Chinese Pronunciation

Pinyin Section 5

E with Easy Consonants

Once again, before you get confused, it's important to know from the start that the pinyin e is actually pronounced in several distinct ways, depending on what other sounds it is combined with. When e is a syllable all by itself, or when e simply combines with an initial consonant, it sounds as if you started out with an [ʊ] sound (as in the English word "put"), and then ended with sort of an [ʌ] sound (as in the English slang word "duh.") This pronunciation applies to the following syllables of this section: e, de, te, ne, le.

For the -n and -ng final consonants, the pronunciation of e stays roughly the same, with just the addition of the consonant sounds at the end. That gives you the following syllables: ben, beng, pen, peng, men, meng, fen, feng, deng, teng, nen, neng, leng. (Notice which possible syllables are not included. Those sounds do not exist in Mandarin, except for den, which is quite rare.)

The other sound that the Mandarin e makes can be heard in ei. Mandarin's ei sounds like the "ei" in the English word "vein." This is a common vowel sound you will hear in the following syllables: bei, pei, mei, fei, dei, nei, lei.

Finally, the Mandarin e can make another separate sound in the syllable er. The syllable er sounds more or less like the English word "are", although the r sound is the Mandarin r we mentioned earlier.

Linguist's Note:

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

e [ɤ]
ei [ei]
en [ən]
eng [əŋ]
er [ɚ] or [er]

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

  e ei en eng er
  e   en eng er
b   bei ben beng  
p   pei pen peng  
m   mei men meng  
f   fei fen feng  
d de dei   deng  
t te     teng  
n ne nei nen neng  
l le lei   leng