The "e" vowel
In series Pinyin quick start guide
The "a" vowel is a pretty easy one. Time to take on a vowel that is just slightly trickier. The "e" in Mandarin Chinese is slightly tricky because it can be pronounced in two different ways. You simply have to memorize when it makes one sound and when it makes the other.
Pinyin's Main "e" Vowel Sound
The main sound that pinyin "e" makes is a rather unexpected "uh" sound, totally different from both the short "e" sound of "pen" in English, and the long "e" sound of "see".
- -e sounds kind of like the English "duh" or "uhhh" sound (like somone thinking or getting punched in the stomach).
- -en sounds how you'd expect; the above "-e" sound followed by the "-n" sound. It's kind of like the "un" sound in the English word "sun", but not exactly the same.
- -eng also sounds how you'd expect; the above "-e" sound followed by the "-ng" sound. It's kind of like the "ung" sound in the English word "sung", but not exactly the same.
An Alternate "e" Vowel Sound
Now that you know the main sound that "e" makes in pinyin, you also need to learn a different sound it makes (which also appears in the chart fragment below).
- -ei sounds like the vowel in the English word "eight" or the Japanese brand "Seiko".
Pinyin Chart Fragment
This is just a part of the full pinyin chart, limited to the sounds we've covered in this section.
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Other "e" Vowel Sounds
Now let's move on to the "i" vowel.
Sources and further reading