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Cantonese Grammar

Welcome to the 8th lesson about Cantonese grammar. We will first learn about prepositions, negation, questions, adverbs, and pronouns including: personal, object and possessive pronouns. To hear the pronunciation, just click on the sound icon.

We will start with prepositions. In general, they are used to link words to other words. For example: I speak Cantonese and English the preposition is [and] because it connects both words Cantonese and English. The following is a list of the most used prepositions in Cantonese.

Prepositions - Cantonese - Pronunciation
and [] Audio
above 上面 [soeng5 min6] Audio
under 下面 [haa5 min6] Audio
before 之前 [zi1 cin4] Audio
after[hau6] Audio
in front of 在…之前 [zoi6 zi1 cin4] Audio
behind 之後 [zi1 hau6] Audio
far from 很遠 [han2 jyun5] Audio
near 附近 [fu6 gan6] Audio
in[zoi6] Audio
inside 入面 [jap6 min6] Audio
outside 外面 [ngoi6 min6] Audio
with 一同 [jat1 tung4] Audio
without 沒有 [mut6 jau5] Audio
about[joek3] Audio
between 之間 [zi1 gaan1] Audio
but 但是 [daan6 si6] Audio
for[wai4] Audio
from[jau4] Audio
to[heoi2] Audio

Preposition Grammar Rules

The following examples use prepositions in different ways and places to demonstrate how they behave in a sentence.

Prepositions + Rules - Cantonese + Pronunciation
I eat without a knife
[preposition + noun] 我進餐不需用刀 Audio [ngo5 zeon3 caan1 bat1 seoi1 jung6 dou1]
she lives near the church
[verb + preposition] 她住在教堂附近 Audio [ji1 zyu6 zoi6 gaau1 tong4 fu6 gan6]
he is taller than her
[adjective + preposition] 他比她高 Audio [taa1 bei2 ji1 gou1]
he came with his small dog
[preposition + pronoun] 他帶了他的小狗來 Audio [taa1 daai2 liu5 taa1 di1 siu2 gau2 lai4]
can you come with me?
[preposition + pronoun] 你能跟我來嗎? Audio [nei5 nang4 gan1 ngo5 lai4 maa1]

Negation in Cantonese

Now let's learn how to make a negative sentence (negation). For example: Saying no, I can't, I don't ... The following examples use negation in different ways and places to demonstrate how they behave in a sentence.

Negation + Rules - Cantonese + Pronunciation
I understand you
[affirmative form] 我明白你 Audio [ngo5 ming4 baak6 nei5]
I don't understand you
[negation + verb] 我不明白你 Audio [ngo5 bat1 ming4 baak6 nei5]
this is not the correct word
[negation + adjective] 這字不正確 Audio [ze2 zi6 bat1 zeng3 kok3]
don't leave me
[imperative negation] 不要離開我 Audio [bat1 jiu1 lei4 hoi1 ngo5]
no problem
[negation + noun] 無問題 Audio [mou4 man6 tai4]

Negative Sentences - Cantonese + Pronunciation
I don't speak French
[negation + present tense] 我不會說法文 Audio [ngo5 bat1 kui2 jyut6 faat3 man4]
she didn't visit Germany
[negation + past tense] 她沒有去遊歷德國 Audio [ji1 mut6 jau5 heoi2 jau4 lik6 dak1 gwok3]
he cannot see us
[negative modal verb] 他不能見到我們 Audio [taa1 bat1 nang4 gin3 dou3 ngo5 mun4]
can't she play chess?
[interrogative negation] 她懂西洋棋嗎? Audio [ji1 dung2 sai1 joeng4 kei4 maa1]
we will not come late
[negation + future tense] 他們不會遲到的 Audio [taa1 mun4 bat1 kui2 ci4 dou3 di1]

Questions in Cantonese

Now let's learn how to ask questions (interrogative). Such as: what, why, can you ...? Here are some common examples:

English - Cantonese - Pronunciation
how? 怎樣 [zam2 joeng6] Audio
what? 什麼 [sam6 maa1] Audio
who? 誰? [seoi4] Audio
why? 為什麼 [wai4 sam6 maa1] Audio
where? 在哪裡 [zoi6 naa1 lei5] Audio

