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Tones of Chinese Pinyin

Introduction of Chinese Pinyin Tones

Tones are an important part of Chinese, which are the variation of pitch within a syllable and are used to distinguish words with same Pinyin. There are basiclly four tones and one neutral tone in Mandarin Chinese. The following chart illustates the four basic tones.

Basic Four Tone Marks

Tones Tone Marks Descriptons Examples
1st tone 阴平 high level dā 耷(drop down)
2nd tone 阳平 high rising dá 答(answer)
3rd tone 上声 low dipping dǎ 打(hit)
4th tone 去声 high falling dà 大(big)

The neutral tone, occurs on stressless syllables and has a pitch entirely determined by the tones of adjacent syllables. However, a neutral will never act as the starting tone. Neutral tones are usually unmarked. For example, the red parts of the following table are neutral tones.

ma 妈妈 ye 爷爷 nǎinai 奶奶 ba 爸爸
ge 哥哥 wa 娃娃 jiějie 姐姐 mèimei 妹妹
zhuōzi 桌子 fángzi 房子 běnzi 本子 jìngzi 镜子
jīnzi 金子 yínzi 银子 zǎoshang 早上 dìshang 地上
dīngzi 钉子 miánhua 棉花 yǐngzi 影子 yànzi 燕子

Tone Mark Placement

The tone mark is placed over the vowel if there is only one vowel letter.

If there are two vowels, the tone mark is placed on the first, unless the this first vowel is i or u.

hēi qiú tuī

If there are three vowels in a syllable, the tone mark is placed on the middle one.

zhuāng chuán

When the tone mark is place on i, the small dot is removed.

lín huī