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Mandarin Tones - Changing Tones

Tones and Syllables with Tone Variations

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Mandarin is a tonal language with four distinct tones:

1 - high level -
2 - rising -
3 - rising and falling -
4 - falling -

There is also a 5th tone which is neutral.

The tone determines the meaning of the word or syllable. For example:

睡覺 shuì jiào

means "sleep," but

水餃 shuǐ jiǎo

means "dumplings."

Variations

When two 3rd tones are used together the first 3rd tone becomes a 2nd tone:

你好 nǐ hǎo (hello)

becomes

ní hǎo.

Yi 一 (one) is a first tone syllable, but when it comes before the first, second, or third tones it is pronounced in the fourth tone:

一些 yì xiē (a few)
一直 yì zhí (continue; straight ahead)
一點 yì diǎn (a little)

When yi 一 comes before a fourth tone, it is pronounced in the second tone:

一定 yí dìng (certain)

Bu 不 (negating adverb) is a fourth tone syllable, but when it is used before another fourth tone, it is pronounced in the second tone:

不好 bù hǎo (not good)
不謝 bú xiè (don’t mention it)
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