Chinese Pronunciation

Pinyin Section 11

Non-Nasal U with Easy Consonants

The Mandarin consonant sounds in this section are not new; you learned them in Section 1 and Section 3. The important new vowel sounds covered here are u, ua, uo, and ui.

The basic "u sound" in Mandarin is u, and it is a simple "oo" sound. The lips are rounded and do not change shape as the sound is produced. When u is a syllable all by itself, it is written as wu.

When you combine the basic u sound with the basic a sound, ua is produced. It is a one-syllable union of "oo-ah" and sounds like "wah." Indeed, when it is a syllable all on its own, ua is written wa.

When you combine the basic u sound with the bo-po-mo-fo o sound (see Section 2), uo is produced. It does not have a good English equivalent, but sounds similar to a one-syllable version of something like "owah." When it is a syllable all on its own, uo is written wo.

Lastly, the learner would do well to note that pinyin ui can be very misleading. It may be logical to assume that ui is formed from the basic u sound and the basic i sound. However, this is not the case. Pinyin ui actually represents a shortened form of "uei". Thus the pinyin ui sounds much like the English word "way" (and not the English word "wee").

Linguist's Note:

The following are the IPA symbols for this section's pinyin vowel sounds:

Mandarin: u [u]
Mandarin: ua [ua]
Mandarin: uo [uɔ]
Mandarin: ui [ueɪ]

Listen to the sounds of this section and try repeating them by clicking on the syllables below:

  u ua uo ui
  wu wa wo wei
b bu      
p pu      
m mu      
f fu      
d du   duo dui
t tu   tuo tui
n nu   nuo  
l lu   luo  
z zu   zuo zui
c cu   cuo cui
s su   suo sui