More of the interrogative form, now in a sentence:

Questions + Rules - Cantonese + Pronunciation
where do you live?
[interrogative + verb] 你住在哪裡 Audio [nei5 zyu6 zoi6 naa1 lei5]
does she speak Chinese?
[interrogative verb] 她會講中文嗎 Audio [ji1 kui2 gong2 zung1 man4 maa1]
how much is this?
[interrogative preposition] 這個要多少錢? Audio [ze2 go3 jiu1 do1 siu2 cin2]
can I help you?
[interrogative modal verb] 我能幫忙嗎 Audio [ngo5 nang4 bong1 mong4 maa1]
what is your name?
[interrogative preposition] 你叫什麼名字? Audio [nei5 giu3 sam6 maa1 meng4 zi6]

Adverbs in Cantonese

It's time to learn the adverbs in Cantonese. But what is an adverb? In general, adverbs modify verbs and adjectives. For example: You speak fast. The adverb is [fast] because it describes the verb and answers the question how do you speak?. Here is a list of the most common ones:

Adverbs - Cantonese - Pronunciation
now 現在 [jin6 zoi6] Audio
yesterday 昨天 [zok3 tin1] Audio
today 今天 [gam1 tin1] Audio
tonight 今晚 [gam1 maan5] Audio
tomorrow 明天 [ming4 tin1] Audio
soon 很快 [han2 faai3] Audio
quickly[faai3] Audio
slowly[maan6] Audio
together 一齊 [jat1 cai4] Audio
very 更加 [ang1 gaa1] Audio
almost 幾乎 [gei1 fu1] Audio
always 經常 [ging1 soeng4] Audio
usually 通常 [tung1 soeng4] Audio
sometimes 有時 [jau5 si4] Audio
rarely 很少 [han2 siu2] Audio
never 永不 [wing5 bat1] Audio

The following examples use the adverbs in different ways and places to demonstrate how it behaves in a sentence.

Adverbs + Rules - Cantonese + Pronunciation
do you understand me now?
[pronoun + adverb] 你現在明白我嗎 Audio [nei5 jin6 zoi6 ming4 baak6 ngo5 maa1]
I need help immediately
[noun + adverb] 我正需要幫忙 Audio [ngo5 zeng3 seoi1 jiu1 bong1 mong4]
she is very intelligent
[adverb + adjective] 她很聰明 Audio [ji1 han2 cung1 ming4]
I will always love you
[verb + adverb] 我會永遠愛你 Audio [ngo5 kui2 wing5 jyun5 ngoi3 nei5]
can we learn German together?
[adverb in a question] 我們能一起學德文嗎 Audio [ngo5 mun4 nang4 jat1 hei2 hok6 dak1 man4 maa1]

Pronouns in Cantonese

We're almost done! This time we will learn the pronouns in Cantonese. In general, a pronoun can be used instead of a noun. For example instead of saying my teacher speaks 3 languages, you can use the pronoun he, and say he speaks 3 languages. Here is a list of the most common ones:

Personal Pronouns - Cantonese - Pronunciation
I[ngo5] Audio
you[nei5] Audio
he[taa1] Audio
she[ji1] Audio
we 我們 [ngo5 mun4] Audio
they 他們 [taa1 mun4] Audio

Object Pronouns - Cantonese - Pronunciation
me[ngo5] Audio
you[nei5] Audio
him[taa1] Audio
her[ji1] Audio
us 我們 [ngo5 mun4] Audio
them 他們 [taa1 mun4] Audio

Possessive Pronouns - Cantonese - Pronunciation
my 我的 [ngo5 di1] Audio
your 你的 [ nei5 di1] Audio
his 他的 [taa1 di1] Audio
her 她的 [ji1 di1] Audio
our 我們的 [ngo5 mun4 di1] Audio
their 他們的 [taa1 mun4 di1] Audio

I think it's better to put the above example in a sentence to better assist you. The following examples use pronouns in different ways and places to demonstrate how they behave in a sentence. We will start with the personal pronouns.

