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Archive for the 'Cantonese Phrases' Category

Your Guide to Cantonese Filler Words

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Um… Hmm… Well…

Have you ever heard or used these words in a conversation? In linguistics, they’re called “filler words.” While they may seem meaningless, and while many associate them with uncertainty and nervousness, filler words can actually be useful. For example, they can help your speech sound more genuine and diplomatic, and even help you jump into a conversation.

Woman Thinking about Something

Cantonese filler words have the potential to make or break a conversation, depending on when and how you use them. In this article, you’ll learn what the most common Cantonese filler words are and how to use them properly. Let’s dive in!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Filler Words Explained
  2. The Top 10 Cantonese Filler Words
  3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words
  4. Bonus: Cantonese Final Particles
  5. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Filler Words Explained

Before going through our list of Cantonese filler words, let’s talk more about what filler words are and why we use them in the first place. 

What are filler words?

In linguistics, filler words are sounds or words uttered in conversation to signal that the speaker needs time to think and is not yet finished speaking. Filler words are usually meaningless, and are also known as “fillers,” “filled pauses,” “hesitation markers,” or “planners.” Some common filler words in English are:

  • Hm
  • Ah
  • Er
  • Um
  • You know
  • Right
  • Like

In Cantonese, common examples are:

  • 即係 (zik1 hai6)
  • 呢 (ne1
  •  誒 (e6)

Why do we use them?

There are plenty of reasons we use filler words:

1 – They can make the speaker sound more polite.

Imagine that someone has asked for a favor or invited you to a party. If you were to say “no” immediately without any filler words, you would probably appear rude. It would be much more polite to say something like: “Um, well, you know, sorry. I don’t think I can go.” In this way, filler words play an important role in politeness.

2 – They can help listeners catch up when the speaker is elaborating on complicated issues.

When you’re speaking of complicated matters, your listeners may have trouble understanding the subject matter if you go too quickly. Sometimes we unconsciously use filler words to help the listeners process what we’re trying to say.

3 – They can buy you a minute to think.

Have you ever run out of words or had your mind go blank? When you need time to think of what to say or how to phrase it, you can use filler words to “fill” the time gap.

4 – They can signal to others that you have not finished your points yet.

When you hear the word “well,” you know that the speaker has not finished yet. We use filler words to let others know that we’re not done speaking, and that even if we’ve paused for a second, we have more to say.

5 – They can add emphasis.

We can use filler words to grab listeners’ attention or to emphasize something. You could say, for example: “You know, this will eventually hurt you and put you in danger.” The filler at the beginning would stress the importance of what you’re about to say.

2. The Top 10 Cantonese Filler Words

1 – 即係 (zik1 hai6)

Function / Indication: “like” [used to add emphasis]

Example Dialogue

Person A:

  • Chinese: 唔知點解會搞成咁。
  • Romanization: m4 zi1 dim2 gaai2 wui5 gaau2 seng4 gam2.
  • Meaning: I don’t know why it will end this way.

Person B:

  • Chinese: 衰咗咪認囉,即係你又唔係第一次。
  • Romanization: seoi1 zo2 mai6 jing6 lo1, zik1 hai6 nei5 jau6 m4 hai6 dai6 jat1 ci3.
  • Meaning: You should just admit it if you’ve made a fool of yourself, like it’s not the first time.

2 – 誒 (e6)

Function / Indication: “oh” [indicates hesitation]

Example Dialogue

Person A:

  • Chinese: 邊個食咗我啲朱古力?
  • Romanization: bin1 go3 sik6 zo2 ngo5 di1 zyu1 gu1 lik1?
  • Meaning: Who ate my chocolate?

Person B:

  • Chinese: 誒,係我呀。
  • Romanization: e6, hai6 ngo5 aa3.
  • Meaning: Oh… it was me.
A Square of Chocolate Sinking in Melted Chocolate

Who Doesn’t Want a Bite of Chocolate?

3 – 咁 (gam2)

Function / Indication: “if that’s the case,” “then” [indicates that you understood the other party; use it before replying or making suggestions based on what they’ve just said]

Example Dialogue

Person A:

  • Chinese: 我唔想食牛肉麵。
  • Romanization: ngo5 m4 soeng2 sik6 ngau4 juk6 min6.
  • Meaning: I don’t want beef noodles.

Person B:

  • Chinese: 咁一係我哋食雲吞
  • Romanization: gam2 jat1 hai6 ngo5 dei6 sik6 wan4 tan1?
  • Meaning: Then how about wonton?

4 – 咁呀 (gam2 aa4)

Function / Indication: indicates you’re thinking (the “aa4” sound is usually prolonged)

Example Dialogue

Person A:

  • Chinese: 我唔想食燒鵝
  • Romanization: ngo5 m4 soeng2 sik6 siu1 ngo2.
  • Meaning: I don’t want to get roast goose.

Person B:

  • Chinese: 咁呀,不如我哋食日本菜?
  • Romanization: gam2 aa4, bat1 jyu4 ngo5 dei6 sik6 jat6 bun2 coi3?
  • Meaning: Well…how about Japanese (cuisine) then?

5 – 其實呢 (kei4 sat6 ne1)

Function / Indication: “well”

Example Dialogue

Person A:

  • Chinese: 我使唔使再減肥?
  • Romanization: ngo5 sai2 m4 sai2 zoi3 gaam2 fei4?
  • Meaning: Do you think I need to lose more weight?

Person B:

  • Chinese: 其實呢唔使太誇張,唔係暴飲暴食我覺得無問題。
  • Romanization: kei4 sat6 ne1 m4 sai2 taai3 kwaa1 zoeng1, m4 hai6 bou6 jam2 bou6 sik6 ngo5 gok3 dak1 mou5 man6 tai4.
  • Meaning: Well, don’t exaggerate. I think you will be fine as long as you don’t eat like a horse.

6 – 咁呢 (gam2 ne1)

Function / Indication: “well” [indicates that you want to catch someone’s attention] (stronger than #5)

Example Dialogue

Person A:

  • Chinese: 咁呢我就投咗票啦,你呢?
  • Romanization: gam2 ne1 ngo5 zau6 tau4 zo2 piu3 laa3, nei5 ne1?
  • Meaning: Well, I have voted. How about you?

Person B:

  • Chinese: 我都投咗啦。
  • Romanization: ngo5 dou1 tau4 zo2 laa3.
  • Meaning: Me too.

7 – 嗯 (ng6)

Function / Indication: “understood” [indicates that you’re about to reply to what the other person’s saying; indicates you’re thinking]

Note: a short is a “yes”; a prolonged is a filler word

Example Dialogue

Person A:

  • Chinese: 我想睇戲。
  • Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 tai2 hei3.
  • Meaning: I want to go watch a movie.

Person B:

  • Chinese: 嗯,我睇吓聽日場次點。
  • Romanization: ng6, ngo5 tai2 haa5 ting1 jat6 coeng4 ci3 dim2.
  • Meaning: I will go check the tickets. 

8 – 哦 (o5)

Function / Indication: “okay,” “fine,” “I will take your word for it”

Example Dialogue

Person A:

  • Chinese: 我唔得閒呀。
  • Romanization: ngo5 m4 dak1 haan4 aa3.
  • Meaning: I am not free.

Person B:

  • Chinese: 哦,好啦,咁算啦。
  • Romanization: o5, hou2 laa1, gam2 syun3 laa1.
  • Meaning: Okay, never mind.

9 – 唉 (aai2)

Function / Indication: “alas” [indicates you’re sad]

Example Dialogue

Person A:

  • Chinese: 我失敗咗。
  • Romanization: ngo5 sat1 baai6 zo2.
  • Meaning: I failed.

Person B:

  • Chinese: 唉,點會咁㗎。
  • Romanization: aai2, dim2 wui5 gam2 gaa3.
  • Meaning: Alas, how could that possibly have happened.

10 – 呣 (m2)

Function / Indication: indicates that you’re unsure or indecisive about something

Example Dialogue

Person A:

  • Chinese: 我可唔可以做你女朋友?
  • Romanization: ngo5 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 zou6 nei5 neoi5 pang4 jau5?
  • Meaning: Can I be your girlfriend?

Person B:

  • Chinese: 呣,我諗諗。
  • Romanization: m2, ngo5 lam2 lam2.
  • Meaning: I will think about it.

3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words

Now that you’ve learned the most common Cantonese filler words, how often should you use them and when is it appropriate? To answer these questions, let’s take a look at the pros and cons below. 

You can use filler words to sound like a local…

Thumbs-up

When you start using filler words, it will instantly increase how “authentic” you sound. Some people might not even realize it, but it will have an effect on how they perceive you and your speech. 

If you’ve attained a beginner or intermediate level of Cantonese, using fillers will make you sound a bit cooler and might boost your confidence. As an advanced learner, you’re getting one step closer to truly blending in; if your pronunciation is good enough, you could even start fooling your new local friends by sounding just like a native Cantonese speaker.


…but you shouldn’t overuse them.

Stop Hand Gesture

However, this is a double-edged sword. If you overdo it, it might make you sound too hesitant or less confident. If you’re being interviewed or presenting to your clients, constantly mumbling 誒 (e6) doesn’t make a good impression.

The rule of thumb is: Only use filler words when they’re needed.

