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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Cantonese.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by Jinho
Hi everyone! I'm Jinho!
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Cantonese grammar.
Word Order
"Word order" refers to the order in which words are structured to form a sentence.
Consider the English sentence, "I eat an apple." But first, let's remove the article "an" here for simplicity. We're left with just "I eat apple."
The basic word order for English is subject, verb, object, or SVO for short.
If we break down the English sentence "I eat apple," we can see that the subject "I" is presented first. This is followed by the verb "eat," and then finally the object "apple" is positioned last.
This is the basic word order for sentences in English.
Now let's compare that same sentence, "I eat an apple," in Cantonese.
我食蘋果。(ngo5 sik6 ping4 gwo2.)
Like before, let's remove the particles to keep it simple. So we're just left with the words.
If we break down the Cantonese sentence, we get the subject 我 (ngo5), meaning "I." Then comes the verb 食 (sik6), meaning "eat." And finally, we have the object 蘋果 (ping4 gwo2), meaning "apple."
The word order for Cantonese is SVO, the same as English! Easy!
Right! And this is the basic word order for sentences in Cantonese.
Okay. Let's move on to the next section.
How to Form Basic Sentences
To form basic sentences in Cantonese, keep that SVO word order in mind.
Right. For example,
我睇戲 (ngo5 tai2 hei3)...
"I watch movie."
Let's break down the sentence. We start with the subject 我 (ngo5), meaning "I." Then comes the verb 睇 (tai2), meaning "watch." And finally, we have the object 戲 (hei3), meaning "movie."
Subject, verb, object. Easy! Jinho, can you give us one more example?
Sure, let's introduce a new subject: 你 (nei5) meaning "you."
你食蘋果 (nei5 sik6 ping4 gwo2).
"You eat apple."
Ok, I recognize the words from the previous sentence. So we simply change the subject that begins the sentence, without changing any other parts. Is that right?
Yep, unlike the Romance languages, there is no verb conjugation or gender in the Cantonese language. Yet, the word order is similar to English. So in fact, Cantonese is not that difficult.
We start with the subject, 你 (nei5) meaning "you," then the verb 食 (sik6) meaning "eat," and finally, the object 蘋果 (ping4 gwo2), "apple." That's how we form basic sentences in Cantonese!
That's really simple. What about negative sentences?
Forming negative sentences in Cantonese is even easier. Let's find out how!
How to Form Negative Sentences in Cantonese
Forming negative sentences in Cantonese is easy, in most cases, we just need to add the character for "no" or "negation..."
唔 (m4)
...in front of the verb. Jinho, can you give us some examples?
Of course! Let's use the sentence "I eat apple" 我食蘋果 (ngo5 sik6 ping4 gwo2) for example. To make it negative, just add 唔 (m4) in front of the verb 食 (sik6) "eat."
我唔食蘋果 (ngo5 m4 sik6 ping4 gwo2).
"I don't eat apple."
Now let's make the sentence "I watch movie" negative.
Okay, to recap, "I watch movie" in Cantonese is 我睇戲 (ngo5 tai2 hei3). 睇 (tai2) is the verb "watch." So the negative version of this sentence would be
我唔睇戲 (ngo5 m4 tai2 hei3).
"I don't watch movie."
Yep! So what do you think? Pretty easy, right?
How to Form Questions in Cantonese
Let's talk now about how to form questions in Cantonese. We're going to start with an incredibly important and useful phrase. You're going to need this to ask what something is.
So first, put the pronoun or name of the item first, and then add...
係乜?(hai6 mat1?)
For example, if you want to ask "what is this," you'd say...
呢個係乜?(ni1 go3 hai6 mat1?), in which 呢個 (ni1 go3) means "this (thing)."
And for "What is that?" it's...
嗰個係乜?(go2 go3 hai6 mat1?), in which 嗰個 (go2 go3) means "that (thing)."
If someone was talking about, say, "eggettes"...
雞蛋仔 (gai1 daan6 zai2). Yum!
If you don't know what that is, then you can ask "what are eggettes?"
雞蛋仔係乜?(gai1 daan6 zai2 hai6 mat1?)
So we start with the name of the item...
In this example, 雞蛋仔 (gai1 daan6 zai2), which is a kind of Hong Kong street snack.
...then we add...
係乜?(hai6 mat1?)
... to form the question "what are eggettes?"
Very straight forward! Now you try to form a question. Leave it in the comment section for us to read!
Yes, please! Okay, now let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned that Cantonese sentences are formed using a subject, verb, object, or "SVO" word order.
To form negative sentences, we put the "negation" character...
... in front of the verb.
And lastly, you can create basic "what is [something]" questions in Cantonese by saying the pronoun or name of an item first, followed by...
唔 (m4)
係乜?(hai6 mat1?)
We've covered only the very basics of Cantonese grammar. If you're interested in learning more, check out our "Cantonese in 3 minutes" video series. In that course, we teach you useful phrases while covering the fundamentals of Cantonese grammar, and each lesson is only 3 minutes long!
In the next lesson, we'll introduce you to the basics of Cantonese writing.
See you in the next lesson. Bye!