Neutral tone

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Also known as: fifth tone, zeroth tone and 轻声 (qīngshēng).

The four tones of Mandarin Chinese are widely known, but you occasionally hear about a "fifth tone," also known as the neutral tone. The neutral tone is said to be "light" or "de-emphasized," meaning you don't have to give it the same amount of stress, and it should actually be a bit shorter than the other tones.

The neutral tone is not as "absolute" as the others, and it needs to stand apart from the tone that came before it. That means that after a first tone or second tone, the neutral tone sounds a bit lower, while after the third tone or fourth tone it sound slightly higher. The key is contrast.

Sources and further reading