4. Bonus: Cantonese Final Particles

In Cantonese, we have a special type of word that is similar to filler words: final particles. Final particles are also meaningless when used by themselves, but when placed at the end of a sentence or a question, they indicate the mood or attitude of the speaker and make the speech more colloquial. Here are the top 5 Cantonese final particles:

1 – 呀 (aa3)

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

Example Sentence

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

2 – 喇 (laa3)

Function / Indication: “already” [indicates an exclamation with an emphasis on the past]

Example Sentence

  • Chinese: 佢返咗屋企喇。
  • Romanization: keoi5 faan1 zo2 uk1 kei2 laa3.
  • Meaning: “He already got back home.”

3 – 嘅 (ge3)

Function / Indication: indicates humbleness or understanding; emphasis on raising the fact in a subtle way

Example Sentence

  • Chinese: 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.”

4 – 㗎 (gaa3)

Function / Indication: emphasis on a fact being raised

Example Sentence

  • Chinese: 得㗎。
  • Romanization: dak1 gaa3.
  • Meaning: “It can be done.”

5 – 囉 (lo1)

Function / Indication: indicates discontentment or sarcasm

Example Sentence

  • Chinese: 我錯囉。
  • Romanization: ngo5 co3 lo1.
  • Meaning: “Fine, I was wrong.”

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

Do you want to take your Cantonese to the next level after learning these Cantonese filler words? 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.

CantoneseClass101.com

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 which filler words are common in your native language. We look forward to hearing from you!

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

How to Say “I Love You,” in Cantonese

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Love is quite an unexplainable matter—it can cause you to feel happy, excited, and a number of other emotions. Considering the vast breadth of feelings you’re experiencing, how can you properly express your love in Cantonese to that special someone? 

In this article, we’ll not only cover the most common love phrases like “I miss you,” and “I love you,” in Cantonese, but we’ll also teach you how to express your interest and affection during each stage of your relationship. As a bonus, we’ll share some love quotes at the end (but we don’t recommend using them in your dating life unless you want to sound…cheesy).

Do note that most Hongkongers (and other people living in the Cantonese-speaking regions) are more subtle and reserved when it comes to love and dating compared to Westerners. So pay attention to the cultural differences, practice patience, and be gentle. 

By the way: If you want to keep things casual at first, there are many dating apps out there for you to try. 

Without further ado, our list of love phrases in Cantonese for every dating stage.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Before a Date
  2. On a Date
  3. After a Date
  4. Fall in Deeper: “I Love You,” and More
  5. Take it One Step Further: “Will You Marry Me?” and More
  6. Bonus: Endearment Terms and Love Quotes
  7. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Before a Date

Valentine’s Day

You just saw your crush! Now’s the time to gather your courage and talk to him or her. 

We’ve compiled a list of phrases that could help you express your interest and finally ask your crush out. You shouldn’t feel too uncomfortable making your move, as having lunch or dinner with someone of the opposite sex is quite normal in Hong Kong.

Are you free this weekend?

Chinese Characters: 你今個禮拜尾得唔得閒?
Romanization: nei5 gam1 go3 lai5 baai3 mei5 dak1 m4 dak1 haan4

Would you like to hang out with me?

Chinese Characters: 我哋去玩好唔好?
Romanization: ngo5 dei6 heoi3 waan2 hou2 m4 hou2

Would you like to go out to dinner with me?

Chinese Characters: 賞面同我食餐飯嗎?
Romanization: soeng2 min2 tung4 ngo5 sik6 caan1 faan6 maa3

I know a good place.

Chinese Characters: 我知道一個好地方。
Romanization: ngo5 zi1 dou3 jat1 go3 hou2 dei6 fong1

What time shall we meet tomorrow?

Chinese Characters: 我哋聽日約幾點?
Romanization: ngo5 dei6 ting1 jat6 joek3 gei2 dim2

Where shall we meet?

Chinese Characters: 我哋喺邊度等?
Romanization: ngo5 dei6 hai2 bin1 dou6 dang2


2. On a Date

A Couple Having Dinner

Hurray! You guys are on your first date and having a great time. And what better way to make a great date even better than by offering him or her some genuine compliments? Here are some phrases you can use:

You’re so handsome.

Chinese Characters: 你好靚仔。
Romanization: nei5 hou2 leng3 zai2
Additional Note: This is only to be said to males.

You’re so beautiful. 

Chinese Characters: 你好靚。
Romanization: nei5 hou2 leng3
Additional Note: This is only to be said to females.

You look great today.

Chinese Characters: 你今日好精神。
Romanization: nei5 gam1 jat6 hou2 zing1 san4

That jacket looks nice on you.

Chinese Characters: 件外套好襯你。
Romanization: gin6 ngoi6 tou3 hou2 can3 nei5

You have a great sense of humor.

Chinese Characters: 你好幽默。
Romanization: nei5 hou2 jau1 mak6

Your smile is beautiful.

Chinese Characters: 你嘅笑容好靚。
Romanization: nei5 ge3 siu3 jung4 hou2 leng3

You have good taste.

Chinese Characters: 你好有品味。
Romanization: nei5 hou2 jau5 ban2 mei6

You have a way with words.

Chinese Characters: 你好識得講嘢。
Romanization: nei5 hou2 sik1 dak1 gong2 je5

You are cute.

Chinese Characters: 你好可愛。
Romanization: nei5 hou2 ho2 oi3


3. After a Date

A Cute Couple Looking into Each Other’s Eyes

You guys had a blast! You want to end the date well and leave a good impression—and you hope to see them more. Here are some phrases you can use: 

That was a great evening.

Chinese Characters: 今晚好開心。
Romanization: gam1 maan5 hou2 hoi1 sam1

I will drive you home.

Chinese Characters: 我車你返屋企。
Romanization: ngo5 ce1 nei5 faan1 uk1 kei2

What do you think of this place?

Chinese Characters: 你覺得呢度點?
Romanization: nei5 gok3 dak1 ni1 dou6 dim2

Can I see you again?

Chinese Characters: 我可唔可以再約你?
Romanization: ngo5 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 zoi3 joek3 nei5

When can I see you again?

Chinese Characters: 幾時可以再見你?
Romanization: gei2 si4 ho2 ji5 zoi3 gin3 nei5

I’ll call you.

Chinese Characters: 我打畀你。
Romanization: ngo5 daa2 bei2 nei5

4. Fall in Deeper: “I Love You,” and More

A Couple Being Intimate

Your relationship has progressed well since your first date. In fact, you’ve completely fallen for him or her! Try using the following love expressions in Cantonese to show how much you adore them.

I like you.

Chinese Characters: 我鍾意你。
Romanization: ngo5 zung1 ji3 nei5

I love you.

Chinese Characters: 我愛你。
Romanization: ngo5 ngoi3 nei5

Note that Cantonese speakers rarely use the exact phrase for “I love you,” as it’s considered too formal. Instead, we use the first phrase—我鍾意你 (ngo5 zung1 ji3 nei5), or “I like you”—to express our love. The word 鍾意 conveys a feeling of fondness without coming across as too strong. In fact, we can also use this phrase to talk about some of our favorite things. For example: 

我鍾意食蛋撻 (ngo5 zung1 ji3 sik6 daan6 taat1) – “I like egg tarts.”

I miss you.

Chinese Characters: 我好掛住你。
Romanization: ngo5 hou2 gwaa3 zyu6 nei5

You made me a better person.

Chinese Characters: 你令我成為一個更好嘅人。
Romanization: nei5 ling6 ngo5 sing4 wai4 jat1 go3 gang3 hou2 ge3 jan4


5. Take it One Step Further: “Will You Marry Me?” and More

A Wedding

Things have been going so well, and you know that he or she is the one. How do you tell them that you want to spend your life with them? Check out the proposal lines and other romantic phrases below!

Let’s spend the rest of our lives together.

Chinese Characters: 我想同你過埋下半世。
Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 tung4 nei5 gwo3 maai4 haa6 bun3 sai3

I want to grow old with you.

Chinese Characters: 我想同你白頭到老。
Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 tung4 nei5 baak6 tau4 dou3 lou5

I can’t imagine my life without you. / I can’t afford to lose you.

Chinese Characters: 我唔可以冇咗你。
Romanization: ngo5 m4 ho2 ji5 mou5 zo2 nei5

Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?

Chinese Characters: 你願唔願意做我老婆?
Romanization: nei5 jyun6 m4 jyun6 ji3 zou6 ngo5 lou5 po4

I want to be with you forever.

Chinese Characters: 我想永遠同你一齊。
Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 wing5 jyun5 tung4 nei5 jat1 cai4

Will you marry me?

Chinese Characters: 你願唔願意嫁俾我嗎?
Romanization: nei5 jyun6 m4 jyun6 ji3 gaa3 bei2 ngo5

Having you by my side completes me.

Chinese Characters: 有你喺我身邊,我嘅世界先算完整。
Romanization: jau5 nei5 hai2 ngo5 san1 bin1, ngo5 ge3 sai3 gaai3 sin1 syun3 jyun4 zing2


6. Bonus: Endearment Terms and Love Quotes

A Lovely Kiss

There are two common endearment terms you can use to address your boyfriend or girlfriend:

  • BB (bi4 bi1) – “Babe” [can be used in both text messages and face-to-face conversations]
  • 傻豬 (so4 zyu1) “Silly”

And if you two are married, you may call each other:

  • 老婆 (lou5 po4) – “Wifey”
  • 老公 (lou5 gung1) “Hubby”

To conclude the article, we would like to share our favorite Cantonese love quotes:

Love is great….

