival Cantonese.

Reading & Writing

At this level, you will only need to know some jyutping.

Duration

So how long will it take to learn Cantonese if you only want to achieve this level? Assuming you spend at least an hour per day studying…

  • Average: 2-3 months 
  • If you know Mandarin: 2 months or even less

Tips

The most important thing for Cantonese beginners is to accumulate vocabulary. So, make good use of flashcards! You can use them to remember words, simple phrases, and anything else you want. A simple search for “flashcards” on your phone’s app store should give you plenty of options.

Another tip is to learn the romanization system. Literacy in Cantonese requires the memorization of thousands of components and characters, which can be daunting for new Cantonese learners. To start learning the sounds of Cantonese without the baggage of characters, Cantonese jyutping (also referred to as Cantonese romanization) is the perfect place to start. This is essentially a way to help translate Cantonese pronunciation into English pronunciation. 

With the romanization system, you’ll be able to learn the correct pronunciation of a word easily. No guessing and no Chinese characters needed!

3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve an Intermediate Level?

Middle School Students

Intermediate-Level Skills

  • CEFR Equivalent: B1

Speaking & Listening

At the intermediate level, you should be able to…

  • …articulate more complex thoughts.
  • …use different sentence patterns to some degree.
  • …handle short conversations or discussions with locals.
  • …pronounce words more accurately (not mixing up the 9 tones!).

Reading & Writing

Your reading and writing skills will still be quite limited, though you’ll be more familiar with how jyutping works. 

Duration

Assuming you spend at least an hour per day studying, here’s how long it might take you to reach intermediate-level Cantonese. 

  • Average: 6 months 
  • If you know Mandarin: 3-4 months

Tips

The crucial element required to reach an intermediate level is “practice.” 

By now, you should have accumulated some additional vocabulary, phrases, and even sentence patterns. You’ll need to practice speaking more so that you can put all of that knowledge to good use! Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, and start chatting with local friends! If you don’t have Cantonese-speaking friends, you could try finding study partners online or an online coach. Through making mistakes, you’ll figure out where and what you should improve.

4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve an Advanced Level?

A Group of Adults in Discussion

Advanced-Level Skills

  • CEFR Equivalent: C1

Speaking & Listening

Upon reaching an advanced level of Cantonese, you should be able to…

  • …converse with locals with ease.
  • …give fluent speeches.

Reading & Writing

Being an advanced Cantonese student means that you can recognize roughly 2000-3000 Chinese characters in addition to the jyutping. This will allow you to read newspapers and other short, simple texts. 

Duration

So how long would it take to learn Cantonese to this level of fluency? Assuming you spend at least an hour per day studying…

  • Average: 1-3 years**
  • If you know Mandarin: 6-12 months

** Learning the language takes 1-2 years on average for those who ignore the Chinese characters and focus solely on speaking. If you decide to pick up the Chinese characters as well and want to read a newspaper, the average time needed is 3 years.

Tips

Deep immersion (like living in a Cantonese-speaking region) is the ideal path for reaching the advanced level. Through daily usage and conversation, you’ll learn the various ways to articulate ideas in Cantonese—not just through textbook examples, but also through local slang terms and idioms. Make local friends, speak the local language, and experience life locally!

If staying in a Cantonese-speaking city is not an option, why not watch Cantonese movies and TV shows? This would be a fun way to learn the language, plus it can teach you more about the local culture!

5. Tools to Facilitate Your Language Learning Journey

Wondering how to learn Cantonese faster? While effort and time count, there are also some tools you can use to smoothen your path and speed up your progress! 

Online lessons

When it comes to learning a language anywhere and anytime, online classes are your bread and butter. They’re usually fit for any level and are much more affordable than schools or private lessons.

For example, you can watch and listen to over a thousand videos and audio lessons from CantoneseClass101 through our mobile app, desktop software, or website.

CantoneseClass101.com

Private schools and teachers 

Private schools and teachers are usually the most effective resources, as they can tailor the course just for you—but they’re also the most expensive. We would suggest carefully reading feedback and reviews from students before committing to anything. Stay away from courses with too many students per teacher and beware of scams!

Immersion

Immigration Entry Card

Immersion is truly the best way to learn a language, whether it’s deep immersion like living/working/studying in the local country or soft immersion like watching Netflix/TV/movies in your target language. Immersion is helpful because it’s much more authentic and you can observe how the language is being used in different scenarios—the underlying rules of the language. Over time, you’ll also know much more about the language and culture. If you’re engaging in deep immersion, you can make local friends too!

Why is CantoneseClass101 Great for Learning Cantonese?

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 the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher service with a Premium PLUS account! 

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

Before you go, let us know in the comments if you feel ready to start learning Cantonese after reading this article. And if you already know some Cantonese, please share with fellow learners how long it took you to get where you are. We look forward to hearing from you!

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

Cantonese Proverbs and Idioms

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Proverbs allow us to articulate our ideas and ways of thinking in a fun way! Like quotes, they provide us with wisdom and insight—they can even serve as a window into other cultures!

Inspiration - a Woman with a Light Bulb above Her Head

Do you want to put some Cantonese proverbs and idioms in your pocket? Without further delay, let’s review our top thirty selections!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Animal-Related Idioms
  2. Ghost-Related Sayings
  3. Food-Related Sayings
  4. Sayings About People
  5. Tree-Related Proverbs
  6. Other Sayings
  7. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Animal-Related Idioms

An Elephant

There are plenty of Cantonese proverbs and idioms featuring animals. Below, we’ll introduce you to our favorites! 

豬乸會上樹

  • Romanization: zyu1 naa2 wui5 soeng5 syu6
  • Literal Translation: A sow can climb trees
  • English Equivalent: When pigs fly
  • Meaning: This phrase is used to refer to something that will never happen.

Imagine that Martin is really bad at math, but claims that he’ll get full marks on the upcoming calculus exam. In this situation, you might reply with this phrase. 

掛羊頭賣狗肉

  • Romanization: gwaa3 joeng4 tau4 maai6 gau2 juk6
  • Literal Translation: Hang up a sheep’s head and sell dog meat
  • Meaning: Palm off
  • Additional Notes: Hong Kong prohibits the slaughtering of dogs or cats for use as food; you won’t actually find shops selling dog meat!

If Lucy claims that the designer bags she’s selling are real (but they are indeed fake), you might say this phrase.

大石砸死蟹

  • Romanization: daai6 sek6 zaak6 sei2 haai5
  • Literal Translation: A big rock weighs down on a crab
  • Meaning: To be overpowered by overwhelming force

Imagine that Nick asks you to perform a task that’s totally outside the realm of your job responsibilities, but you still have to do it because he’s a powerful member of the company. You could then express your frustration with this phrase.

牛唔飲水唔撳得牛頭低

  • Romanization: ngau4 m4 jam2 seoi2 m4 gam6 dak1 ngau4 tau4 dai1
  • Literal Translation: If a cow doesn’t want to drink, you can’t force its head down.
  • English Equivalent: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. 
  • Meaning: A person is responsible for their own actions. While you can give them advice, it doesn’t mean they’ll take it. 

Imagine that Christy entered a relationship knowing full well that the guy is in love with someone else. She later complains to you that she is the victim, to which you reply with this phrase. 

老貓燒鬚

  • Romanization: lou5 maau1 siu1 sou1
  • Literal Translation: An old cat burns its whiskers.
  • Meaning: This idiom is used when someone makes a careless mistake in their area of expertise.

You might use this phrase after Rick (who’s an English teacher) makes a silly grammatical mistake while giving a lesson. 

拉牛上樹

  • Romanization: laai1 ngau4 soeng5 syu6
  • Literal Translation: To pull a cow up a tree
  • Meaning: This phrase refers to an impossible goal that would simply require too much effort. 

You could use this phrase after being tasked with helping an ignorant coworker become a high-flyer. 

企喺城樓睇馬打交

  • Romanization: kei5 hai2 sing4 lau4 tai2 maa5 daa2 gaau1
  • Literal Translation: Standing on a fort and watching horses fight each other
  • Meaning: This one refers to keeping oneself out of a serious matter.

Imagine that James initiates a fight, but then walks away from it immediately while others continue to argue. This would be the perfect occasion to use this idiom! 