Personal Pronouns - Cantonese + Pronunciation
I am your friend
[1st pronoun + verb] 我是你的朋友 Audio [ngo5 si6 nei5 di1 pang4 jau5]
you speak very fast
[2nd pronoun + adverb] 你講得很快 Audio [nei5 gong2 dak1 han2 faai3]
he has three dogs
[3rd pronoun + verb] 他有三頭狗 Audio [taa1 jau5 saam1 tau4 gau2]
she can speak German
[3rd pronoun + verb] 她會講德文 Audio [ji1 kui2 gong2 dak1 man4]
we will not come late
[1st plural pronoun] 我們不會遲來的 Audio [ngo5 mun4 bat1 kui2 ci4 lai4 di1]
they bought milk and bread
[3rd plural pronoun] 他們買了牛奶和麵包 Audio [taa1 mun4 maai5 liu5 ngau4 naai1 wo4 min6 baau1]

The object pronoun is used as a target by a verb, and usually come after that verb. For example: I gave him my book. The object pronoun here is him. Here are more examples:

Object Pronouns - Cantonese + Pronunciation
can you tell me your name?
[1st object pronoun] 你能告訴我你的名字嗎? Audio [nei5 nang4 gou3 sou3 ngo5 nei5 di1 meng4 zi6 maa1]
I will give you money
[2nd object pronoun] 我會把錢給你 Audio [ngo5 kui2 baa2 cin2 kap1 nei5]
she wrote him a letter
[3rd object pronoun] 她寫了一封信給他 Audio [ji1 se2 liu5 jat1 fung1 seon3 kap1 taa1]
they visited her yesterday
[3rd object pronoun] 他們昨天已探訪她 Audio [taa1 mun4 zok3 tin1 ji5 taam1 fong2 ji1]
can she help us?
[1st pl. object pronoun] 她會幫我們嗎? Audio [ji1 kui2 bong1 ngo5 mun4 maa1]
he gave them food
[3rd pl. object pronoun] 他給他們食物 Audio [taa1 kap1 taa1 mun4 ji6 mat6]

Possessive Pronouns - Cantonese + Pronunciation
my name is Maya
[1st possessive pronoun] 我的名字叫'美也' Audio [ngo5 di1 meng4 zi6 giu3 mei5 jaa5]
your brother lives here
[2nd possessive pronoun] 你的哥哥/弟弟住在這裡 Audio [nei5 di1 go1 go1 dai6 dai6 zyu6 zoi6 ze2 lei5]
her mother cooks for us
[3rd possessive pronoun] 她的媽媽幫我們煮飯 Audio [ji1 di1 maa1 maa1 bong1 ngo5 mun4 zyu2 faan6]
his hobby is reading books
[3rd possessive pronoun] 他的嗜好是閱讀書籍 Audio [taa1 di1 si3 hou2 si6 jyut6 dau6 syu1 zik6]
our dream is to visit Paris
[1st pl. possessive pronoun] 我們的夢想是去遊覽巴黎 Audio [ngo5 mun4 di1 mung6 soeng2 si6 heoi2 jau4 laam5 baa1 lai4]
their house is not far
[3rd pl. possessive pronoun] 他們的房子很遠 Audio [taa1 mun4 di1 fong2 zi2 han2 jyun5]

One more thing you need to know is the demonstrative pronouns. They're very easy to learn.

Demonstrative Pronouns - Cantonese - Pronunciation
this is my house 這是我的房子 [ze2 si6 ngo5 di1 fong2 zi2] Audio
that restaurant is far 那間餐廳很遠 [na6 gaan1 caan1 teng1 han2 jyun5] Audio
these apples are delicious 這些蘋果很美味 [ze2 se1 pan4 gu2 han2 mei5 mei6] Audio
those stars are shiny 那些星星很亮晶晶 [na6 se1 seng1 seng1 han2 loeng6 zing1 zing1] Audio

I hope you learned a lot about the Cantonese grammar in this lesson. Please check out our main menu here for more lessons: homepage. The next lesson is below, have fun!

Inspirational Quote: First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do. Epictetus

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