1 – 人世間所有嘅相遇,都係久別重逢。

Romanization: jan4 sai3 gaan1 so2 jau5 ge3 soeng1 jyu6, dou1 hai6 gau2 bit6 cung4 fung4 
Literal Translation: All encounters in life are reunions after long times apart.

More about the quote

  • Meaning: The quote explains Yuanfen, a concept similar to Karma. The message behind it is that we should cherish the ones we love, but if we’ve tried our very best and still end up being separated, all we can do is accept the fact. 
  • Elaboration: It’s a famous quote from The Grandmaster, a movie directed by the internationally renowned Hong Kong film director Wong Kar-Wai. We use the quote to console a friend who is having relationship issues.
  • Additional Notes: The Grandmaster is Wong’s most expensive production to date—watch the trailer of the movie here!

…and yes, you may get hurt a few times…

2 – 成世人流流長,總會愛上幾個人渣。

Romanization: seng4 sai3 jan4 lau4 lau4 coeng4, zung2 wui5 oi3 soeng5 gei2 go3 jan4 zaa1
Literal Translation: Life is long, no wonder we would fall in love with a few scoundrels in our lifetimes.

More about the quote

  • Elaboration: It’s a famous quote from the movie Love in the Puff. We use this quote to console a friend who has been betrayed by her lover.
  • Additional Notes: You can learn more about love and relationships in Hong Kong by watching the sequel to this movie, Love in the Buff—you can view its trailer here!
  • Equivalent Quote: “We are all fools in love.” (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)

…but you need to be brave, for love is the greatest thing in the world!

3 – 世界上最遙遠嘅距離,唔係生同死,而係我企喺你面前,你卻唔知道我愛你。

Romanization: sai3 gaai3 soeng6 zeoi3 jiu4 jyun5 ge3 keoi5 lei4, m4 hai6 sang1 tung4 sei2, ji4 hai6 ngo5 kei5 hai2 nei5 min6 cin4, nei5 koek3 m4 zi1 dou3 ngo5 oi3 nei5 
Literal Translation: The furthest distance in this world is not life and death. It is that I am standing in front of you, but you don’t know I love you.

More about the quote

  • Elaboration: This quote is from Hong Kong author Amy Cheung. We use this quote to encourage a friend to express his or her love.
  • Additional Notes: Amy Cheung is one of Hong Kong’s most popular writers, and she’s very well-known in Chinese communities for her books on love and relationships. She was named one of the ten richest Chinese authors in 2013!
  • Equivalent Quote: If you love someone, tell them. For hearts are often broken by words left unspoken. (Stephanie Roogle)

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

By now, you should be well-equipped to express your love in the Cantonese language! Which of these phrases or quotes is your favorite? Let us know in the comments! 

After mastering these love phrases, would you like to pick up even more Cantonese to better communicate with your lover? 

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!

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

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

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

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? 

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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!

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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

10 Places to Visit in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong is a colorful city with lots to offer. With a breathtaking skyline, numerous shopping arcades and markets, a great deal of bustling bars, and the highest concentration of restaurants offering both international and local cuisines, this tiny city has it all.

Can’t wait to visit Hong Kong and see one of the world’s greatest cities? Then dive into this Hong Kong travel guide from CantoneseClass101.com for practical travel tips, a list of places you just have to see, and some survival phrases in Cantonese to help you make the most of your trip!

Hong Kong Skyline

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Before You Go
  2. Must-See Places for a 1-3 Day Trip
  3. Highly Recommended Places for a 4-7 Day Trip (or Longer)
  4. Personal Picks
  5. Cantonese Survival Phrases
  6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Before You Go

Are you visiting Hong Kong for the first time? Then you’ll greatly benefit from becoming familiar with this magical city and learning how to best prepare for your trip. To give you a head start, here are some quick facts and travel tips for you! 

Quick Facts

Let’s start with a few basic facts you should know…

  • Currency: HKD (the thirteenth most traded currency in the world) 
  • Official Languages: Cantonese and English
  • Ethnicities: Han Chinese (92%), Ethnic Minorities (8%, mostly Filipino or Indonesian)
  • Climate: Subtropical climate zone

Hong Kong is located at the eastern Pearl River Delta of the South China Sea in Southeast Asia. With a land mass of 1,104 km2 and a population of 7 million people, Hong Kong is the world’s most densely populated city. Hong Kong is also highly developed and ranks fourth on the UN Human Development Index.

This city is known for its strong role in the trade, business, and tourism industries, and it ranks third as a global financial center (after New York and London). It’s the richest city in the world.

Hong Kong can be broken down into four main parts: 

  • Hong Kong Island: This island is labeled “the heart of Hong Kong,” and this is where you’ll find the majority of its businesses. You can also find lots and lots of skyscrapers, luxury hotels, and quite a few tourist attractions (including the Victoria Peak).
  • Kowloon: This is where you can find most of the museums and markets.
  • The New Territories: This area is known for its wetland parks and temples.
  • Outlying Islands: Hong Kong also has a couple hundred outlying islands. One such island is Lantau Island, which is home to Ngong Ping (where you can find the Giant Buddha and Po Lin Monastery) and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Background

In 1842, the British made Hong Kong a crown colony; the city was under British rule and influence for over 150 years. Hong Kong was released back to China in 1997, under the “one country, two systems” structure. Today, Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China.

Considering its history, Hong Kong is very different from China socially, culturally, politically, and economically:

  • Socially, Hong Kong enjoys greater freedom of speech. The usage of social media such as Facebook and Twitter are allowed.
  • Culturally, the dominating language in Hong Kong is Cantonese (with Traditional Chinese), as opposed to Mandarin (with Simplified Chinese) in China. Hong Kong also has its own education and legal systems adopting the common law.
  • Politically, Hong Kong has its own government and parliament. It also has its own immigration system, so even people from mainland China have to go through immigration checks upon arriving in Hong Kong.
  • Economically, Hong Kong embraces economic freedom and allows the free flow of capital.

Several HKD10 Bills

Travel Tips

Planning a trip to Hong Kong can be a stressful task, especially if you’ve never been before. Here are a few travel tips to help you plan and make your visit a lot more enjoyable. 

Best Time to Visit 

Hong Kong is situated in the subtropical climate zone and has four seasons: a very humid spring, a rainy summer, an amiable autumn, and a cool winter. Hong Kong is subjected to tropical cyclones from May to September. The average annual temperature is 23°C (73.4°F).

Based on the weather, many would agree that the best time to visit Hong Kong is during the months of October and November, when the temperature is pleasant with ample sunshine. 

Transportation

The transportation system of Hong Kong is highly developed and has great coverage. Most signs are in both Traditional Chinese and English, and you can conveniently access most places via:

  • Mass Transit Railway (or MTR) – This is Hong Kong’s railway system that links Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and New Territories. Trains come in every minute during rush hour.
  • Buses and minibuses
  • Tramways (only on Hong Kong Island)
  • Ferries (between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, and to the Outlying Islands) 
  • Taxis

If you plan to stay overnight in Hong Kong, you can buy an Octopus card. It can be used to pay for almost all public transport (plus many convenience stores and supermarkets).

A Sign Showing the Name of a MTR Station

Cost

How expensive is it to visit Hong Kong? 

You should plan to spend around HKD1,085 (USD 140) per day. This is just an average, and your own expenses will vary based on your dining, transportation, and lodging preferences. On average, people spend…

  • …HKD205 (USD 26) on meals per day.
  • …HKD55 (USD 7.04) on local transportation per day.
  • …HKD959 (USD 124) on hotels per night (for a couple). 

Other

  • Hong Kong is quite safe to travel to.
  • Many shops in Hong Kong close late, and some are even open twenty-four hours (fast food shops, convenience stores,certain supermarkets, etc.). 
  • There are many bars and clubs, so you can look forward to Hong Kong’s vibrant nightlife. 
  • Hong Kong is a Cantonese-speaking society, but most people do speak basic English because English is compulsory in school. Also, due to historical reasons, English is one of the official languages in Hong Kong. 

2. Must-See Places for a 1-3 Day Trip

If you’re only visiting Hong Kong for a day or two, you may want to prioritize the most popular attractions. Here are our recommendations for a shorter trip. 

1 – Victoria Peak (太平山)

Located on Hong Kong Island, Victoria Peak is not only the island’s highest point but also one of the city’s top attractions. From the top, you gain a whimsical view of the cityscape and Victoria Harbour—if you can, visit in the evening for an even more spectacular sight!

Victoria Peak

How to get there: Take MTR to Central Station and exit at Exit J2. Then, cross the Chater Garden and walk along Garden Road. You’ll see the Peak Tram Terminus on your left. Take the tram to get to the peak.

2 – Mong Kok (旺角)

This is one of the more local parts of the city, famous for shopping and food. The streets of Mong Kok are always crammed with people, especially at night. The area’s unique dynamic blends old shops with new ones, and fashionable restaurants with street stalls. You can find everything from clothes and cosmetics to electronics, sports equipment, and more.

Mong Kok

How to get there: Take MTR to Mong Kok Station and exit at Exit B2 or B3.