騎牛搵馬

  • Romanization: ke4 ngau4 wan2 maa5
  • Literal Translation: Riding a cow looking for a horse
  • Meaning: This idiom refers to using one’s current job to look for a better opportunity.

You might say this phrase when Shirley accepts a job offer for a position she doesn’t really like, because she needs a stepping stone toward something better. 

扯貓尾

  • Romanization: ce2 maau1 mei5
  • Literal Translation: Pull a cat’s tail
  • Meaning: This refers to putting on a show or colluding. 

Imagine that Anthony knows his project is going to fail, but his friend Ivan covers for him so that everything looks smooth. You could describe the situation with this phrase.

捉到鹿唔識脫角

  • Romanization: zuk1 dou2 luk2 m4 sik1 tyut3 gok3
  • Literal Translation: Got hold of the deer but can’t remove its antlers
  • Meaning: This refers to being unable to make the most of an opportunity.

When Sunny knows the answer to a question but fails to speak up, you could describe her situation with this phrase.

豬籠入水

  • Romanization: zyu1 lung4 jap6 seoi2
  • Literal Translation: Water enters a pig basket
  • English Equivalent: To make a fortune
  • Meaning: This phrase means that someone has made a lot of money. 

You could use this phrase after your friend Gary makes a huge gain in the stock market. 

打蛇隨棍上

  • Romanization: daa2 se4 ceoi4 gwan3 soeng5
  • Literal Translation: Hit a snake and it crawls up the stick
  • Meaning: This phrase means to exploit a situation to one’s advantage.

Imagine that Denise learns her colleague is in a rift with their shared boss, and she volunteers to help out in hopes of getting promoted. This phrase would perfectly describe the situation.  

邊有咁大隻蛤乸隨街跳

  • Romanization: bin1 jau5 gam3 daai6 zek3 gaap3 naa2 ceoi4 gaai1 tiu3
  • Literal Translation: Why would there be such a big frog hopping around the street?
  • Meaning: This is a rhetorical question suggesting that a deal is too good to be true.

When Johnny offers you a million dollars for no apparent reason, you could question his intentions with this phrase.

2. Ghost-Related Sayings

A Ghost

Ghosts come up surprisingly often in Cantonese sayings. Here are just a few examples. 

有錢使得鬼推磨

  • Romanization: jau5 cin2 sai2 dak1 gwai2 teoi1 mo4
  • Literal Translation: If you have money, you can make a ghost push a millstone.
  • English Equivalent: Money makes the world go round.

You and Ian are discussing the importance of money, and this phrase comes up during the conversation. 

多個香爐多隻鬼

  • Romanization: do1 go3 hoeng1 lou4 do1 zek3 gwai2
  • Literal Translation: An extra incense burner would attract an extra ghost.
  • Meaning: This saying refers to inviting losses through giving someone the chance to share in your profit. 

When Jeff asks Michelle whether they should invite Raymond to the meeting, Michelle says no because Raymond is not on the same team. She then backs up her decision by saying this phrase.

鬼揞眼

  • Romanization: gwai2 am2 ngaan5
  • Literal Translation: A ghost covers one’s eyes.
  • Meaning: This phrase refers to a Freudian slip, where a person misspeaks and thus reveals their subconscious thoughts or mindset. 

Imagine that you and Michael are talking, when he accidentally says he’s going to the bar. But you know that he actually needs to go back to work. By using this phrase, you would be implying that what he wants to do is go to the bar. 

呃鬼食豆腐

  • Romanization: aak1 gwai2 sik6 dau6 fu6
  • Literal Translation: Cheating the ghost to eat bean curd
  • Meaning: This refers to tricking someone or luring them into a trap.

You might use this phrase when Ben tells you he loves you, but you know he’s been lying to and exploiting you.

3. Food-Related Sayings

A Table of Food

Considering the significance of food in Cantonese culture (and really, any culture), it should come as no surprise that many Cantonese sayings reference food!

食鹽多過你食米

  • Romanization: sik6 jim4 do1 gwo3 nei5 sik6 mai5
  • Literal Translation: Ate more salt than rice
  • Meaning: This idiom refers to someone who is more experienced at something than another person is.

When Felix says he’s a relationship expert but has only dated once, you might reply with this phrase if you’re more experienced than he is.

食碗面反碗底

  • Romanization: sik6 wun2 min2 faan2 wun2 dai2
  • Literal Translation: Eat from a bowl and then turn it over
  • Meaning: This one refers to betraying someone.

You could use this phrase when Teddy promises you that he’ll come back, but he never does.

禾稈冚珍珠

  • Romanization: wo4 gon2 kam2 zan1 zyu1
  • Literal Translation: Rice stalks covering pearls
  • Meaning: This refers to concealing one’s ability or wealth.

You could say this after Celia shys away from a swimming contest even though she’s the best swimmer in town.

4. Sayings About People

A Group of People

No two people are exactly alike, but we all share some similar life experiences. Here are a few Cantonese idioms and proverbs on the topic! 

和尚擔遮

  • Romanization: wo4 soeng2 daam1 ze1
  • Literal Translation: Monk holding an umbrella
  • Meaning: This means to do whatever one pleases.

When Arthur teases a woman without consent and walks away just because he’s powerful, you could say this in response. 

一竹篙打一船人

  • Romanization: jat1 zuk1 gou1 daa2 jat1 syun4 jan4
  • Literal Translation: Hitting everyone on a boat with a punt pole
  • English Equivalent: Tarred with the same brush

When Queenie claims that Sally is bad just because Sally is friends with Stephen, you could use this phrase.

醜婦終須見家翁

  • Romanization: cau2 fu2 zung1 seoi1 gin3 gaa1 jung1 
  • Literal Translation: An ugly woman still has to meet her husband’s father
  • Meaning: This saying means that one needs to deal with an outstanding issue eventually, even if they don’t want to. 

You might use this phrase when your friend Sophie confides in you that her ex is dating someone new, but she doesn’t want to yet. 

皇帝唔急太監急

  • Romanization: wong4 dai3 m4 gap1 taai3 gaam1 gap1
  • Literal Translation: The emperor is not in a hurry, but the eunuchs are.
  • Meaning: This refers to being more anxious about someone’s business than the person concerned is.

Imagine that Victor has homework to do but is currently relaxing. Kelvin keeps urging him to finish his work, which would be an example of someone being anxious over another’s work. 

5. Tree-Related Proverbs

A Tree

People often look to nature for wisdom and to seek out correlations with our own lives. Here are a couple of Cantonese proverbs that use trees as a metaphor! 

樹大有枯枝

  • Romanization: syu6 daai6 jau5 fu1 zi1
  • Literal Translation: A big tree has some dead branches.
  • Meaning: There are good and bad people in every group.

Sam assumes that all higher-ups within an institution are competent, but you comment otherwise using this saying. 

刀仔鋸大樹

  • Romanization: dou1 zai2 geoi3 daai6 syu6
  • Literal Translation: Use a little knife to saw down a tree.
  • Meaning: This phrase refers to using little capital to make a big profit.

You might say this when Sarah invests money in a stock, and its value increases fivefold. 

6. Other Sayings

To wrap up, here are just a few more Cantonese sayings on a variety of topics. 

打橫行

  • Romanization: daa2 waang4 haang4
  • Literal Translation: Walking across
  • Meaning: This means to do whatever one pleases.

When Richard fires a lady just because she doesn’t brownose, you might describe his action with this phrase. 

過橋抽板

  • Romanization: gwo3 kiu4 cau1 baan2
  • Literal Translation: Pull up the planks after crossing the bridge
  • Meaning: This means to betray one’s friends once the crisis is over, or to abandon one’s friends once one is safe. 

Imagine that you’ve helped Nicky a lot in tough times, but she cuts ties with you once she meets someone richer without any explanation. This phrase would describe her action. 

摸門釘

  • Romanization: mo2 mun4 deng1
  • Literal Translation: Scrape the door nails
  • Meaning: This refers to trying to visit someone, but not being able to find him or her at their place.

Imagine that Simon goes to visit Tony, but Tony isn’t at home. This phrase could be used to describe the situation. 

風水輪流轉

  • Romanization: fung1 seoi2 leon4 lau4 zyun2
  • Literal Translation: The wheel of fortune turns.
  • Meaning: Just because someone is successful now, doesn’t mean they will be in the future. 

