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problems with 为


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hi, so this is my first time starting a topic, please be gentle.

I tried searching the forum but couldn't find a satisfactory answer for this question...

I'm having real difficulty distinguishing when 为 should be 2nd or 4th tone. the pleco definitions i guess makes sense, but are still really ambiguous...and I still get the tone wrong about a third of the time I try to read it.

can anyone explain to me a simple way to understand the difference between the two words?

thanks very much!

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Can you find an example where you might have some initial confusion?  It might be easier to give pointers if you can give a specific example.


I myself sometimes have difficulty determining which meaning is meant without reading ahead, or when I am unfamiliar with an idiom.  An example might be the phrase 为人, which usually is read with the second tone, but might be read in the fourth tone with a different meaning.  If what follows is a stative verb, I assume it is the second tone and gives the meaning "conduct oneself to be" or "serve as a person who is...."  If what follows is an active verb, then I assume the meaning is "serving other people" or "on behalf of others."

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Usually, 4th tone means "for" and 2nd tone means "be" or "become."



Yes, and I would add that it may be helpful to think of the 2nd tone 为 as "as"

安全为本 (motto) safety as fundamental

做为老师  As a teacher....

看他为朋友 consider him as a friend


Perhaps not the best examples,and may contain errors, but this helps me use the right tones most of the time.

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Fourth Tone: when it means "For (someone/some purpose)" , “为了”

Second Tone: when it means "As (a teacher/student/cop)", 作为; or when it mean "Become (a basketball player)" 成为


For some particular meaning, you should just remember it, like "为什么/why" (4th tone)

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The main exception to the meaning rule is 因为, which every dictionary will tell you should be [yīnwèi] (as it logically would be), but the majority of native speakers actually pronounce as [yīnwéi].


Apart from that, it's all fairly logical as to whether it's [wéi] or [wèi]. However, it's good practice to learn words as complete units. Don't think of e.g. 认为 as 认 [rèn] "recognize" + 为 [wéi/wèi] "do/act/be/for/etc."; instead, think of it as 认为 [rènwéi] "to think/consider".

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