Student Log-In

Forgot password?                Login
Student Sign-Up
First Name Last Name
Email (We do not share your email)
Password (6 characters or more)
Please type:
Create My Account
Company code (Corporate Users Only)
I accept the Terms of Service.
Teacher 登入

Join the best

native Chinese teachers applied. Only were selected for this rewarding teaching experience. Take the challenge today!

Home > Resources > Four tones in Chinese (2)

Four tones in Chinese (2), by Yifan

Four tones in Chinese / 中文发音的四声 / 中文發音的四聲(二)

Perhaps the third tone in spoken Chinese is the most unique tone. Also it could be the most difficulty thing for spoken Chinese learners, especially when you try to read out many words that are a combination of two third-tone characters.

There are many examples, such as 你好(hello),软体/軟體(software),许可/許可( allow, license),允许/允許(allow, permission),领导/領導(leader),左手(left hand),网友/網友(cyberspace or web friends) ,统领/統領( command, to lead) 舞蹈(dance),虎口(jaws of death),美好(nice, nicety),古老(old antiquity). Yes, there are many more words like these.

And you will feel they are quite awkward-sounding or hard to pronounce. Do not worry, this is not your fault. Like many other things, Chinese is not a perfect language. And I can tell you the truth, it is quite difficult even for many Chinese who speaks some kind of ‘patois’, or not the standard Chinese accent. Here, I would not like to talk more about how to read out single Chinese character exactly in third tone, because in most of time we are speaking in words and sentences.

Actually, this is an interesting thing that I have found out but I was not conscious about it before. Even for me or others who speaks Chinese as a native language, when we read out these words that are combined with two third-tone characters. If we pronounced the first character with exactly third tone, that will sound quite unnatural or awkward. Or sounds like a bookish. So in real life, in most of the time, we change the first character tone from the third to to the second tone. For those samples the previous examples are spoken out like following:

你好(hello) is pronounced "ní hǎo" instead of "nǐ hǎo"
软体/軟體(software) is pronounced "ruán tǐ" instead of "ruǎn tǐ"
许可/許可(allow) is pronounced "xú kě" instead of "xǔ kě"
允许/允許(permission) is pronounced "yún xǔ" instead of "yǔn xǔ"
领导/領導(leader) is pronounced "líng dáo" instead of "lǐng dǎo"
左手(left hand) is pronounced "zuó shǒu" instead of "zuǒ shǒu"
网友/網友(friend on web) is pronounced "wáng yǒu" instead of "wǎng yǒu"
统领/統領(command, to lead) is pronounced "tóng lǐng" instead of "tǒng lǐng"
舞蹈(dance) is pronounced "wú dáo" instead of "wǔ dǎo"
虎口(jaws of death) is pronounced "hú kǒu" instead of "hǔ kǒu"
美好(nice, nicety) is pronounced "méi hǎo" instead of "měi hǎo"
古老(old, antiquity) is pronounced "gú lǎo" instead of "gǔ lǎo"

Please note that the first character in every word is spoken out as a second tone, instead of its original, regular third tone.

Practice reading out these words and you will start to feel it comes more smoothly, easier and natural. Believe me, Chinese language and culture are not perfect. One of the tips is not to exhaust yourself with the details. You will discover more along with your own learning progress. Sometimes it is good, but sometimes it is bad. That is it.
I hope this message could be helpful. Have fun, see you later. :-)