3 – Star Ferry (天星小輪)

If you want a great view of Victoria Harbour, take the Star Ferry from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui (or vice-versa). It costs only HKD3.7 (~USD 0.5) and takes less than ten minutes. The ferry is also a great place to take a short rest from the bustling metropolitan area of Hong Kong.

Victoria Harbour

How to get there: Take MTR to Central Station/Hong Kong Station and walk to Central Pier 7. Alternatively, you can take MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui Station/East Tsim Sha Tsui Station and walk to the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier on Salisbury Road.

4 – Ngong Ping / The Giant Buddha (昂坪 / 天壇大佛)

Located on the more relaxing Lantau Island, the Giant Buddha is one of the world’s largest bronze statues of Buddha, at 34 meters tall. Visitors who want to reach the Buddha must climb up a couple hundred steps or take a drive up the road that leads to it. After such a climb, visitors can walk around and rest at Ngong Ping Village and Ngong Ping Tea House.

Ngong Ping 360

How to get there: Take MTR to Tung Chung Station and then take bus no. 23. Alternatively, you can take the cable car Ngong Ping 360 to better enjoy the scenic view of Lantau Island. 

3. Highly Recommended Places for a 4-7 Day Trip (or Longer)

Will you be staying in Hong Kong a little longer? Great! This will give you ample time to see even more of this beautiful city. Here are the places we recommend you visit during a longer stay. 

5 – Ocean Park (海洋公園)

Ocean Park is a marine-life theme park that offers rides, shows, tours, and family-friendly attractions and activities. One of its main attractions is a roller coaster ride that “dives into the sea”! The theme park is also located in a more scenic part of Hong Kong, and you can enjoy a great seaview in the cable car.

How to get there: Take MTR to Ocean Park Station.

6 – Stanley (赤柱)

Stanley is a beautiful little fishing town by the bay. It’s not very big, but it has tons of small shops and a lovely beach. You can suntan on the beach, take a walk through the trees’ shade, and enjoy a great view of the romantic mansions. To unwind, you can also grab a drink at a coffee shop, check out the food markets, or grab a souvenir for your loved ones.

How to get there: Take MTR to Central Station and exit at Exit D, then take bus no. 6, 6A, 6X, 66, or 260 at Central (Exchange Square) Bus Terminus.

7 – Avenue of Stars & Symphony of Lights (星光大道 / 幻彩詠香江)

The Avenue of Stars showcases Hong Kong’s film industry—you can find the names, signatures, and handprints of the city’s greatest stars on the promenade. There’s even a bronze statue of the legendary Bruce Lee!

Another reason to visit the Avenue of Stars is the Symphony of Lights. This is a light show at Victoria Harbour which incorporates a dazzling array of colorful lights accompanied by music, featuring 44 of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers—both in Kowloon and on the Hong Kong Island side of Victoria Harbour. 

How to get there: Take MTR to East Tsim Sha Tsui Station and exit at Exit J. 

8 – Lan Kwai Fong / Central (蘭桂坊 / 中環)

Central is the core of Hong Kong’s finances and businesses (and where you can find the most skyscrapers per capita). Lan Kwai Fong is located in Central and it’s the place to go for a taste of Hong Kong’s nightlife. All the bars on the street are fairly small, but they have great music, colorful lights, and a great atmosphere. Many of the people who work in Central go there to enjoy some drinks and socialize with friends.

How to get there: Take MTR to Central Station and exit at Exit D2, then walk along D’Aguilar Street to Lan Kwai Fong.

4. Personal Picks

Although Hong Kong is a bustling city full of high rises, almost 70% of Hong Kong is covered by natural or forested areas. Below are my personal picks for those who enjoy nature and want to explore the less “city” side of Hong Kong!

9 – Dragon’s Back (龍脊)

Dragon’s Back is the last leg of the Hong Kong Trail. The path on Dragon’s Back is widely deemed as one of the best urban hikes in Hong Kong. It has a sightseeing platform that provides truly spectacular views of Hong Kong Island and its shoreline

How to get there: Take MTR to Shau Kei Wan Station and exit at Exit A3, then take bus no. 9 at the Shau Kei Wan Bus Terminus.

10 – Tai O (大澳)

With roots going back to the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644 A.D.), Tai O Fishing Village is full of history and heritage. Tai O is home to the Tanka, a stilt-house community. You can find boats navigating the channel between houses, cafes offering a relaxing afternoon, and restaurants offering fresh seafood. 

How to get there: Take MTR to Tung Chung Station and then take bus no. 11.

5. Cantonese Survival Phrases

Here are some of the most useful words and phrases for your travels in Hong Kong! 

1. Hello.

Chinese Character: 你好
Romanization: nei5 hou2

2. Thank you.

Chinese Character: 唔該 (when someone offers to help you)
Romanization: m4 goi1

OR

Chinese Character: 多謝 (when someone presents a gift)
Romanization: do1 ze6

3. Bye.

Chinese Character: 再見
Romanization: zoi3 gin3

4. Sorry.

Chinese Character: 對唔住 (to express apology and remorse)
Romanization: deoi3 m4 zyu6

OR

Chinese Character: 唔好意思 (to apologize for minor things or to grab someone’s attention)
Romanization: m4 ho2 ji3 si3

5. Good.

Chinese Character:
Romanization: hou2

6. I don’t understand.

Chinese Character: 我唔明
Romanization: ngo5 m4 ming4

7. Where is the washroom?

Chinese Character: 廁所喺邊呀?
Romanization: ci3 so2 hai2 bin1 aa3

8. How much is this?

Chinese Character: 幾多錢呀?
Romanization: gei2 do1 cin2 aa3

9. I want this.

Chinese Character: 我想要呢個
Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 ni1 go3 

10. Help!

Chinese Character: 救命!
Romanization: gau3 ming6

Additional Notes:

You can call either 112 or 999 when you encounter an emergency. These are the most common emergency telephone numbers that can be dialed, free of charge, from most mobile telephones—even if they’re locked.

How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

Would you like to learn a bit more Cantonese before traveling to Hong Kong? 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 which Hong Kong locations you want to visit the most, and why! We look forward to hearing from you.

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

The 20+ Best Cantonese Quotes for Learners

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Quotes can be a great tool to help you stay motivated. They also offer cultural insight, provide universal words of wisdom, and tastefully season a pleasant conversation.

Do you want to put some Cantonese quotes in your pocket? We’ve compiled some of the greatest Cantonese quotes with English translations and equivalents, handpicked just for you!

Without further delay, here are the top twenty quotes in Cantonese.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Quotes About Life
  2. Quotes About Love
  3. Quotes About Wisdom
  4. Quotes About Success
  5. Bonus: Quotes About Language Learning
  6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Quotes About Life

A Woman Gazing

What is life all about, and how should a person live? These are questions people have been trying to answer for a very long time. Here are some Cantonese quotes about life to give you some cultural perspective on the topic!  

1. 做人如果無夢想,同條鹹魚有咩分別呀?

Romanization: zou6 jan4 jyu4 gwo2 mou5 mung6 soeng2, tung4 tiu4 haam4 jyu2 jau5 me1 fan1 bit6 aa3
Literal Translation: “If we don’t have any dreams in life, what can distinguish us from a salted fish?”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” (John Barrymore)
  • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from Shaolin Soccer, a movie directed by the renowned Hong Kong filmmaker Stephen Chow. We might use this quote, for example, to encourage a friend to chase after his or her dream.
  • Additional notes: Shaolin Soccer is one of the most well-known movies in Hong Kong. Watch the trailer on YouTube!

2. 認真你就輸了

Romanization: jing6 zan1 nei5 zau6 syu1 liu5
Literal Translation: “You lose when you get serious.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.” (Elbert Hubbard)
  • Elaboration: This quote is from the title of a book written by novelist Lin Su of Mainland China. It became popular in Hong Kong starting in 2009, and we use it to remind one another not to get too serious or care too much about results.
  • Additional notes: The famous Hong Kong singer Ava released a song, sung in Mandarin, featuring this quote as a title. Check it out!

3. 即使沒有別人給你理由,生命依然值得堅持。

Romanization: zik1 si2 mut6 jau5 bit6 jan4 kap1 nei5 lei5 jau4, sang1 ming6 ji1 jin4 zik6 dak1 gin1 ci4
Literal Translation: “Even if there is no reason to, life is still worth living.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning/ Equivalent quote: “Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.” (William James)
  • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from the award-winning movie, A Simple Life. We use the quote to console a friend who is a bit down.
  • Additional notes: Deanie Ip, the leading actress of this movie, was awarded for her amazing performance with the Best Actress Award at the 68th Venice International Film Festival. Watch the trailer on YouTube!

4. 仍然自由自我,永遠高唱我歌,走遍千里。

Romanization: jing4 jin4 zi6 jau4 zi6 ngo5, wing5 jyun5 gou1 coeng3 ngo5 go1, zau2 pin3 cin1 lei5
Literal Translation: “Be free, sing your own song, walk your own life.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Be yourself.
  • Elaboration: These are some lyrics from the famous song Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies, sung by the Hong Kong rock band Beyond. We use this quote to encourage someone to be his or her true self.
  • Additional notes: Beyond is the most influential Cantopop band from Hong Kong, prominent in overseas Chinese communities and East Asian countries including Japan and Singapore. In fact, Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies is a must-know song for any HongKonger!

