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Tyrone

Character with multiple pronounciations

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Tyrone

I have been trying to learn to read Chinese and things have been progressing smoothly until i ran into this sentence 我们仔细地找啊. My question in particular is with the characters 仔 and 地. I noticed that both these characters have multiple pinyin. I asked my mom, who is fluent in Chinese, and she said that in this context, 仔 should be pronounce zi rather than zai. If that is so, why not just use 子 instead of 仔? Same question with 地 instead of 的.

Also how are am i suppose to know which pinyin to use? Will i just have to memorize the context it is used in?

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imron

Focus on words rather than characters.

 

仔细 is a word so there is no ambiguity in the pronunciation.

 

Single character words such as 地 are a bit more tricky, but usually there is a clear way to know which to use.  地 and 的 have different grammatical functions and the correct one to use here is 地 (check out the AllSet grammar wiki for a more thorough explanation), however many native speakers will use 的 here anyway (similar to English speakers using "your" instead of "you're", or "there" instead of "their").

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lips

similar to English speakers using "your" instead of "you're", or "there" instead of "their"

:O

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Tyrone

Dang that made a lot of sense especially the their and there example. Thank you very much.

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imron

You're welcome.  Note as well, that you can almost always know the correct pronunciation of single character words based on the grammatical function.

 

In the example above, 地 will always be de when used in an adverbial phrase and dì when used as a noun (referring to the ground or a place).

 

If it seems a bit strange or too much hassle, realise that English also does a similar thing.  Compare for example:

 

1) I gave him a birthday present.

2) Tomorrow I'm going to present the findings of my investigation.

 

In sentence 1 'present' is a noun and is pronounced differently from the 'present' in sentence 2 which is a verb (PREsent vs presENT).  There are many other words that do this in English, and it's not strange that Chinese characters can also differ in pronunciation depending on grammatical function.

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Mati1

Interested learners should take a closer look at this wonderful little book:

"Chinese Multi-Reading Characters Without Tears" (“汉语多音字学习手册”), ISBN: 7301057458

 

The book is about the 207 most common / useful 多音字 and helps the student by explaining the correct usage for each pronounciation (not like a textbook, more like a dictionary). In addition it lists example words, many of those are used in an example sentence each. Usage, words and example sentences are given with an English translation next to it / below it. There is even a short exercise for each character (answer key in the book.) and for some characters a short bonus reading is included after the exercise (no translation).

 

I did not use this book much yet because I feel that I should learn more characters and words first, so that I can actually understand more of the book. Anyhow this book looks very promising to me; it can be used to learn the most important characters with multiple pronounciations systematically, or as a reference handbook.

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