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In this Pinyin Lesson, we learn how to pronounce single vowels or called single finals of pinyin. We also learn some Chinese characters that use these single finals. In addition, you can have tone drill and quiz on single finals.

Syllable

A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel) with optional initial and final margins (typically, consonants). Syllables are often considered the phonological "building blocks" of words.

Nucleus

Generally, every syllable requires a nucleus (sometimes called the peak), and the minimal syllable consists only of a nucleus.

Initials and Finals

The pronunciation and spelling of Chinese words are generally given in terms of initials and finals, which represent the segmental phonemic portion of the language, rather than letter by letter. Initials are initial consonants, while finals are all possible combinations of semivowels coming before the vowel, the nucleus vowel, and final vowel or consonant.

A semivowel is a sound that is phonetically similar to a vowel sound but functions as the syllable boundary rather than as the nucleus of a syllable.

Single Vowels

There are 6 single vowels (finals) in Chinese Pinyin.

Pronunciation Guide

The following guide is given in terms of English pronunciation. They are approximate, as there are some sounds of Pinyin do not correspond directly to sounds in English.

1. a: as in “father”.

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2. o: approximately as in "office" in British accent; the lips are much more rounded.
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3. e: approximately as in “idea”.
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4. i: as in “bee”.
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5. u: as the “oo” as in “pool”.
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6. ü: to get this sound, say “ee” with rounded lips.
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Notes:
"i" represents three different sounds dependent on the initial that precedes it. When it follows the so-called sibilant initials (z, c, s), it sounds like "zz". When it follows the retroflex initials (zh, ch, sh, and r) it sounds like "rr". In all other cases, it sounds like the English "ee".

"ü" is written as "u" (no ūmlaut) after j, q, x, or y.

Example Words

Example 1:

Chinese Character: 啊
Pinyin: ā

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English translation: Ah
doctor
Example 2:

Chinese Character: 喔
Pinyin: ō (The other pinyin can be "wō" for the Chinese character "喔". Here we just give an approximate sound.)

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English translation: Oh
rooster o
Example 3:

Chinese Character: 鹅
Pinyin: é

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English translation: goose
goose
Example 4:

Chinese Character: 一
Pinyin: yī

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English translation: one
Example 5:

Chinese Character: 五
Pinyin: wǔ

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English translation: five
number five
Example 6:

Chinese Character: 鱼
Pinyin: yú

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English translation: fish
fish

Exercises:

Exercise 1: Tone Drill

Listen to the audio first, and then repeat.

1. ā á ǎ à

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2. ō ó ǒ ò
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3. ē é ě è
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4. ī í ǐ ì
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5. ū ú ǔ ù
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6. ǖ ǘ ǚ ǜ
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Listening Quiz (2)

Choose the right answer after you listen to the audio.
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If you are interested in learning Chinese, please take a look at the Free Chinese Lessons that are practical and fun.

12 Responses to “Learn Chinese Pinyin in 21 Days – Day 2: Single Vowels”

  1. Pauline

    It says : Listened to the audio first….but I dont find any way of finding the audio….?????

    Reply
  2. Morgan Ray

    The “book” sound is not the same in English for “oo”. The “oo” in “book” is not the same as the “oo” as in “pool”. The sound being made here is the “oo” sound in “pool” not “book”. The “oo” in “book”, “look” and “cook” for example, sounds more like a short u (ŭ- but not the same as the short u in cup!)

    Reply
    • aihua

      aihua

      Hi Morgan Ray,
      No exact match in English. They are approximate. However, I agree that the “oo” sound in “pool” is closer. Updated it.
      Thank you very much for your comment!

      Reply
  3. Yuzhou

    网站和内容都非常好!有个小问题指出一下,喔的拼音应该是wo,不是o, 如果是i see的意思的话是不是 ‘噢’更确切一些?

    Reply
    • aihua

      aihua

      Hi Yuzhou,

      I think “喔” has two sounds(Pinyin). One is “ō” and the other is “wō”. Here we just give an approximate sound to help the Chinese learner to learn “o”.
      我认为”喔”有两个发音。一个是”ō”,另一个”wō”。这里只是找到一个近似的发音帮助学”o”的发音。

      Reply
  4. Jason

    I’m so confused by fish in this example. It’s written like yú, but when I listen to it, it sounds like it should be yǘ . I hear a more of an english yee than a yoo.. Does the y modify the sound of the ú?

    Reply
    • aihua

      aihua

      Jason,

      Good catch!
      You are right. The two dots are omitted after “y” by the pinyin rule. Namely, “yǘ” to “yú”.

      Reply

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