5. 對人誠懇,做事負責,多結善緣,自然多得人的幫助。淡泊明志,隨遇而安,不作非分之想, 心境安泰,必少許多失意之苦。

Romanization: deoi3 jan4 sing4 han2, zou6 si6 fu6 zaak3, do1 git3 sin6 jyun4, zi6 jin4 do1 dak1 jan4 dik1 bong1 zo6. daam6 bok6 ming4 zi3, ceoi4 jyu6 ji4 on1, bat1 zok3 fei1 fan6 zi1 soeng2, sam1 ging2 on1 taai3, bit1 siu2 heoi2 do1 sat1 ji3 zi1 fu2
Literal Translation: “Be sincere, responsible, and nice; you will naturally get help from others. Live a simple life, go with the flow, don’t overthink, be calm and present; you will suffer less when you fail.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: The message behind this quote is that a good life will follow naturally if you’re nice and kind, and if you go with the flow.
  • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from Hong Kong’s business tycoon Li Ka-Shing, one of the richest men in the world. We can use this quote to motivate ourselves.
  • Additional notes: Li Ka-Shing is a magnificent businessman—he rose from humble beginnings, built and grew his own business when Hong Kong was still dominated by the Brits, and became Asia’s wealthiest man for many years.

6. 進退怎能隨人潮跌墮,重燃那漸冷卻的火,青春瘋過痛過先不會枉過。 

Romanization: zeon3 teoi3 zam2 nang4 ceoi4 jan4 ciu4 dit3 do6, cung4 jin4 naa5 zim6 laang5 koek3 dik1 fo2, cing1 ceon1 fung1 gwo3 tung3 gwo3 sin1 bat1 wui5 wong2 gwo3
Literal Translation: “We cannot just follow others. Let’s light the dimmed fire, for life is meant to be a roller-coaster ride.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: 
      Hope when the moment comes,
      You’ll say
      I, I did it all
      I, I did it all
      I owned every second that this world could give
      I saw so many places, the things that I did
      Yeah with every broken bone
      I swear I lived
      (I Lived, OneRepublic)
  • Elaboration: These are lyrics from the song Queen G by Hong Kong songwriter Gloria Tang. We can use this quote to encourage others to follow their heart.
  • Additional notes: Gloria Tang, also known as G.E.M., is a talented Hong Kong singer-songwriter. She was the only Asian artist featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2016. Listen to one of her most popular songs, Light Years Away!

2. Quotes About Love

A Heart

Are you madly in love with someone? Or maybe you’re a hopeless romantic? Either way, we think you’ll love these Cantonese love quotes!

7. 人世間所有的相遇,都是久別重逢。

Romanization: jan4 sai3 gaan1 so2 jau5 dik1 soeng1 jyu6, dou1 si6 gau2 bit6 cung4 fung4 
Literal Translation: “All encounters in life are reunions after long times apart.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: This quote explains Yuanfen, a concept similar to Karma. The message behind it is that we should cherish those we love, but we must also accept separation from them should it occur.
  • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from The Grandmaster, a movie directed by the internationally renowned Hong Kong film director Wong Kar-Wai. We use the quote to console a friend who is having relationship issues.
  • Additional notes: The Grandmaster is Wong’s most expensive production to date. You can watch the trailer of the movie on YouTube!

8. 人生就像一場舞會,教會你最初舞步的人卻未必能陪你走到散場。

Romanization: jan4 sang1 zau6 zoeng6 jat1 coeng4 mou5 wui2, gaau3 wui5 nei5 zeoi3 co1 mou5 bou6 dik1 jan4 koek3 mei6 bit1 nang4 pui4 nei5 zau2 dou3 saan3 coeng4 
Literal Translation: “Life is like a ball, the one who teaches you how to dance may not be able to accompany you until the end.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Life is full of ups and downs, and your first love may not be your last.
  • Elaboration: This quote is from Eileen Chang, a famous Chinese-born American essayist, novelist, and screenwriter. We use this quote to offer condolence to a friend who has just broken up with their first love.
  • Additional notes: Chang is one of the best female Chinese writers of all time. Read her books to gain insight on the Chinese view of love and romance!

9. 不如我哋從頭嚟過。

Romanization: bat1 jyu4 ngo5 dei6 cung4 tau4 lei4 gwo3
Literal Translation: “How about we start over again?”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: The message behind this quote is to never take anything for granted.
  • Elaboration: It’s from the movie Happy Together, directed by the famous filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai and featuring the handsome Leslie Cheung. In the movie, the main character lost the love of his life because he did not cherish him when he had the chance to. We may use this quote to try reconciling with an ex, for example.
  • 10. 成世人流流長,總會愛上幾個人渣。

    Romanization: seng4 sai3 jan4 lau4 lau4 coeng4, zung2 wui5 oi3 soeng5 gei2 go3 jan4 zaa1
    Literal Translation: “Life is long, no wonder we would fall in love with a few scoundrels in our lifetimes.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “We are all fools in love.” (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)
    • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from the movie Love in the Buff. We use this quote to console a friend who was betrayed by her lover.
    • Additional notes: You can learn more about love and relationships from a HongKonger’s perspective in the movie Love in the Buff. Check out its trailer!

    11. 世界上最遙遠的距離,不是生與死,而是我站在你面前,你卻不知道我愛你。

    Romanization: sai3 gaai3 soeng6 zeoi3 jiu4 jyun5 dik1 keoi5 lei4, bat1 si6 sang1 jyu5 sei2, ji4 si6 ngo5 zaam6 zoi6 nei5 min6 cin4, nei5 koek3 bat1 zi1 dou3 ngo5 oi3 nei5 
    Literal Translation: “The furthest distance in this world is not life and death. It is that I am standing in front of you, but you don’t know I love you.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “If you love someone, tell them. For hearts are often broken by words left unspoken.” (Stephanie Roogle)
    • Elaboration: This quote is from Hong Kong author Amy Cheung. We use this quote to encourage a friend to express his or her love.
    • Additional notes: Amy Cheung is one of Hong Kong’s most popular writers, and she’s very well-known for her books on love and relationships. She was one of China’s ten richest authors in 2013!

    12. 情場不是超級市場,請勿薄利多銷。

    Romanization: cing4 coeng4 bat1 si6 ciu1 kap1 si5 coeng4, cing2 mat6 bok6 lei6 do1 siu1
    Literal Translation: “The realm of love is not a supermarket; please don’t sell with small profit for quick turnover.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Love is priceless. / Quality over quantity.
    • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from Cantopop lyricist Richard Lam. We use this quote to encourage one to cherish love.

    CantoneseClass101.com has a vocabulary list dedicated to love quotes. Check it out for more bittersweet words on romance! 


    3. Quotes About Wisdom

    Light Bulbs

    What does it mean to be wise, and how is wisdom attained? Here are some Cantonese quotes on the topic to inspire and enlighten you.

    13. 出嚟行,遲早要還 。

    Romanization: ceot1 lei4 haang4, ci4 zou2 jiu3 waan4
    Literal Translation: “This is expected.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: What goes around comes around.
    • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from the movie Infernal Affairs. We use the quote to let our friends know that we have been expecting the consequences of our actions.
    • Additional notes: Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture, was actually a remake of Infernal Affairs!

    14. 是非只因強出口,煩惱只為強出頭 。

    Romanization: si6 fei1 zi2 jan1 koeng5 ceot1 hau2, faan4 nou5 zi2 wai6 koeng5 ceot1 tau4
    Literal Translation: “Gossip comes from the mouth, trouble comes from the head.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Both gossip and trouble are usually self-created.
    • Elaboration: This is from the famous novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, written by Hong Kong Wuxia novelist Louis Cha. These words remind us to stay out of others’ business.
    • Additional notes: Louis Cha is Hong Kong’s most famous writer and his Wuxia novels are well-known in every Chinese community. He’s sold over 100 million copies of his works worldwide, excluding pirated copies. He even has an asteroid named after him!

    15. 就算一張廁紙、一條底褲,都有佢本身嘅用處 。

    Romanization: zau6 syun3 jat1 zoeng1 ci3 zi2, jat1 tiu4 dai2 fu3, dou1 jau5 keoi5 bun2 san1 ge3 jung6 cyu3 
    Literal Translation: “Even toilet paper and an undergarment have their own values.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Everyone is of value.
    • Elaboration: This quote is from Hong Kong filmmaker Stephen Chow’s movie From Beijing with Love. We use the quote to promote the idea of self-worth.
    • Additional notes: This movie is a spoof of the James Bond films, and it contains lots of cultural and satirical elements. 

    16. 和諧唔係一百個人講同一番說話,和諧係一百個人有一百句唔同說話之餘,又互相尊重。 

    Romanization: wo4 haai4 m4 hai6 jat1 baak3 go3 jan4 gong2 tung4 jat1 faan1 syut3 waa6, wo4 haai4 hai6 jat1 baak3 go3 jan4 jau5 jat1 baak3 geoi3 m4 tung4 syut3 waa6 zi1 jyu4, jau6 wu6 soeng1 zyun1 zung6 
    Literal Translation: “Harmony is not 100 people saying the same thing; it is about 100 people saying different things while respecting each other.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” (Bryant H. McGill)
    • Elaboration: This quote is from the Cantonese drama When Heaven Burns. We use the quote to defend ourselves when someone forces his/her opinion on us. We can also use it to encourage someone to embrace new ideas.
    • Additional notes: When Heaven Burns is a unique Cantonese drama in many ways. It centers around the spirit of Rock ‘N’ Roll, humanity, religion, and politics. It gained a strong cult following instantly and was very popular among the younger generation.