You might say this when Rex and Nicholas brag about their achievement and behave cruelly to their teammates.

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

Cantonese proverbs and idioms are interesting, aren’t they? Do you want to dive deeper into Cantonese after learning these popular sayings?

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 to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one 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!

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

Your Guide to Basic Cantonese Grammar

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Grammar is critical to every language—it is the needle that sews the bits and pieces of a language together. As a language learner, understanding the grammar will help you better express yourself and communicate with others in your target language.

Cantonese has its own (relatively simple!) grammar rules. It’s vital to learn basic Cantonese grammar if you want to master this interesting language in full. You need to know the right words and sentence structure to speak fluent Cantonese and effectively communicate with native speakers. 

Read on and learn about the most important Cantonese grammar rules!

    → Also keep in mind that we offer several other Cantonese grammar lessons on our website that go into much more detail. If you’re thirsty for more knowledge, make sure to check them out!
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. General Principle – Simple is Best!
  2. Basic Sentence Structure
  3. Final Particles
  4. Cantonese Tenses
  5. Cantonese Negation
  6. Why is CantoneseClass101 Great for Learning Cantonese?

1. General Principle – Simple is Best!

Eraser

Cantonese is straightforward! 

Cantonese grammar rules are much simpler than those of many other languages. For example, we do not have tenses (past, present, future, etc.) like English does, nor do we have grammatical gender like French does. We don’t have conjugations, honorifics, nor syllabary changes either.

Also, we like to get straight to the point when expressing ourselves. Take “Would you mind going to the store?” as an example:

  • A native Cantonese speaker would ask with: 你去士多? 
  • Romanization: nei5 heoi3 si6 do1
  • Literal translation of 你去士多: You go store?
  • Meaning: Would you mind going to the store?

2. Basic Sentence Structure

A Person Writing

Cantonese has the same basic sentence structure as English: subject (S), verb (V), and object (O).

To illustrate the SVO format, take the English sentence “I watch a movie,” as an example. We can see that the subject “I” is presented first. This is followed by the verb “watch.” Finally, the object “a movie” is positioned last. 

Now let’s compare the same sentence with the Cantonese translation: 我睇戲 (ngo5 tai2 hei3). If we break down the Cantonese sentence, we see that the subject 我 (ngo5), meaning “I,” comes first. Then comes the verb 睇 (tai2), meaning “watch.” And finally, we have the object 戲 (hei3), meaning “movie.”

Below is a summary of the SVO word order in Cantonese:

  • Chinese Characters: 我睇戲。
  • Romanization: ngo5 tai2 hei3
  • Meaning: I watch (a) movie.

Let’s see one more example sentence in the SVO format:

  • Chinese Characters: 我影相。
  • Romanization: ngo5 jing2 soeng2
  • Meaning: I take photos.

Do you want more information on this topic? Then see our article on The 10 Most Useful Cantonese Sentence Patterns and learn how to communicate like a native!

3. Final Particles

An Exclamation Mark

When looking at the essentials of Cantonese grammar, particles cannot be ignored. They play a huge role in the language!

Final particles are placed at the end of a sentence to indicate the mood or attitude of the speaker, and to make the speech more colloquial.

Final particles are most common in Cantonese and Mandarin, but they’re also present in Japanese and many other East Asian languages such as Thai.

Cantonese speakers love to add final particles to their sentences! Let’s take a look at the examples below:

Example particle 1: 嘅

Romanization: ge3
Function / Indication: Indicates humbleness or understanding; emphasis on raising a fact in a subtle way

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 唔係是必要你講嘅。
  • Romanization: m4 hai6 si6 bit1 jiu3 nei5 gong2 ge3
  • Meaning: You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so.

Example particle 2: 呀

Romanization: aa3
Function / Indication: Indicates enthusiasm and friendliness (usually in a softer tone), or a sarcastic retort 

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 係我呀。
  • Romanization: hai6 ngo5 aa3
  • Meaning: It’s me.

Example particle 3: 喇

Romanization: laa3
Function / Indication: Indicates an exclamation with an emphasis on the past; “already”

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 佢返咗屋企喇。
  • Romanization: keoi5 faan2 zo2 uk1 kei2 laa3
  • Meaning: He already got back home.

Example particle 4: 呢

Romanization: ne1
Function / Indication: Used in questions to soften the tone when inquiring about facts

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 飛機機艙到底幾耐清潔一次呢?
  • Romanization: fei1 gei1 gei1 cong1 dou3 dai2 gei2 noi6 cing1 git3 jat1 ci3 ne1
  • Meaning: How often would the cabin of a plane be cleaned?

Example particle 5: 之嘛

Romanization: zi1 maa3
Function / Indication: “only”

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 污糟咗之嘛。
  • Romanization: wu1 zou1 zo2 zi1 maa3
  • Meaning: It (only) got dirty.

Example particle 6: 咋

Romanization: zaa3
Function / Indication: Indicates disapproval; “just”

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 係因為未見過咋。
  • Romanization: hai6 jan1 wai6 mei6 gin3 gwo3 zaa3
  • Meaning: It’s (just) because this has never been seen.

4. Cantonese Tenses

A Clock

There are no such concepts as tenses or verb conjugation in Cantonese. Instead, we use additional words to indicate the time of an incident when necessary. 

It’s not mandatory to include these additional words as we can usually tell whether an event happened in the past, present, or future from the context. 

Let’s take a look at some common additional words:

Indicating “the past”:

  • Placed after the verb to indicate the past:
    • 咗 (zo2) – have done
    • 過 (gwo3) – tried
    • 完 (jyun4) – did
    • 曬 (saai3) – completed
  • Placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 啱啱 (aam1 aam1) – just now
    • 頭先 (tau4 sin1) – a moment ago
    • 前排 (cin4 paai2) – a while back
    • 幾個禮拜之前 (gei2 go3 lai5 baai3 zi1 cin4) – a few weeks ago
    • 上個月 (soeng6 go3 jyut6) – last month
    • 舊年 (gau6 nin2) – last year

Indicating “the present” / “present continuous”:

  • Placed before the verb to indicate the present:
    • 喺度 (hai2 dou6) – be / doing
  • Placed after the verb to indicate the present:
    • 緊 (gan2) – in progress
    • 住 (zyu3) – doing
  • Placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 而家 (ji4 gaa1) – now

Indicating “the future”:

  • Placed before the verb to indicate the future:
    • 會 (wui5) – will
  • Placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 到時 (dou3 si4) – then
    • 陣間 (zan6 gaan1) – later
    • 跟住 (gan1 zyu6) – and then
    • 之後 (zi1 hau6) – after
    • 聽日 (ting1 jat6) – tomorrow
    • 後日 (hau6 jat6) – the day after tomorrow
    • 下個禮拜 (haa6 go3 lai5 baai3) – next week
    • 下個月 (haa6 go3 jyut6) – next month
    • 出年 (ceot1 nin2) – next year

We’ll be introducing this topic in more detail soon—stay tuned!

5. Cantonese Negation

A Woman Hinting No

Let’s cover one more basic Cantonese grammar element: negation. 

Cantonese negation is quite simple, depending on the context (that is, whether you’re referring to the past, present, or future). There are four main ways to negate a sentence.

Negating the past

There are two patterns for negating the past in Cantonese:

Example
未 (mei6) + verb + 過 (gwo3)我未去過英國。
ngo5 mei6 heoi3 gwo3 jing1 gwok3
I have never been to the UK.
冇 (mou5) + verb我冇食嘢。
ngo5 mou5 sik6 je5
I didn’t eat anything.

Negating the present

Here is the pattern for negating the present in Cantonese:

Example
唔 (m4) + verb我唔識講普通話。
ngo5 m4 sik1 gong2 pou2 tung1 waa2
I don’t know how to speak Mandarin.

Negating the future

Finally, here is how to negate the future:

Example
唔會 (m4 wui5) + verb我唔會去。
ngo5 m4 wui5 heoi3
I am not going.

We’ll be discussing Cantonese negation soon. Stay tuned at CantoneseClass101.com!

6. Why is CantoneseClass101 Great for Learning Cantonese?

CantoneseClass101.com

Now that you’ve learned some basic Cantonese grammar rules (and see how simple they are!), are you ready to officially embark on your Cantonese learning journey?

