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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!

29 Comments

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CantoneseClass101.com
Friday at 6:30 pm
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Do you have tones in your language? Please comment and share your thoughts.

Adam
Sunday at 1:22 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
Wednesday at 2:50 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 5:39 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.

CantoneseClass101.com
Monday at 2:55 pm
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Hi David,


Thanks very much for your feedback! 😉


Ada

Team CantoneseClass101.com

David
Monday at 4:36 am
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I can tell this is going to be the hardest part of learning Cantonese for me. Still though, great explanation.

CantoneseClass101.com
Friday at 3:38 pm
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Hi Vicente,


Thank you very much for your comment! 😳👍

Just let us know if you have any questions. 😉


Ada

Team CantoneseClass101.com

Vicente
Friday at 1:41 pm
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Just amazing...Very well explained, I learned alot from this lesson in particular how is exposed to the student. The graph of the pitches made it so much easier.


Thank you for making good quality learning.


VA

CantoneseClass101.com
Tuesday at 9:02 pm
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Hello Lynn,


Thanks for leaving us a question! 😉

As mentioned in this lesson, 1st, 3rd and 6th are high, mid, and low tone respectively.

Perhaps you can watch the video lesson more times to get familiar with these tones. 😉👍


Ada

Team CantoneseClass101.com

Lynn
Sunday at 1:55 pm
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Could you please compare the 1st, 3rd and 6th? It all sounds same to my ears.

CantoneseClass101.comVerified
Sunday at 12:27 pm
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Hello Arvin,


Thank you for your question.


呢個 係乜?(ni1 go3 hai6 mat1?) ~ What is this?

呢個((ni1 go3) ~ this one

個(go3)~ one, measure word for item

係(hai6) ~ is

乜(mat1)~ what


嗰個 係乜?(go2 go3 hai6 mat1?) ~ What is that?

嗰個(go2 go3)~ That one


Feel free to send us any other questions.


Siuling

Team CantoneseClass101.com