    17. 寧可哭得理直氣壯,也不願意笑得鬼鬼祟祟。

    Romanization: ning4 ho2 huk1 dak1 lei5 zik6 hei3 zong3, jaa5 bat1 jyun6 ji3 siu3 dak1 gwai2 gwai2 seoi6 seoi6
    Literal Translation: “I’d rather cry boldly than laugh sneakily.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: The message behind this quote is that we should stand firm for justice.
    • Elaboration: It’s a famous quote from Hong Kong’s award-winning lyricist Albert Leung. We use it to encourage others to embrace and defend justice and righteousness.
    • Additional notes: Almost all HongKongers know at least a few songs written by Albert Leung. He has written over 3500 song lyrics!

    4. Quotes About Success

    A Man Climbing Up a Mountain

    Do you have big plans for the future or concerns about an upcoming project? Maybe one of these Cantonese quotes about success can motivate and encourage you. 

    18. 三個臭皮匠,勝過一個諸葛亮。

    Romanization: saam1 go3 cau3 pei4 zoeng6, sing3 gwo3 jat1 go3 zyu1 got3 loeng6
    Literal Translation: “Three cobblers with their wits combined exceed that of Zhuge Liang.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Two heads are better than one.
    • Elaboration: Zhuge Liang was a very famous military strategist in the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD). His work is often compared to that of Sun Tzu, who wrote The Art of War. We use this quote to promote teamwork.
    • Additional notes: Zhuge Liang is the hero in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of Chinese literature’s Four Great Classical Novels. It’s a great historical novel written in the fourteenth century—highly recommended!

    19. 賺錢靠機遇,成功靠信譽。

    Romanization: zaan6 cin2 kaau3 gei1 jyu6, sing4 gung1 kaau3 seon3 jyu6
    Literal Translation: “Earning money depends on luck; success depends on trust.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “Honesty is the first chapter of the book Wisdom.” (Thomas Jefferson)
    • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from Hong Kong’s business tycoon Li Ka-Shing, one of the richest men in the world. We can use this quote to emphasize the importance of trust and reputation in achieving ultimate success.
    • Additional notes: As mentioned before, Li Ka-Shing is a magnificent businessman. He’s also very generous in sharing his tips to success!

    20. 當你放下面子賺錢的時候,說明你已經懂事了。當你用錢賺回面子的時候,說明你已經成功了。

    Romanization: dong1 nei5 fong3 haa6 min6 zi2 zaan6 cin2 dik1 si4 hau6, syut3 ming4 nei5 ji5 ging1 dung2 si6 liu5. dong1 nei5 jung6 cin2 zaan6 wui4 min6 zi2 dik1 si4 hau6, syut3 ming4 nei5 ji5 ging1 sing4 gung1 liu5 
    Literal Translation: “When you earn money by letting go of your Face (ego), you have become mature. When you earn your Face (ego) with money, you succeed.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: When ego is lost, limitations are lost.
    • Elaboration: Yet another quote from Hong Kong’s most successful businessman, Li Ka-Shing. We can use this quote to remind someone to let go of their ego.
    • Additional notes: Face,” or in Chinese 面 (min2), is a unique concept in Chinese society. This concept of cultural etiquette in Hong Kong describes one’s status, dignity, and integrity. “Face” can also be thought of as the feeling of being respected and honored by others. 

    See our vocabulary list of success quotes for even more inspiring words! 

    5. Bonus: Quotes About Language Learning

    Fancy diving deeper into Cantonese after learning these interesting and insightful quotes? Then let us share a few language learning quotes with you, too!

    Bonus Quote 1 –

    Chinese Character: 新語言就係新生命。
    Romanization: san1 jyu5 jin4 zau6 hai6 san1 sang1 ming6
    Meaning: A new language is a new life.

    Bonus Quote 2 –

    Chinese Character: 我嘅語言界限就係我個世界嘅界限。
    Romanization: ngo5 ge3 jyu5 jin4 gaai3 haan6 zau6 hai6 ngo5 go3 sai3 gaai3 ge3 gaai3 haan6
    Meaning: The limits of my language are the limits of my world.

    Bonus Quote 3 –

    Chinese Character: 識多一個語言,就擁有多一個靈魂。
    Romanization: sik1 do1 jat1 go3 jyu5 jin4, zau6 jung2 jau5 do1 jat1 go3 ling4 wan4
    Meaning: To have another language is to possess a second soul.

    And of course, we have a list of more language learning quotes for you to study. 

    6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More 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 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 which of these quotes is your favorite, and why! We look forward to hearing from you.

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

Your Guide to Basic Cantonese for Business

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The world of work can be wildly different from one country to another, and when traveling somewhere—either permanently or as a visitor—you’ll have to quickly leave a good impression to make the best of your new business environment. Mastering the local language certainly helps. 

This is just as true for visitors to Hong Kong as it is for visitors to any other country. Even though English is one of the official languages, many local businesses and companies prefer candidates who can speak Cantonese. Knowing even basic Cantonese for business will definitely help you maintain good relationships with your colleagues and business partners!

Can’t wait to put some Cantonese business phrases in your pocket? Keep reading and let CantoneseClass101.com give you a hand! Here, you’ll find the phrases you need with examples to help you navigate Hong Kong’s business world.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Business Words and Phrases in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Nailing a Job Interview
  2. Interacting with Coworkers
  3. Sounding Smart in a Meeting
  4. Handling Business Phone Calls and Emails
  5. Going on a Business Trip
  6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Nailing a Job Interview

Job Interview

Fancy getting a job in Hong Kong? Learn the Cantonese business phrases below to nail your job interview, and don’t miss our article on How to Find a Job in Hong Kong!

Talking about your university

Chinese Character: 我喺_____畢業。
Romanization: ngo5 hai2 __________ bat1 jip6
Meaning: “I graduated from __________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我喺中⽂⼤學畢業。
  • Romanization: ngo5 hai2 zung1 man4 daai6 hok6 bat1 jip6
  • Meaning: “I graduated from The Chinese University of Hong Kong.”

Talking about your major

Chinese Character: 我主修_____。
Romanization: ngo5 zyu2 sau1 __________
Meaning: “I majored in __________.”

Example  

  • Chinese Character: 我主修數學。
  • Romanization: ngo5 zyu2 sau1 sou3 hok6
  • Meaning: “I majored in mathematics.”

Talking about your current job

Chinese Character: 直⾄現時為⽌,我係_____嘅_____。
Romanization: zik6 zi3 jin6 si4 wai4 zi2, ngo5 hai6 ______ ge3 ______
Meaning: “Until now, I have been working as ______ at ______.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 直⾄現時為⽌,我係ABC公司嘅會計。
  • Romanization: zik6 zi3 jin6 si4 wai4 zi2, ngo5 hai6 ABC gung1 si1 ge3 wui6 gai3
  • Meaning: “Until now, I have been working as an accountant at ABC Company.”

Talking about your work experience

Chinese Character: 我仲做過_____。
Romanization: ngo5 zung6 zou6 gwo3 _________
Meaning: “I also have experience as a(n)__________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我仲做過項目經理。
  • Romanization: ngo5 zung6 zou6 gwo3 hong6 muk6 ging1 lei5
  • Meaning: “I also have experience as a project manager.”

Talking about your desire to make the move

Chinese Character: 因為我想_____。
Romanization: jan1 wai6 ngo5 soeng2_____
Meaning: “Because I want to_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 因為我想增值⾃己。
  • Romanization: jan1 wai6 ngo5 soeng2 zang1 zik6 zi6 gei2
  • Meaning: “Because I want to progress (myself).”

Talking about why you want to work for the company

Chinese Character: 我鍾意_____,同埋想嘗試其他嘢。
Romanization: ngo5 zung1 ji3_____, tung4 maai4 soeng2 soeng4 si3 kei4 taa1 je5.
Meaning: “I like_____, and I wanted to try something else.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我鍾意接受挑戰,同埋想嘗試其他嘢。
  • Romanization: ngo5 zung1 ji3 zip3 sau6 tiu1 zin3, tung4 maai4 soeng2 soeng4 si3 kei4 taa1 je5
  • Meaning: “I like challenges, and I wanted to try something else.”

2. Interacting with Coworkers

A Group of People Chatting

Want to connect with your coworkers or business partners in Hong Kong? In this section, we’ll cover some Cantonese business language for communicating with your coworkers, both in the workplace and out! 

Starting a conversation when you haven’t talked in a while

Chinese Character: 近排點呀?
Romanization: gan6 paai4 dim2 aa3
Meaning: “How’s it going recently?”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 早晨呀,Tim, 近排點呀? 
  • Romanization: zou2 san4 aa3, Tim, gan6 paai4 dim2 aa3
  • Meaning: “Good morning Tim, how’s it going recently?”

Inquiring about that person’s team at work

Chinese Character: 你條Team最近忙咩呀?
Romanization: nei5 tiu4 Team zeoi3 gan6 mong4 me1 aa3
Meaning: “What is your team busy with recently?”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 好耐冇見,你條Team最近忙咩呀?
  • Romanization: hou2 noi6 mou5 gin3, nei5 tiu4 Team zeoi3 gan6 mong4 me1 aa3
  • Meaning: “It’s been a while since we last met. What is your team busy with recently?”