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 the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one 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! 

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

Is Cantonese Hard to Learn?

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You might have heard stories about how difficult it is to learn Cantonese. After all, Cantonese is a tonal language with its own writing system based on 3000 to 4000 Chinese characters!

Even though Cantonese sounds complicated, and is certainly different from European languages such as English and Italian, it’s not that hard to master when you’re using the right tools and approach. So is Cantonese hard to learn? As with learning any other language, you just need to put in time, effort, and of course, your passion!

In this article, we’ll cover the easiest and hardest parts of Cantonese, talk about why you should learn the language, and tell you how to learn it effectively!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Cantonese in a Nutshell
  2. Learning Cantonese – The Easiest Part
  3. Learning Cantonese – The Hardest Part
  4. Why Cantonese?
  5. I Want to Learn Cantonese. Where Should I Start?
  6. Why is CantoneseClass101 Great for Learning Cantonese?

1. Cantonese in a Nutshell

Hong Kong’s Flag
  • Cantonese is spoken in Guangdong Province of China, as well as in Hong Kong, Macao, and Southeast Asia. 
  • Cantonese originated from the city of Guangzhou, which is the capital of Guangdong Province (traditionally known as Canton). 
  • Cantonese is referred to as 廣東話 (gwong2 dung1 wa2), literally meaning “Guangdong dialect,” or 粵語 (jyut6 jyu5), meaning Yue speech.”
  • There are a total of 73 million Cantonese-speakers all over the world.

2. Learning Cantonese – The Easiest Part

Thumbs Up

Cantonese is straightforward!

For example, Cantonese grammar rules are simpler than those of many other languages. We don’t have tenses (past, future, past perfect, etc.) like English, nor do we have grammatical gender like French.

Also, we’re quite direct when expressing ourselves. Many Cantonese-learners, in an attempt to translate what is polite in their own language, actually make a mess of a sentence in Cantonese by adding a lot of unnecessary words. 

For example, take this sentence: “Would you mind going to the store for me please?”

  • A native Cantonese-speaker would ask: 你去士多? (nei5 heoi3 si6 do1)
  • Literal translation of 你去士多: “You go store?”

Many westerners find it strange to be so concise, since this would feel rude to say in English. But finding places to add superfluous words (such as “please” and other common English niceties) is unnecessary. Cantonese is direct!

3. Learning Cantonese – The Hardest Part

A Troubled Student

Pronunciation!

This is a major Cantonese language difficulty that many new learners face.

You probably know already that Cantonese doesn’t use an alphabetical writing system like English does. Instead, it uses characters that are composed of parts that depict physical objects or abstract ideas. Further, there are no concrete rules for how a character should be pronounced based on its appearance.

What makes Cantonese even more different from many European languages is that Cantonese is a tonal language. The meaning of a word can change depending on the pitch that’s used, even if the pronunciation is the same. People not familiar with this tonal system may be easily confused and think that certain tones sound identical! 

This problem of perception is perhaps why Cantonese is so hard to learn, especially considering that there are nine tones in Cantonese (compared to four tones in Mandarin).

If you’ve been learning Cantonese for any length of time, you may know by now that we use a romanization system called “Jyutping.” This system consists of two components: “pronunciation” followed by a “tone number, to notate the sound of a word. Be mindful that even if the “pronunciation” of two or more words is identical, the meaning of the words can be very different if they use different “tone numbers.”

For example:

Chinese CharacterRomanizationMeaning
baa1“bus”
baa2“handle”
baa6“cease”

As you can see, changing the pitch pattern can have a huge impact on a word’s meaning!

4. Why Cantonese?

Have you ever heard of Bruce Lee? Jackie Chan? Chow Yun-fat? Well, they all came from Hong Kong!

There are countless reasons why you should learn Cantonese.

By learning Cantonese, you’ll be providing yourself with new opportunities. As you strengthen your language skills and learn more about Cantonese culture, you’ll start to find that you’re able to better navigate life and take advantage of more opportunities in the workplace—and the world! Traveling to or doing business in Hong Kong will no longer be a far-away dream, but rather a very possible reality. You’ll even have the freedom to move to Hong Kong or Macao to earn a living, or better yet, build a career using your newfound skills—instead of being stuck in one place. 

Hong Kong is one of the world’s most significant financial centers! It has the highest Financial Development Index score and it was ranked as the world’s most competitive economy, as well as the freest market economy, in the world. Being familiar with the Cantonese language, culture, and business environment can be key in settling important negotiations or making major deals.

A Couple Reading Maps

Will you be traveling for pleasure instead? Well, a solid understanding of Cantonese can make your experience in the local Hong Kong markets, rural areas, and restaurants so much smoother and a lot more fun! 

Another great benefit of learning Cantonese is that it will give you the opportunity to grow and look at the world with a more open mind. For instance, take a look at Cantonese pop culture! Many of the movies, dramas, and songs that are loved by people from all over the world were created in Hong Kong. Not everything gets translated, either. So unless you know Cantonese, you’re missing out on a lot of the amazing things that Cantonese pop culture has to offer.

Career growth, smooth travels, personal enlightenment…but that’s not all! Studies have shown that studying another language can improve memory and keep one’s brain in good condition. This, in turn, may prevent early onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia, giving the language-learner up to five additional years of quality life to live! 

5. I Want to Learn Cantonese. Where Should I Start?

Question Marks

1. Learn the romanization.

Pronunciation might be hard, but with the romanization system, you’ll be able to learn the correct pronunciation of a word. This way, you don’t have to keep guessing and going over your vocabulary nonstop! 

Literacy in Cantonese requires the memorization of thousands of components and characters, which can be quite daunting for new Cantonese-learners. To start learning the sounds of Cantonese without the baggage of characters, Cantonese jyutping (also referred to as Cantonese romanization) comes in. This is essentially a way to help translate Cantonese pronunciation into English pronunciation.

2.  Focus on speaking.

Many Cantonese beginners find it tempting to learn both reading and writing at the same time. But we believe that it may be better to start learning how to speak before you get into reading and writing at all! This will keep you from using up all of your mental energy and getting burned out at the beginning of your studies, and provide a more solid base for your language studies.

As mentioned earlier, there are thousands of Cantonese characters, and they were created based on abstract ideas. It takes a long time to gradually memorize and become familiar with all of them. Instead, focus on speaking first. Master it. This will also give you a chance to practice speaking with locals! 

3. Practice makes perfect.

The truth is that the only way you’re going to get a standard accent, well-ordered sentences, and a better understanding of tones is by speaking. So just get out there and practice! Even if you make a mistake, Cantonese people can usually guess what you’re saying, especially when there’s context. And if they can’t understand, there’s always charades. 

And of course, you need a good teacher to guide you and provide the resources you need—and that’s where CantoneseClass101.com comes in!

6. Why is CantoneseClass101 Great for Learning Cantonese?

CantoneseClass101.com

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 to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one 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, we would love to hear your thoughts on learning Cantonese! What Cantonese difficulty do you face the most? Do you feel ready to start (or continue) learning, or do you still have questions or concerns?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Cantonese

The Most Common Cantonese Mistakes You Make When Learning

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Everybody makes mistakes. And yes, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll make mistakes while learning a new language, especially one as difficult as Cantonese

Making mistakes is no big deal—as you come closer to fluency in a language, you’ll have the time to figure out what mistakes you’re still making and how to address them. And that’s exactly what this guide is about.

In this article, we’ll list the most common Cantonese mistakes people make when learning  the language, covering a wide range of categories from pronunciation to word order. By the end of this article, you should be able to spot many mistakes, some of which are very easy to fix!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Pronunciation Mistakes
  2. Vocabulary Word Mistakes
  3. Word Order Mistakes
  4. Grammar Mistakes
  5. Another Big Mistake in Cantonese
  6. The Biggest Mistake: Being Afraid of Making Mistakes in Cantonese!
  7. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Pronunciation Mistakes 

A Man Pronouncing Words, Literally

Mistake #1: Using the wrong tones

Most learners aren’t familiar with tonal languages like Cantonese. In tonal languages, the meaning of a word can change depending on the pitch, even if the pronunciation remains the same. To people who don’t speak a tonal language, some tones may sound identical! This problem of perception is perhaps the most difficult part of learning a language like Cantonese.

