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The "a" vowel

Revision as of 03:15, 9 June 2015 by Mscottmoore (Talk | contribs) (Switched to templatized pinyin chart widget)

The first vowel you want to learn in pinyin is "a." It can combine with all of those easy sounds you already learned in part 1 of this guide, so it's a great place to start.

Pinyin's Main "a" Vowel Sound

Although the "a" sound in Chinese can vary a little bit, and is slightly changed when followed by a "-n" or a "-ng" sound, it should sound more or less consistent in the syllables introduced in this section. Remember that you can click on the sounds in the chart fragment to hear audio.

  • -a sounds like the "a" sound in the English words "ah" or "ha" or "father".
  • -ai sounds like the "ai" in the English words "Thai" and "aisle".
  • -ao sounds pretty much like the word "Tao"/"Dao" which we've imported into English from Chinese, or the "ow" in the English word "how", but with a rather muted “w” sound at the end.
  • -an sounds similar to “on” (minus a strong “aw” sound like in “lawn”) but you may also hear a hint of the vowel sound in the English word “can”. This sound doesn't match up to English sounds perfectly, but it's not hard to approximate.
  • -ang sounds similar to the "ong" sound in the word "King Kong". Because you have the nasalized "-ng" ending, the "a" vowel changes slightly, but that's not something you should have to worry about too much.

Pinyin Chart Fragment

This is just a part of the full pinyin chart, limited to the sounds we've covered so far.

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Chart Mode: Audio Links (disables audio)

Tone: 1 2 3 4 1234 [Show more Settings]

Additional Settings

Show Text: IPA Zhuyin Wade-Giles

Text Size: Small Medium Large

Chart Mode: Audio Links (disables audio)

-a- -a -ai -ao -an -ang -e- -o- -i- -u- -ü-
b-
ba
[pɑ]
ㄅㄚ
pa
bai
[paɪ̯]
ㄅㄞ
pai
bao
[pɑʊ̯]
ㄅㄠ
pao
ban
[pan]
ㄅㄢ
pan
bang
[pɑŋ]
ㄅㄤ
pang
b-
p-
pa
[pʰɑ]
ㄆㄚ
p'a
pai
[pʰaɪ̯]
ㄆㄞ
p'ai
pao
[pʰɑʊ̯]
ㄆㄠ
p'ao
pan
[pʰan]
ㄆㄢ
p'an
pang
[pʰɑŋ]
ㄆㄤ
p'ang
p-
m-
ma
[mɑ]
ㄇㄚ
ma
mai
[maɪ̯]
ㄇㄞ
mai
mao
[mɑʊ̯]
ㄇㄠ
mao
man
[man]
ㄇㄢ
man
mang
[mɑŋ]
ㄇㄤ
mang
m-
f-
fa
[fɑ]
ㄈㄚ
fa
fan
[fan]
ㄈㄢ
fan
fang
[fɑŋ]
ㄈㄤ
fang
f-
d-
da
[tɑ]
ㄉㄚ
ta
dai
[taɪ̯]
ㄉㄞ
tai
dao
[tɑʊ̯]
ㄉㄠ
tao
dan
[tan]
ㄉㄢ
tan
dang
[tɑŋ]
ㄉㄤ
tang
d-
t-
ta
[tʰɑ]
ㄊㄚ
t'a
tai
[tʰaɪ̯]
ㄊㄞ
t'ai
tao
[tʰɑʊ̯]
ㄊㄠ
t'ao
tan
[tʰan]
ㄊㄢ
t'an
tang
[tʰɑŋ]
ㄊㄤ
t'ang
t-
n-
na
[nɑ]
ㄋㄚ
na
nai
[naɪ̯]
ㄋㄞ
nai
nao
[nɑʊ̯]
ㄋㄠ
nao
nan
[nan]
ㄋㄢ
nan
nang
[nɑŋ]
ㄋㄤ
nang
n-
l-
la
[lɑ]
ㄌㄚ
la
lai
[laɪ̯]
ㄌㄞ
lai
lao
[lɑʊ̯]
ㄌㄠ
lao
lan
[lan]
ㄌㄢ
lan
lang
[lɑŋ]
ㄌㄤ
lang
l-
z-
za
[tsɑ]
ㄗㄚ
tsa
zai
[tsaɪ̯]
ㄗㄞ
tsai
zao
[tsɑʊ̯]
ㄗㄠ
tsao
zan
[tsan]
ㄗㄢ
tsan
zang
[tsɑŋ]
ㄗㄤ
tsang
z-
c-
ca
[tsʰɑ]
ㄘㄚ
ts'a
cai
[tsʰaɪ̯]
ㄘㄞ
ts'ai
cao
[tsʰɑʊ̯]
ㄘㄠ
ts'ao
can
[tsʰan]
ㄘㄢ
ts'an
cang
[tsʰɑŋ]
ㄘㄤ
ts'ang
c-
s-
sa
[sɑ]
ㄙㄚ
sa
sai
[saɪ̯]
ㄙㄞ
sai
sao
[sɑʊ̯]
ㄙㄠ
sao
san
[san]
ㄙㄢ
san
sang
[sɑŋ]
ㄙㄤ
sang
s-
g-
ga
[kɑ]
ㄍㄚ
ka
gai
[kaɪ̯]
ㄍㄞ
kai
gao
[kɑʊ̯]
ㄍㄠ
kao
gan
[kan]
ㄍㄢ
kan
gang
[kɑŋ]
ㄍㄤ
kang
g-
k-
ka
[kʰɑ]
ㄎㄚ
k'a
kai
[kʰaɪ̯]
ㄎㄞ
k'ai
kao
[kʰɑʊ̯]
ㄎㄠ
k'ao
kan
[kʰan]
ㄎㄢ
k'an
kang
[kʰɑŋ]
ㄎㄤ
k'ang
k-
h-
ha
[xɑ]
ㄏㄚ
ha
hai
[xaɪ̯]
ㄏㄞ
hai
hao
[xɑʊ̯]
ㄏㄠ
hao
han
[xan]
ㄏㄢ
han
hang
[xɑŋ]
ㄏㄤ
hang
h-
-a- -a -ai -ao -an -ang -e- -o- -i- -u- -ü-

Pinyin's Alternate "a" Vowel Sounds

The letter "a" in pinyin can actually make different sounds as well, when it is part of the "-ian" and "-üan" finals. Those sounds will be covered in later sections of this guide.

For now, let's move on to the "e" vowel.

Sources and further reading