Telling them where you’re headed

Chinese Character: 我要去_____。
Romanization: ngo5 jiu3 heoi3  ______
Meaning: “I am going to  ______.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我要去會議室。
  • Romanization: ngo5 jiu3 heoi3 wui6 ji5 sat1
  • Meaning: “I am going to the meeting room.”

Telling them what you like

Chinese Character: 我鍾意_____。
Romanization: ngo5 zung1 ji3 _________
Meaning: “I like__________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我鍾意藍色。
  • Romanization: ngo5 zung1 ji3 laam4 sik1
  • Meaning: “I like the color blue.”

Telling them what you don’t like

Chinese Character: 我唔鍾意_____。
Romanization: ngo5 m4 zung1 ji3_____
Meaning: “I don’t like_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我唔鍾意呢個project。
  • Romanization: ngo5 m4 zung1 ji3 ni1 go3 project
  • Meaning: “I don’t like this project.”

Letting your coworker know that you’re leaving

Chinese Character: 我走先喇。
Romanization: ngo5 zau2 sin1 laa3
Meaning: “I have to go now.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我走先喇,聽日見!
  • Romanization: ngo5 zau2 sin1 laa3, ting1 jat6 gin3
  • Meaning: “I have to go now, see you tomorrow!”
Business Phrases

3. Sounding Smart in a Meeting

Share your ideas and opinions with team members by using some practical Cantonese for business meetings!

Giving suggestions

Chinese Character: 你應該_____。
Romanization: nei5 jing1 goi1_____
Meaning: “You should_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 你應該接受挑戰。
  • Romanization: nei5 jing1 goi1 zip3 sau6 tiu1 zin3
  • Meaning: “You should accept the challenge.”

Commenting on a suggestion

Chinese Character: 你嘅建議_____。
Romanization: nei5 ge3 gin3 ji5_____
Meaning: “Your suggestion_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 你嘅建議不獲採納。
  • Romanization: nei5 ge3 gin3 ji5 bat1 wok6 coi2 naap6
  • Meaning: “Your suggestion was not accepted.”

Expressing your opinion

Chinese Character: 我認為_____。
Romanization: ngo5 jing6 wai4  ______
Meaning: “I think  ______.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我認為我哋要擴展服務供應。
  • Romanization: ngo5 jing6 wai4 ngo5 dei6 jiu3 kong3 zin2 fuk6 mou6 gung1 jing3
  • Meaning: “I think that we should broaden our offer.”

Showing your agreement

Chinese Character: 我同意_____。
Romanization: ngo5 tung4 ji3 _________
Meaning: “I agree (with) __________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我同意你嘅⽅案,我哋應該喺尖沙咀開分店。
  • Romanization: ngo5 tung4 ji3 nei5 ge3 fong1 on3, ngo5 dei6 jing1 goi1 hai2 zim1 saa1 zeoi2 hoi1 fan1 dim3
  • Meaning: “I agree with your proposal that we should open a branch in Tsim Sha Tsui.”

Showing your disagreement

Chinese Character: 我嘅諗法唔同。
Romanization: ngo5 ge3 lam2 faat3 m4 tung4
Meaning: “I have a different opinion.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我嘅諗法唔同,我哋要有新嘢畀個市場。
  • Romanization: ngo5 ge3 lam2 faat3 m4 tung4, ngo5 dei6 jiu3 jau5 san1 je5 bei2 go3 si5 coeng4
  • Meaning: “I would not agree with you. We have to bring something new to the market.”

Providing feedback on a suggestion

Chinese Character: 聽起嚟_____。
Romanization: teng1 hei2 lei4 _________
Meaning: “Sounds like _________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 聽起嚟有啲複雜。
  • Romanization: teng1 hei2 lei4 jau5 di1 fuk1 zaap6
  • Meaning: “This sounds a little bit complicated.”

4. Handling Business Phone Calls and Emails

A Lady Having a Phone Call at Work

Now, let’s go over some useful phrases to help you do business in Cantonese over the phone or through email.

Picking up the phone

Chinese Character: 聽電話
Romanization: teng1 din6 waa2
Meaning: “to pick up the phone”

Example 

  • Chinese Character:  ⼀聽到電話響,⽴即聽電話。
  • Romanization: jat1 teng1 dou2 din6 waa2 hoeng2, laap6 zik1 teng1 din6 waa2
  • Meaning: “Once you hear the telephone ring, please pick up the phone immediately.”

Introducing yourself over the phone

Chinese Character: 喂,我係_____。
Romanization: wai2, ngo5 hai6 _________
Meaning: “Hello, this is__________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 喂,我係日新公司嘅李家明。
  • Romanization: wai2, ngo5 hai6 jat6 san1 gung1 si1 ge3 lei5 gaa1 ming4
  • Meaning: “Hello, this is Sun New company’s Li Ka Ming.”

Letting the other person know what you’d like to discuss

Chinese Character: 我想傾下_____。
Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 king1 haa5_____
Meaning: “I want to discuss_____.”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 我想傾吓啲細節。
  • Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 king1 haa5 dik1 sai3 zit3
  • Meaning: “I want to discuss the details.”

Asking if there’s anything else

Chinese Character: 仲有冇其他嘢?
Romanization: zung6 jau5 mou5 kei4 taa1 je5
Meaning: “Anything else?”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 仲有冇其他嘢我可以幫到你?
  • Romanization: zung6 jau5 mou5 kei4 taa1 je5 ngo5 ho2 ji5 bong1 dou2 nei5
  • Meaning: “Is there anything else I can do to help?”

Replying to an email

Chinese Character: 覆電郵
Romanization: fuk1 din6 jau4
Meaning: “to reply to an email”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我嘅主要工‎作係覆電郵。
  • Romanization: ngo5 ge3 zyu2 jiu3 gung1 zok3 hai6 fuk1 din6 jau4
  • Meaning: “My main task is to reply to emails.”

Greeting someone in an email

Chinese Character: _____你好:
Romanization: _____nei5 hou2
Meaning: “Hello _____,”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 陳先生你好:
  • Romanization: can4 sin1 saang1 nei5 hou2
  • Meaning: “Hello Mr. Chan,”

Thanking someone for his/her support

Chinese Character: 感謝你的支持。
Romanization: gam2 ze6 nei5 dik1 zi1 ci4
Meaning: “Thank you for your support.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我們非常感謝你的支持。
  • Romanization: ngo5 mun4 fei1 soeng4 gam2 ze6 nei5 dik1 zi1 ci4
  • Meaning: “We appreciate your support a lot.”

Asking for a meeting

Chinese Character: 我想約_____開會。
Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 joek3 _________ hoi1 wui2
Meaning: “I would like to set up a meeting for _________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我想約星期⼀開會。
  • Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 joek3 sing1 kei4 jat1 hoi1 wui2
  • Meaning: “I would like to set up a meeting for Monday.”

5. Going on a Business Trip

Business Trip

If you’re traveling to Hong Kong for work, memorize these phrases to successfully navigate your business trip in Cantonese!

Checking in with a reservation

Chinese Character: 訂咗房。
Romanization: deng6 zo2 fong2
Meaning: “(I’ve) made a reservation.”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 我姓張,已經訂咗房。
  • Romanization: ngo5 sing3 zoeng1, ji5 ging1 deng6 zo2 fong2
  • Meaning: “I have a reservation under Cheung.”

Asking about room vacancy

Chinese Character: 今晚有冇房?
Romanization: gam1 maan1 jau5 mou5 fong2
Meaning: “Do you have a vacant room for tonight?”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 你好,今晚有冇房?
  • Romanization: nei5 hou2, gam1 maan1 jau5 mou5 fong2
  • Meaning: “Hello, do you have a vacant room for tonight?”

Asking for guidelines/permission

Chinese Character: 我可唔可以_____?
Romanization: ngo5 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5_____
Meaning: “Can I_____?”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 我可唔可以用商務中心?
  • Romanization: ngo5 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 jung6 soeng1 mou6 zung1 sam1
  • Meaning: “Can I use the business center?”

Checking out

Chinese Character: 退房
Romanization: teoi3 fong2
Meaning: “check out”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 唔該,我想退房。
  • Romanization: m4 goi1, ngo5 soeng2 teoi3 fong2
  • Meaning: “Excuse me, I would like to check out.”

Expressing your needs

Chinese Character: 我要_____。
Romanization: ngo5 jiu3_____
Meaning: “I need_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我要間非吸煙單⼈房。
  • Romanization: ngo5 jiu3 gaan1 fei1 kap1 jin1 daan1 jan4 fong2
  • Meaning: “I would like to have a non-smoking single room.”

Asking for directions

Chinese Character: _____ 喺邊度?
Romanization: _________ hai2 bin1 dou6
Meaning: “Where is _________?”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 會議室喺邊度?
  • Romanization: wui6 ji5 sat1 hai2 bin1 dou6
  • Meaning: “Where is the meeting room?”

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

Now that you’ve learned the basic business phrases, are you interested in picking up even more 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 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 if there are any business phrases or situations we didn’t cover. We’ll do our best to help you out.