If you’ve learned even a little bit of Cantonese, you probably know by now that we can use a romanization system called “Jyutping,” which consists of two components: “pronunciation,” followed by a “tone number.” Be mindful that even if the “pronunciation” of two or more words is identical, the meaning of the words can be very different if they have different “tone numbers.”

For example:

Chinese CharacterRomanizationMeaning
baa1“bus”
baa2“handle”
baa6“cease”

As you can see, changing the pitch can have a huge impact on the meaning! Always keep your eye and ear out for changes in tone and pitch to avoid a confusing mistake in Cantonese. 

Mistake #2: Mixing up J and Y in the Jyutping system

The Jyutping romanization system is a bit different from English, and one of the most confusing aspects of it is the J consonant. Although it’s represented as a J, it actually sounds like an English Y. So whenever you see the letter J in Jyutping, remember that it’s pronounced as a Y sound.

For example:

Chinese CharacterRomanizationMeaning
jau5“have”
ji3“two”
jyun4“dollar”

Mistake #3: Mispronouncing the C and Z consonants

The Cantonese C sounds a bit like a TS sound, like in “tsunami.” But unlike with the traditional TS sound in English, try to emphasize the T more than the S in Cantonese. Pronouncing it quickly may sometimes help with pronouncing the Cantonese C properly. Lastly, you want to release a burst of turbulent air when you’re pronouncing this sound.

The Cantonese Z sound is identical to that of the Cantonese C, except that you do not produce a burst of air. It has a strong DZ sound.

For example:

Chinese CharacterRomanizationMeaning
cin1“thousand”
cau1“draw”
ciu3“pretty”
zin1“fry”
zau1(common last name)
ziu3“shine”

2. Vocabulary Word Mistakes

A Dictionary

Mistake #4: Mixing up 咗 (zo2) and 過 (gwo3)

The great thing about Cantonese is that there are no verb tenses, conjugations, etc. However, there are two little words used to show that something took place in the past. These little words are particles, and they often come after a verb: 咗 (zo2) and 過 (gwo3).

Since both 咗 (zo2) and 過 (gwo3) indicate past tense, it’s quite common for people (especially beginners) to get these mixed up:

Romanizationzo2gwo3
Meaningshows that an action is complete, similar to the English “-ed” that comes after a verb when an action is doneshows an experience that someone has had before in the past
Take the sentence 我去 (ngo5 heoi3), meaning “I go,” as an example:
Characters我去咗我去過
Romanizationngo5 heoi3 zo2ngo5 heoi3 gwo3
Meaning“I went.”“I’ve been (there).”

From the example sentences above, you can see that when you add 咗 (zo2) to the sentence 我去 (ngo5 heoi3), or “I go,” the “go” becomes “went.” But if you add 過 (gwo3) instead, the “go” becomes “been.”

Mistake #5: Mixing up 唔 (m4) and 冇 (mou5)

There are two ways to negate a Cantonese verb: with 唔 (m4) or with 冇 (mou5). We put either of these two words in front of the verb to show that it is negative, but sometimes, it can be confusing to know when to use which.

The table below demonstrates the difference between the two:

Romanizationm4mou5
Meaningnegates action verbs in the present & future, or when talking about habitual thingsnegates verbs in the past tense, such as when you describe an action that either did not happen, or is not yet complete
Take the sentence 我食 (ngo5 sik6), meaning: “I eat,” as an example:
Characters我唔食我冇食
Romanizationngo5 m4 sik6ngo5 mou5 sik6
Meaning“I don’t eat.”“I didn’t eat.”

There are actually a couple more instances where you can use 冇 (mou5) to negate, but we’ll keep it simple here. You may check out our dictionary or class content to learn more!

3. Word Order Mistakes

A Lady Writing

Mistake #6: Putting the question word first in a question

In English, we usually start a question with the “W” words, like “Why,” “What,” and “Where,” but this is not the case in Cantonese. We do it the other way around, putting the Cantonese question word at the end of the question.

Take “Where is my book?” as an example:

  • Where: 邊 (bin1)
  • Is: 喺 (hai2)
  • My book: 我本書 (ngo5 bun2 syu1)

If you arrange the words in the English way, you’ll have 邊喺我本書 (bin1 hai2 ngo5 bun2 syu1), which is incorrect in Cantonese. The correct way to ask the question is: 我本書喺邊?(ngo5 bun2 syu1 hai2 bin1).

Let’s look at two more examples: “Who is she?” and “What are you eating?”

  • Who: 邊個 (bin1 go3)
  • Is: 喺 (hai2)
  • She: 佢 (keoi5)
  • Correct order: 佢係邊個?(keoi5 hai6 bin1 go3)
  • What: 咩呀 (me1 aa3)
  • You: 你 (nei5)
  • (Are) eating: 食緊 (sik6 gan2)
  • Correct order: 你食緊咩呀?(nei5 sik6 gan2 me1 aa3)

Mistake #7: Putting time adverbs at the end of a sentence

In English, we usually put the time adverb at the end, or occasionally at the beginning, of a sentence. But in Cantonese, we put the time adverb before the verb instead.

The correct way to add “time” to a simple “Subject (S) + Verb (V) + Object (O)” sentence in Cantonese is: “S + Time + V + O.”

Take “I watched a movie last week” as an example:

  • I: 我 (ngo5)
  • Watch: 睇 (tai2)
  • Movie: 戲 (hei3)
  • Last week: 上個禮拜 (soeng6 go3 lai5 baai3)
  • Correct order: 我上個禮拜睇戲 (ngo5 soeng6 go3 lai5 baai3 tai2 hei3)

Want to learn more about how to arrange words in Cantonese? Check out our article on Cantonese word order for more detailed information!

4. Grammar Mistakes

Question Marks

Mistake #8: Directly translating from English to Cantonese without considering parts of speech or context

Have you ever directly translated something from English to Cantonese? Sometimes it works, but very often, your listener may find it confusing. It’s like using Google Translate (it’s a very convenient tool, no doubt!) without double-checking the results (as they may be a bit odd).

Take “He is very sick” as an example:

  • Literal translation of “He is very sick” in Cantonese: 佢好病 (keoi5 hou2 beng6)
  • Meaning of  “佢好病”: “He’s crazy.”
  • Correct translation of He is very sick” in Cantonese: 佢病得好重 (keoi5 beng6 dak1 hou2 cung5)

It might take some time to develop a good understanding of the different parts of speech and how to more accurately translate into Cantonese, but no worries. Practice makes perfect. Try more, and learn from your mistakes!

Mistake #9: Using (or not using) a final particle

There are many final particles in Cantonese to indicate a change of mood or even the meaning of a word or phrase. If you use the wrong Cantonese particle, you may end up expressing the wrong emotion. And in some cases, forgetting to include a final particle may come across as rude! 

Below are some examples of final particles:

ParticleMeaningExample
呀 (aa3)used in neutral questions, or to soften the tone of affirmative statements so they don’t sound as abrupt我返屋企呀 ngo5 faan2 uk1 kei2 aa3“I’m going home.”
啦 (laa1)used in requests and imperatives (leaving it out could make the sentence sound rude)俾我啦 bei2 ngo5 laa1“Give it to me (please).”
囉 (lo1)indicates a suggestion or conclusion that should be obvious我冇車咪返唔到屋企囉 ngo5 mou5 ce1 mai6 faan2 m4 dou2 uk1 kei2 lo1“Without a car (of course), I am unable to go home.”

5. Another Big Mistake in Cantonese

Woman Covering Mouth with Both Hands

Mistake #10: Using too many words

A lot of Cantonese-learners, in an attempt to translate what is polite in their own language, will make a mess of a sentence in Cantonese by adding a lot of unnecessary words. Cantonese actually says things a lot more directly! 

Take “Would you mind going to the store for me, please” as an example:

  • A native Cantonese-speaker would ask with: 你去士多?(nei5 heoi3 si6 do1)
  • Literal translation of “你去士多”: “You go store?”

A lot of westerners find it strange to be so concise—it would feel rude to say that in English. But finding places to add superfluous “pleases” and stuff is unnecessary. It’s okay to use less words in Cantonese. It doesn’t sound rude at all.

