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Lesson Transcript

Hi everyone.
Welcome to The Ultimate Cantonese Pronunciation Guide.
In this lesson, you'll learn about the tones in Cantonese.
Tone is the use of pitch to distinguish meaning.
Just like how mispronouncing a sound or misreading a character can have a huge impact on meaning, using the wrong tone can drastically change the meaning of a word or sentence too.
It's crucial then, that you learn all the tones in Cantonese.
Cantonese TONES
There are 6 tones in Cantonese.
絲 (si1)
史 (si2)
試 (si3)
時 (si4)
市 (si5)
是 (si6)
1: HIGH TONE
The first tone is a high tone.
巴, 巴 (baa1) (slowly)
It's pronounced high and steady, and the pitch should be kept at the highest range that's comfortable for you.
媽, 媽 (maa1) (slowly)
The key point here is to keep it even across the whole syllable. Listen and repeat after (host name).
啡 (fe1)
司 (si1)
巴 (baa1)
2: MID RISING TONE
The second tone is a rising tone.
灑, 灑 (saa2) (slowly)
It has a rising intonation and kind of sounds like you're asking a question. "See?"
史, 史 (si2) (slowly)
You should start from a comfortable range and then rise from there. Listen and repeat after (host name).
把 (baa2)
虎 (fu2)
寫 (se2)
3: MID TONE
The third tone is a mid tone.
化, 化 (faa3) (slowly)
It's pronounced in the middle of your range and is steady throughout.
借, 借 (ze3) (slowly)
But don't be fooled. Just because it's in the middle of your range, it doesn't mean that you can pronounce this without practice. The key here is to maintain the same pitch from start to finish and keep it even across the entire syllable. Listen and repeat after (host name).
試 (si3)
破 (po3)
富 (fu3)
4: LOWEST TONE
The fourth tone is the lowest tone.
蛇, 蛇 (se4) (slowly)
This is the lowest tone of them all.
茶, 茶 (caa4) (slowly)
Go as low as you can go until you feel a slight vibration at the base of your throat. Listen and repeat after (host name).
扶 (fu4)
爬 (paa4)
爺 (je4)
5: LOW RISING TONE
The fifth tone is a rising tone.
我, 我 (ngo5) (slowly)
It starts low, and then rises to the middle of your range.
那, 那 (naa5) (slowly)
It's different from the second tone, which is *also* a rising tone in that it starts from the bottom, instead of the middle of your range. Listen and repeat after (host name).
馬 (maa5)
有 (jau5)
冷 (laang5)
6: LOW TONE
The sixth and final tone, is a low tone.
罷, 罷 (baa6) (slowly)
It's pronounced low and steady.
夏, 夏 (haa6) (slowly)
This is often the most difficult tone to master, because it's very similar to the fourth tone, the lowest tone. The trick is to pronounce it low *without* causing noticeable vibrations at the base of your throat, and then keeping it steady. As long as you maintain a low pitch, it should be enough to indicate that you're using the sixth and not the fourth tone. Okay, now listen and repeat after (host name).
路 (lou6)
木 (muk6)
負 (fu6)
Now you know how to produce all the tones in Cantonese!
In the next lesson, we'll cover tone change rules in Cantonese.
Do you have tones in your language? Please comment and share your thoughts.
See you in the next Ultimate Cantonese Pronunciation Guide lesson!

36 Comments

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😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Friday at 06:30 PM
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Do you have tones in your language? Please comment and share your thoughts.

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Saturday at 06:31 PM
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Hello Tim,


Thank you very much for your great feedback. We will definitely consider it for the future development of our materials! 👍


Let us know in case you have any questions or further remarks.


Sincerely,

利凡特 (Levente)

Team CantoneseClass101.com

Tim
Wednesday at 03:08 PM
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I agree with Jason. It would be very helpful to have a chart of all six tones together. Looking at them one by one, 2(Mid), 4(lowest), and 5 (low) all start at the same pitch.

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Sunday at 05:39 PM
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Hi Jason,


Thanks for your question.

I am sorry that we don't have a chart summarizing all the tones, but you could find separate charts for all tones in this lesson video, which show the tones very clearly. 😉


Ada

Team CantoneseClass101.com

Jason
Friday at 08:39 AM
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Is there a chart with all the tones someplace? I am a visual learner.

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 04:16 PM
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Hello Brad,


Thanks for your feedback! 😄


Ada

Team CantoneseClass101.com

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 04:15 PM
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Hi Adam,


Thanks for posting. It's very nice that you have your own way to think about the tones. 😉 You can memorize 6 and 4 in this way.


Ada

Team CantoneseClass101.com

Brad
Monday at 02:00 PM
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I love these Cantonese lessons!

Adam
Sunday at 01:22 PM
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I like to think of them this way. It helps distinguish 6 and 4 for me, better than trying to think that 6 is between 3 and 4. Hopefully, it helps me in the correct way!


1 - High

3 - Middle

6 - Low

4 - Lower


2 - Large Rise (from 6 ~`1)

5 - Small Rise (from 6`~ 3)

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Wednesday at 02:50 PM
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Hello Ian,


Thanks for your question. 😉

It seems a little bit confusing but our tones work exactly in this way. Isn't that interesting? 😁


Ada

Team CantoneseClass101.com

Ian
Tuesday at 05:39 PM
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In the chart, Why isn’t “low rising” 4, “low” 5, and “lowest” 6? The current order seems a little confusing.