Happy learning, and good luck with your business endeavors!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Business Words and Phrases in Cantonese

How to Say Goodbye in Cantonese

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Do you want to leave a dashing and lasting impression after meeting someone new? It’s time to work on your grand exit! Earlier on this blog, you learned the various ways to say hello. Now it’s time to study how to say goodbye in Cantonese when it’s time to part ways. 

A proper goodbye shows courtesy and respect, and helps you hone your relationships. This is especially true in Asian societies like Hong Kong, where we value politeness, good manners, and filial piety.

There are many ways to say goodbye depending on the situation. In this article, we’ll cover the most common ways to say goodbye in Cantonese so you can be ready for any situation.

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Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. The Most Common Way to Say Goodbye
  2. Specific Ways to Say Goodbye
  3. Gestures for Saying Goodbye
  4. Bonus: More Examples!
  5. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. The Most Common Way to Say Goodbye

Most Common Goodbyes

The most common way to say goodbye in Cantonese is: 拜拜.

Literal Translation: bye bye
Meaning: bye
Romanization: baai1 baai3
Explanation: This is the most common phrase for saying “bye” when we part ways, and it can be used in a variety of situations.

Example Conversation

Elizabeth: 
今日傾得好開心,可惜我有嘢做要走先喇。
gam1 jat6 king1 dak1 hou2 hoi1 sam1, ho2 sik1 ngo5 jau5 je5 zou6 jiu3 zau2 sin1 laa3
“It’s great chatting with you; it’s a pity I need to head off now.”

Charlotte: 
拜拜。
baai1 baai3
“Bye.”

2. Specific Ways to Say Goodbye

A Man Saying Bye to His Family

There are many other ways to say bye in Cantonese apart from 拜拜 (baai1 baai3). We’ll cover nine more popular Cantonese goodbye expressions below so that you’ll be able to make a good exit in any scenario!

1 – Goodbye. (Formal)

Chinese Character: 再見
Literal Translation: again see
Meaning: goodbye
Romanization: zoi3 gin3

Example Conversation 

Fitzwilliam: 
我好攰,想休息下,再見。
ngo5 hou2 gui6, soeng2 jau1 sik1 haa5, zoi3 gin3
“I am tired and would like to take a rest. Goodbye.”

William: 
再見。
zoi3 gin3
“Goodbye.”

2 – See you later.

Chinese Character: 遲啲見
Literal Translation: later see
Meaning: See you later. 
Romanization: ci4 di1 gin3
Note: This phrase is normally used when you plan on seeing each other within the next week.

Example Conversation 

Jane: 
多謝你安排呢個舞會。
do1 ze6 nei5 on1 paai4 ni1 go3 mou5 wui2
“Thank you for organizing the Ball.”

Charles: 
遲啲見。
ci4 di1 gin3
“See you (later).”

3 – See you next time.

Chinese Character: 下次見
Literal Translation: next time see
Meaning: See you (the next time we meet).
Romanization: haa6 ci3 gin3

Example Conversation 

George: 
今日玩得好開心,下次見。
gam1 jat6 waan2 dak1 hou2 hoi1 sam1, haa6 ci3 gin3
“We had a great time today, see you.”

Lydia: 
下次見。
haa6 ci3 gin3
“See you.”

4 – See you (at a specific time).

Chinese Character: (specific time) 見
Literal Translation: (specific time) see
Meaning: See you (at a specific time).
Romanization: (specific time) gin3

Example Conversation 

Elizabeth: 
我好期待聽日終於可以見到你細妹。
ngo5 hou2 kei4 doi6 ting1 jat6 zung1 jyu1 ho2 ji5 gin3 dou2 nei5 sai3 mui2
“I look forward to finally getting to know your sister tomorrow.”

Fitzwilliam: 
咁聽日見。
gam2 ting1 jat6 gin3
“See you tomorrow, then.”

Goodbye Kiss

5 – Take care.

Chinese Character: 保重
Literal Translation: keep important
Meaning: Take care.
Romanization: bou2 zung6

Example Conversation 

Jane: 
我要去一去倫敦,可能要留三個月。
ngo5 jiu3 heoi3 jat1 heoi3 leon4 deon1, ho2 nang4 jiu3 lau4 saam1 go3 jyut6
“I need to go to London and probably have to stay there for three months.”

Elizabeth: 
保重。
bou2 zung6
“Take care.”

6 – I gotta run.

Chinese Character: 我要走先喇
Literal Translation: I need go first 
Meaning: I gotta run.
Romanization: ngo5 jiu3 zau2 sin1 laa3

Example Conversation 

Lydia: 
我要走先喇。
ngo5 jiu3 zau2 sin1 laa3
“I gotta run.”

Catherine: 
好啦,拜拜。
hou2 laa1, baai1 baai3
“Alright. Bye.”

7 – Have a great one.

Chinese Character: 一切順利
Literal Translation: All well and good.
Meaning: Have a great one. / Good luck.
Romanization: jat1 cai3 seon6 lei6

Example Conversation 

Fitzwilliam: 
我有嘢做要離開屋企一陣。
ngo5 jau5 je5 zou6 jiu3 lei4 hoi1 uk1 kei2 jat1 zan6
“I have some business and will be away from home for a while.”

Giorgiana: 
一切順利。
jat1 cai3 seon6 lei6
“Good luck.”

8 – Keep in touch.

Chinese Character: 保持聯絡
Literal Translation: Keep contact
Meaning: Keep in touch.
Romanization: bou2 ci4 lyun4 lok3

Example Conversation 

Jane: 
好可惜你哋要搬走。
hou2 ho2 sik1 nei5 dei6 jiu3 bun1 zau2
“It’s a pity that you guys are moving away.”

Caroline: 
保持聯絡。
bou2 ci4 lyun4 lok3
“Keep in touch.”

9 – Texting “Bye”

Character: 88
Meaning: “bye” for informal texting purposes (“8” in Cantonese sounds like “bye,” and it’s easy to type.)
Romanization: baat3 baat3

Example Conversation 

Jane: 
我約咗人唔傾喇。
ngo5 joek3 zo2 jan4 m4 king1 laa3
“I am meeting a friend, let’s chat later.”

Elizabeth: 
88
“Bye.”

Want more? We have a separate vocabulary list of how to say goodbye in Cantonese so you can learn useful phrases more easily! 

3. Gestures for Saying Goodbye

Now that you know a few key phrases, there’s one more question we’d like to answer: How do you say goodbye in Hong Kong? 

In some Western cultures, you might kiss, hug, or shake hands with someone when it’s time to part ways. But in Hong Kong, we generally just say the parting words, possibly followed by a gentle wave. Local Cantonese do not like touches in general—and kisses on the cheek are a big NO.

Handshake in Business Settings

If you’re in a business setting where you need to give a formal farewell, a firm handshake will do the job just fine.

4. Bonus: More Examples!

a group of colleagues

We have more examples for you! Read the following dialogue between two colleagues, 馬家輝 (maa5 gaa1 fai1) and 張麗珊 (zoeng1 lai6 saan1). They’re good friends in the office, and 馬家輝 is about to leave.

Example dialogue 

馬家輝: 
我走先喇!
ngo5 zau2 sin1 laa3
“I am leaving.”

張麗珊: 
點解咁早走嘅?
dim2 gaai2 gam3 zou2 zau2 ge2
“Why are you leaving so early?”

馬家輝: 
我已經做晒啲嘢,咪返屋企囉!你都唔好成日加班喇。
ngo5 ji5 ging1 zou6 saai3 di1 je5, mai6 faan2 uk1 kei2 lo1. nei5 dou1 m4 hou2 seng4 jat6 gaa1 baan1 laa3
“I have finished my work, so I am heading home. You shouldn’t work overtime so often.”

張麗珊: 
講就容易。
gong2 zau6 jung4 ji6
“It’s easier said than done.”

馬家輝: 
你仲有好多嘢要做?你需唔需要幫手?
nei5 zung6 jau5 hou2 do1 je5 jiu3 zou6? nei5 seoi1 m4 seoi1 jiu3 bong1 sau2?
“Do you still have a lot of work? Do you need help?”

張麗珊: 
唔緊要啦,我自己搞得掂。
m4 gan2 jiu3 laa1, ngo5 zi6 gei2 gaau2 dak1 dim6
“It’s alright, I can take care of it.”

馬家輝: 
咁好啦,聽日見。辛苦晒喇。
gam2 hou2 laa1, ting1 jat6 gin3. san1 fu2 saai3 laa3
“Alright then, see you tomorrow. Thanks for your hard work.”

張麗珊: 
拜拜。
baai1 baai3
“Bye.”

Explanatory notes on the key vocabulary 

VocabularyRomanizationMeaning
走先zau2 sin1to leave early; to leave now
點解dim2 gaai2why
zou2 early
屋企uk1 kei2home
成日seng4 jat6all of the time; always
加班gaa1 baan1to work overtime
容易jung4 ji6easy; simple
需要seoi1 jiu3 need
幫手bong1 sau2help
緊要gan2 jiu3matter
dim6satisfactory; in good order
聽日ting1 jat6tomorrow
gin3to see

We hope the conversation above helped you better understand how to say bye in Cantonese! If you would like to read and listen to more useful examples, do check out our lesson on Saying Goodbye When You Leave Your Job in Hong Kong.

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

Now that you’ve learned your basic “hellos” and “goodbyes,” do you fancy learning more 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 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 how you say goodbye in your language! We look forward to hearing from you.

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?

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