6. The Biggest Mistake: Being Afraid of Making Mistakes in Cantonese!

A Woman Panicking

The truth is that the only way you’re going to get a standard accent, order sentences correctly, or get better at using and understanding tones is through making mistakes. So don’t worry. Even if you make a mistake, Cantonese people can usually guess what you’re saying, especially when there’s context. And if they can’t understand, there are always charades. 

The point is, you need to get out there and practice. Use the words you know. Engage in conversation. Then you’ll start to correct yourself, and your ear will get tuned to the language. Cantonese people love it when you try, so they’ll be very encouraging, for sure!

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

Learning from mistakes surely helps, but so does learning from 1000+ audio and video 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 to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one 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, let us know in the comments how many of these mistakes you’ve made before, and if this article was helpful for you. We look forward to hearing from you!

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

The Top 10 Most Common Cantonese Questions and Answers

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Just imagine: You’re going out with a group of native Cantonese-speakers. This is the perfect opportunity to make friends and practice your Cantonese in a real-life situation! But how do you break the ice? What should you say if you run out of topics or if your Cantonese isn’t solid enough to fuel the conversation?

The universal answer is: ask questions! 

Among countless benefits, being able to ask questions in Cantonese will help you avoid awkward silences by keeping the conversation going. It will also make the other person feel like you want to know more about them and value their opinion, thus making you more likeable. Asking questions opens a world of new information and cultural insight!

And one more perk: you don’t have to talk too much, just sit back and listen. Don’t think about your next question or how to steer the conversation back toward yourself. Just enjoy the ride and dive into whatever the other person has to say.

Convinced yet?

In this guide, you’ll not only learn how to ask questions in Cantonese, but also how to answer them. Let’s get started!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. What’s your name?
  2. Where are you from?
  3. Do you speak Cantonese?
  4. How long have you been studying ?
  5. Have you been to [country/city]?
  6. How are you?
  7. What time is it?
  8. What are you doing?
  9. What’s wrong?
  10. How much is it?
  11. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. What’s your name?

First Encounter

Q: 你叫咩名?

“What’s your name?” has to be the most common conversation starter of all. Make sure you keep it in your pocket list!

Romanization: nei5 giu3 me1 meng2

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
nei5 You
giu3 Call
me1 What
meng2Name

A: 我叫。

The answer to this question is pretty straightforward. You either state your name directly, or add the words 我叫before your name and make it “我叫.”

Romanization: ngo5 giu3 .

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
ngo5I
giu3 Call

See some examples of how to answer this question in Cantonese below!

Example 1

Chinese Characters: 我叫欣怡。
Meaning: My name is Yan-yee.
Romanization: ngo5 giu3 jan1 ji4

Example 2

Chinese Characters: 我叫俊傑。
Meaning: My name is Chun-kit.
Romanization: ngo5 giu3 zeon3 git6

Example 3

Chinese Characters: 我叫詠珊。
Meaning: My name is Wing-shan.
Romanization: ngo5 giu3 wing6 saan1

Example 4

Chinese Characters: 我叫偉文。
Meaning: My name is Wai-man.
Romanization: ngo5 giu3 wai5 man4

2. Where are you from?

Q: 你邊度嚟㗎?

This Cantonese question opens up a lot of possible conversation topics, such as cultural differences and must-see places, for you and your new Cantonese friends!

Romanization: nei5 bin1 dou6 lei4 gaa3

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
nei5 You
邊度bin1 dou6Where
lei4Come
gaa3a Cantonese question particle that indicates question or doubt

A: 我嚟嘅。

There are two ways you can answer this question. The first is by answering directly with your city or country: 

  • 香港 (hoeng1 gong2) – “Hong Kong”

You may also add the word 我 before “Hong Kong,” and 嚟嘅 after it: 我香港嚟嘅.

Romanization: ngo5 lei4 ge3

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
ngo5I
lei4To come
ge3a final particle that implies assertion with emphasis

Here are some examples:

Example 1

Chinese Characters: 我美國嚟嘅。
Meaning: I’m from the U.S.
Romanization: ngo5 mei5 gwok3 lei4 ge3

Example 2

Chinese Characters: 我英國嚟嘅。
Meaning: I’m from England.
Romanization: ngo5 jing1 gwok3 lei4 ge3

Example 3

Chinese Characters: 我中國嚟嘅。
Meaning: I’m from China.
Romanization: ngo5 zung1 gwok3 lei4 ge3

Example 4

Chinese Characters: 我德國嚟嘅。
Meaning: I’m from Germany.
Romanization: ngo5 dak1 gwok3 lei4 ge3



3. Do you speak Cantonese?

Books of Different Languages

Q: 你識唔識講?

This is one of those basic Cantonese questions that you may be asked when you meet new friends in Hong Kong!

Romanization: nei5 sik1 m4 sik1 gong2

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
nei5 You
識唔識sik1 m4 sik1To know or not
gong2Speak

Here’s an example:

Chinese Characters: 你識唔識講廣東話?
Meaning: Do you speak Cantonese?
Romanization: nei5 sik1 m4 sik1 gong2 gwong2 dung1 waa2

A: Varies

Depending on how well you know the language, you can answer with one of the below phrases!

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
識少少。sik1 siu2 siu2Yes, I speak a little.
識一啲。sik1 jat1 di1Yes, I speak some.
識啲啲。sik1 di1 di1Yes, I speak a little bit.
識大部分。sik1 daai6 bou6 fan6Yes, I speak quite a lot.

4. How long have you been studying ?

Introducing Yourself

Q: 你學咗幾耐?

Once your new Cantonese friends find out that you speak at least a little bit of their language, you may very likely be asked this question!

Romanization: nei5 hok6 zo2 gei2 noi6

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
nei5 You
學咗hok6 zo2 To have learned
幾耐gei2 noi6How long

Here’s an example:

Chinese Characters: 你學咗廣東話幾耐?
Meaning: How long have you been studying Cantonese?
Romanization: nei5 hok6 zo2 gwong2 dung1 waa2 gei2 noi6

A: Varies

Here are a few examples of how you can answer this question. 

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
一個月。jat1 go3 jyut6For one month.
一年。jat1 nin4For one year.
三個月。saam1 go3 jyut6For three months.
兩年。loeng5 nin4For two years.

5. Have you been to [country/city]?

The Globe

Q: 你有冇去過?

Another great conversation starter. You can share your travel stories and learn more about your Cantonese friends’ adventures!

Romanization: nei5 jau5 mou5 heoi3 gwo3

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
nei5 You
有冇jau5 mou5 To have or to not have
去過heoi3 gwo3Have been

Here’s an example:

Chinese Characters: 你有冇去過香港?
Meaning: Have you been to Hong Kong?
Romanization: nei5 jau5 mou5 heoi3 gwo3 hoeng1 gong2

A: Varies

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
有呀,去過兩次。jau5 aa3, heoi3 gwo3 loeng5 ci3Yes, I’ve been twice.
有呀,去過四次。jau5 aa3, heoi3 gwo3 sei3 ci3Yes, I’ve been four times.
有呀,去過一次。jau5 aa3, heoi3 gwo3 jat1 ci3Yes, I’ve been once.
冇呀。mou5 aa3No. (I have never been.)

6. How are you?

Q: 你好嗎?

This is one of the most useful Cantonese questions to know, especially once you’ve made some good friends and want to inquire about their well-being.

Romanization: nei5 hou2 maa3

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
nei5 You
hou2Good
maa3a Cantonese question particle

A: Varies 

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
我幾好。ngo5 gei2 hou2I’m fine.
我好好。ngo5 hou2 hou2I’m great.
我非常好。ngo5 fei1 soeng4 hou2I’m very good.
我唔係幾好。ngo5 m4 hai6 gei2 hou2I’m not so well.


7. What time is it?

A Clock

Q: 而家幾點?

A great question to ask when you don’t have your watch with you!

Romanization: ji4 gaa1 gei2 dim2

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
而家ji4 gaa1Now
gei2How long / How many / How much
dim2Time

A: Varies

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
十二點。sap6 ji6 dim2It’s twelve o’clock.
九點。gau2 dim2It’s nine o’clock.
六點。luk6 dim2It’s six o’clock.
兩點。loeng5 dim2It’s two o’clock.

8. What are you doing?

Q: 你做緊咩?

Are you curious what your new bestie is up to? Ask them in Cantonese! 

Romanization: nei5 zou6 gan2 me1

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
nei5 You
做緊zou6 gan2 Doing
me1What

A: Varies 

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
我諗緊嘢。ngo5 lam2 gan2 je5I’m thinking.
我食緊嘢。ngo5 sik6 gan2 je5I’m eating.
我做緊嘢。ngo5 zou6 gan2 je5I’m working.
我畫緊嘢。ngo5 waak6 gan2 je5I’m drawing.

9. What’s wrong?

Emotions

Q: 咩事呀?

Does your friend seem down today? Ask them what’s wrong, and lend a listening ear! 

Romanization: me1 si6 aa3

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
me1What
si6Matter
aa3a Cantonese question particle

A: Varies 

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
我好攰。ngo5 hou2 gui6I’m tired.
我唔舒服。ngo5 m4 syu1 fuk6I’m unwell.
我好眼瞓。ngo5 hou2 ngaan5 fan3I’m sleepy.
我擔⼼。ngo5 daam1 sam1I’m worried.

10. How much is it?

Q: 呢個幾錢?

You have to know this question if you plan on shopping in Hong Kong! 

Romanization: ni1 go3 gei2 cin2

Breakdown:

Character RomanizationMeaning
呢個ni1 go3This
gei2How long / How many / How much 
cin2Money

A: Varies 

AnswerRomanizationMeaning
五十蚊。ng5 sap6 man1$50
一百蚊。jat1 baak3 man1$100
二千蚊ji6 cin1 man1$2000
兩百蚊。loeng5 baak3 man1$200


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

By now, you should have a better idea of how to ask and answer the most common Cantonese questions. Are there any important questions or answers we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to help.

Fancy learning more Cantonese after familiarizing yourself with the questions and answers above?

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 to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program by upgrading your account!

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

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

The 10 Most Useful Cantonese Sentence Patterns

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Struggle to express yourself in Cantonese? No worries—we’ve got you covered! Today at CantoneseClass101.com, we’re covering the ten most basic and useful sentence patterns. Memorize these patterns, and you’ll be able to generate hundreds of natural sentences and converse with ease and confidence.

Without further ado, let’s go through the ten most useful Cantonese sentence patterns together!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Linking Two Nouns: A is B
  2. Using Adjectives to Describe: A is [Adjective]
  3. Expressing “Want”
  4. Expressing “Need”
  5. Expressing “Like” or “Love”
  6. Politely Asking Someone to Do Something
  7. Asking for Permission
  8. Asking for Information About Something
  9. Asking About Time
  10. Asking About Location or Position

1. Linking Two Nouns: A is B

Sentence patterns

You can use this Cantonese sentence structure to say that one noun is also another noun. 

Sentence Pattern: [A] 係 [B]。

Romanization: [A] hai6 [B]

Meaning: [A] is [B].

Example sentence 1

Chinese Characters: 我係學生。

Romanization: ngo5 hai6 hok6 saang1

Meaning: “I am a student.”

Example sentence 2

Chinese Characters: 佢係醫生。

Romanization: keoi5 hai6 ji1 sang1

Meaning: “He is a doctor.”

Example sentence 3

Chinese Characters: 雖然佢係其中一個示威者,但係佢無做出任何暴力行為。

Romanization: seoi1 jin4 keoi5 hai6 kei4 zung1 jat1 go3 si6 wai1 ze2, daan6 hai6 keoi5 mou4 zou6 ceot1 jam6 ho4 bou6 lik6 hang4 wai4

Meaning: “Although he was one of the demonstrators, he did not commit any violence.”

Example sentence 4

Chinese Characters: 香港係我嘅家。

Romanization: hoeng1 gong2 hai6 ngo5 ge3 gaa1Meaning: “Hong Kong is my home.”

2. Using Adjectives to Describe: A is [Adjective]

This Cantonese sentence list provides examples of common sentences using adjectives to describe nouns. To create your own sentences, you may find it useful to visit our vocabulary list on the fifty most common adjectives in Cantonese.

Sentence Pattern: [A] 好 [B]。

Romanization: [A] hou2 [B]

Meaning: [A] is very [B (adjective)].

Example sentence 1

Chinese Characters: 綺拉好靚女。

Romanization: ji2 laai1 hou2 leng3 neoi2

Meaning: “Kiera is very good-looking.”

Example sentence 2

Chinese Characters: 彭定康係英國人。

Romanization: paang4 ding6 hong1 hai6 jing1 gwok3 jan4

Meaning: “Patten is British.”

Example sentence 3

Chinese Characters: 香港好靚。

Romanization: hoeng1 gong2 hou2 leng3

Meaning: Hong Kong is beautiful.”

Example sentence 4

Chinese Characters: 佢好得意。

Romanization: keoi5 hou2 dak1 ji3

Meaning: “It is cute.”

Example sentence 5

Chinese Characters: 我好傻,竟然信佢。

Romanization: ngo5 hou2 so4, ging2 jin4 seon3 keoi5

Meaning: “I am foolish enough to have trusted him.”

Example sentence 6

Chinese Characters: 佢好煩,不停懷疑我到底係咪鍾意佢。

Romanization: keoi5 hou2 faan4, bat1 ting4 waai4 ji4 ngo5 dou3 dai2 hai6 mai6 zung1 ji3 keoi5

Meaning: “He is so annoying—he kept questioning whether I love him or not.”

3. Expressing “Want”

a lady raising her hand

Some of the most useful Cantonese phrases are those for letting others know what you want. Here are some examples of how you can do this. 

Sentence Pattern: [A] 想 [B]。

Romanization: [A] soeng2 [B]

Meaning: [A] wants [B].

Example sentence 1

Chinese Characters: 我想去廁所。

Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 heoi3 ci3 so2

Meaning: “I want to go to the toilet.”

Example sentence 2

Chinese Characters: 佢想開party。

Romanization: keoi5 soeng2 hoi1 party 

Meaning: “He wants to throw a party.”

Example sentence 3

Chinese Characters: 我想喊。

Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 haam3

Meaning: “I want to cry.”

Example sentence 4

Chinese Characters: 佢想一腳踏兩船。

Romanization: keoi5 soeng2 jat1 goek3 daap6 loeng5 syun4

Meaning: “He wants to two-time.”

Example sentence 5

Chinese Characters: 我都想開心,但係日日見到呢啲咁sad嘅新聞好難開心喎。

Romanization: ngo5 dou1 soeng2 hoi1 sam1, daan6 hai6 jat6 jat6 gin3 dou2 ni1 di1 gam3 sad ge3 san1 man2 hou2 naan4 hoi1 sam1 wo3

Meaning: “I want to be happy too, but it’s very difficult to do so given that we are hearing sad news stories every day.”

4. Expressing “Need”

Sentence components

Learning Cantonese sentences for expressing what you need is even more important than learning those for expressing want. Take a look at these examples.

Sentence Pattern: [A] 要 [B]。

Romanization: [A] jiu3 [B]

Meaning: [A] needs [B].

Example sentence 1

Chinese Characters: 我要休息一陣。

Romanization: ngo5 jiu3 jau1 sik1 jat1 jan6

Meaning: “I need to rest for a bit.”

Example sentence 2

Chinese Characters: 佢要道歉。

Romanization: keoi5 jiu3 dou6 hip3

Meaning: “She needs to apologize.”

Example sentence 3

Chinese Characters: 我要食朱古力。

Romanization: ngo5 jiu3 sik6 zyu1 gu2 lik2

Meaning: “I need to eat chocolate.”

Example sentence 4

Chinese Characters: 佢要再攞多兩日假。

Romanization: keoi5 jiu3 zoi3 lo2 do1 loeng5 jat6 gaa3

Meaning: “He needs two more days off.”

Example sentence 5

Chinese Characters: 佢同第二個拍拖,我知你好傷心,但係你要振作,咁你先可以喺你嘅真命天子出現時俾最好嘅你佢。

Romanization: keoi5 tung4 dai6 ji6 go3 paak3 to1, ngo5 zi1 nei5 hou2 soeng1 sam1, daan6 hai6 nei5 jiu3 zan3 zok3, gam2 nei5 sin1 ho2 ji5 hai2 nei5 ge3 zan1 ming6 tin1 zi2 ceot1 jin6 si4 bei2 zeoi3 hou2 ge3 nei5 keoi5

Meaning: “I know he’s dating someone else and you’re sad, but you need to stay strong, only that you will be able to show your best self when your true love comes into your life.”

5. Expressing “Like” or “Love”

Facebook likes

Now let’s go over some Cantonese sentence examples for expressing your likes! 

Sentence Pattern: [A] 鍾意 [B]。

Romanization: [A] zung1 ji3 [B]

Meaning: [A] likes/loves [B].

Note: 鍾意 (zung1 ji3) can mean “like,” “love,” or “enjoy.”

Example sentence 1

Chinese Characters: 我鍾意多啦A夢。

Romanization: ngo5 zung1 ji3 do1 laa1 A mung6

Meaning: “I like Doraemon.”

Example sentence 2

Chinese Characters: 胖虎鍾意唱歌。

Romanization: bun6 fu2 zung1 ji3 coeng3 go1

Meaning: “Gian likes singing.”

Example sentence 3

Chinese Characters: 大雄鍾意靜香。

Romanization: daai6 hung4 zung1 ji3 zing6 hoeng1

Meaning: “Nobita loves Shizuka.”

Example sentence 4

Chinese Characters: 靜香鍾意拉小提琴。

Romanization: zing6 hoeng1 zung1 ji3 laai1 siu2 tai4 kam4

Meaning: “Shizuka likes playing violin.”

Example sentence 5

Chinese Characters: 小夫鍾意曬命,但係大雄、胖虎同靜香都仍然肯同佢做朋友。

Romanization: siu2 fu1 zung1 ji3 saai3 meng6, daan6 hai6 daai6 hung4, bun6 fu2 tung4 zing6 hoeng1 dou1 jing4 jin4 hang2 tung4 keoi5 zou6 pang4 jau5

Meaning: “Even though Suneo likes showing off, Nobita, Gian, and Shizuka are still willing to be friends with him.”

6. Politely Asking Someone to Do Something

The next type of Cantonese phrases we’ll look at are those for asking someone to do something in a polite way. Check it out:

Sentence Pattern: 請 [A]。

Romanization: cing2 [A]

Meaning: Please [A (verb)].

Example sentence 1

Chinese Characters: 請坐。

Romanization: cing2 co5

Meaning: “Please take a seat.”

Example sentence 2

Chinese Characters: 請等等。

Romanization: cing2 dang2 dang2

Meaning: “Please wait.”

Example sentence 3

Chinese Characters: 請注意。

Romanization: cing2 zyu3 ji3

Meaning: “Please pay attention.”

Example sentence 4

Chinese Characters: 請停一停。

Romanization: cing2 ting4 jat1 ting4

Meaning: “Please stop for a while.”

Example sentence 5

Chinese Characters: 請選擇語言。

Romanization: cing2 syun2 zaak6 jyu5 jin4

Meaning: “Please select the language.”

7. Asking for Permission

a question mark

Knowing how to ask for permission is important in every culture and language. Following are some examples of how to do this in Cantonese.

Sentence Pattern: [A] 可唔可以 [B]?

Romanization: [A] ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 [B]

Meaning: Can [A] [B (verb)]?

Example sentence 1

Chinese Characters: 我哋可唔可以食嘢?

Romanization: ngo5 dei6 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 sik6 je5

Meaning: “Can we eat?”

Example sentence 2

Chinese Characters: 我哋可唔可以做個朋友?

Romanization: ngo5 dei6 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 zou6 go3 pang4 jau5

Meaning: “Can we be friends?”

Example sentence 3

Chinese Characters: 你可唔可以唔好控制慾咁強?

Romanization: nei5 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 m4 hou2 hung3 zai3 juk6 gam3 koeng4

Meaning: “Can you be less controlling?”

Example sentence 4

Chinese Characters: 爸爸,我哋可唔可以唔搭地鐵啊?

Romanization: baa4 baa1, ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 m4 daap3 dei6 tit3 aa3 

Meaning: “Dad, can we not take the MTR?”

Example sentence 5

Chinese Characters: 你可唔可以將你個女嫁畀我啊?

Romanization: nei5 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 zoeng1 nei5 go3 neoi2 gaa3 bei2 ngo5 aa3

Meaning: “Can I marry your daughter?”

8. Asking for Information About Something

At some point, you’ll need to ask someone a question about something. Here’s the Cantonese sentence structure you should use to ask for information while in Hong Kong.

Sentence Pattern: [A] 係唔係 [B]?

Romanization: [A] hai6 m4 hai6 [B]

Meaning: Is [A] [B]?

Example sentence 1

Chinese Characters: 你係唔係偉仔?

Romanization: nei5 hai6 m4 hai6 wai5 zai2

Meaning: “Are you Tony Leung?”

Example sentence 2

Chinese Characters: 你係唔係學生?

Romanization: nei5 hai6 m4 hai6 hok6 saang1

Meaning: “Are you a student?”

Example sentence 3

Chinese Characters: 佢係唔係傻㗎?

Romanization: keoi5 hai6 m4 hai6 so4 gaa3

Meaning: “Is she out of her mind?”

Example sentence 4

Chinese Characters: 我係唔係好靚呢?

Romanization: ngo5 hai6 m4 hai6 hou2 leng3 ne1

Meaning: “Am I pretty?”

Example sentence 5

Chinese Characters: 你係唔係未食lunch?

Romanization: nei5 hai6 m4 hai6 mei6 sik6 lunch 

Meaning: “You haven’t had lunch, have you?”

9. Asking About Time

a clock

Learn this simple Cantonese sentence pattern, and never be late for a meeting again! 

Sentence Pattern: [A] 幾點 [B]?

Romanization: [A] gei2 dim2 [B]

Meaning: When [A]  [B (verb)]?

Example sentence 1

Chinese Characters: 我哋幾點食?

Romanization: ngo5 dei6 gei2 dim2 sik6

Meaning: “When should we eat?”

Example sentence 2

Chinese Characters: 你幾點收工?

Romanization: nei5 gei2 dim2 sau1 gung1

Meaning: “When will you be off?”

Example sentence 3

Chinese Characters: 你幾點瞓覺?

Romanization: nei5 gei2 dim2 fan3 gaau3

Meaning: “When do you sleep?”

Example sentence 4

Chinese Characters: 你幾點方便?

Romanization: nei5 gei2 dim2 fong1 bin6

Meaning: “When will be convenient for you?”

Example sentence 5

Chinese Characters: 我想見下你呀,你幾點得閒?

Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 gin3 haa5 nei5 aa3, nei5 gei2 dim2 dak1 haan4

Meaning: “I want to see you—when are you free?”

10. Asking About Location or Position

Have you ever been lost in a big city, or gotten turned around in an unfamiliar building? Learning this Cantonese sentence structure will be very helpful for your travels in Hong Kong! 

Sentence Pattern: [A] 喺邊度?

Romanization: [A] hai2 bin1 dou6

Meaning: Where is [A]?

Example sentence 1

Chinese Characters: 廁所喺邊度?

Romanization: ci3 so2 hai2 bin1 dou6

Meaning: “Where is the toilet?”

Example sentence 2

Chinese Characters: 車站喺邊度?

Romanization: ce1 zaam6 hai2 bin1 dou6

Meaning: “Where is the bus station?”

Example sentence 3

Chinese Characters: 餐廳喺邊度?

Romanization: caan1 teng1 hai2 bin1 dou6

Meaning: “Where is the restaurant?”

Example sentence 4

Chinese Characters: 商場喺邊度?

Romanization: soeng1 coeng4 hai2 bin1 dou6

Meaning: “Where is the shopping mall?”

Example sentence 5

Chinese Characters: 我見唔到你,你喺邊度?

Romanization: ngo5 gin3 m4 dou2 nei5, nei5 hai2 bin1 dou6

Meaning: “I can’t see you. Where are you?”

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

Did you know any of these Cantonese sentence patterns already, or are they new to you? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to reach out with any questions! 

Now that we’ve gone through the ten most useful Cantonese sentence patterns, try to express your thoughts in Cantonese! To better your Cantonese even further, we advise you to invest your time in CantoneseClass101.com!

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