(&1) Third tonal change | 第三声变调

In chinese, as you would already know, there are four tones in pronunciation. Okay, sometimes there is a 5th silent tone but that is beside the point.

Of the four tones, the second and third tones are probably th hardest to pronounce (I don’t know for sure, do correct me if I am wrong), and of which there is an interesting fact to pronounce two third-tone chinese characters when they are side by side.

ǎ ě ǐ ǒ ǒ

When two third-tone chinese characters are side by side, the earlier character will take on a second-tone pronunciation.


Okay, let’s go with an example. I’d used this vocabulary before, but because the focus was not on it, you probably did not catch it.


Scenario 1

可以 ke3 yi3 can

Although it is rightfully pronounced as ke3 yi3, it is really difficult to, so over years of morphosis, all third-tone + third-tone combinations would be pronounced as second-tone + third-tone, which means it is pronounced as ke2 yi3.


Scenrio 2

If it is third-tone + third tone + third tone? Then we have to see how are the characters broken up. If first character is independent, and second, third characters made up one word, then the second character will take the second tone.

我可以 wo3 ke3 yi3 I can

In here, 我 is still pronounced as wo3, and 可以 became ke2 yi3.


Scenario 3

If first, second characters form a word, and the third character is independent, then first, second character will take on second-tone, and the third character retains third-tone.

可以买 ke3 yi3 mai3 can buy

In here, it is pronounced as ke2 yi2 mai3


Scenario 4

If all three characters form a word? Then the first character and second character adopts second-tone, and third character retains third-tone.

九九九 jiu3 jiu3 jiu3 chinese written form for 999

here, it is pronounced as jiu2 jiu2 jiu3

And if it is an entire sentence of third-tones? Let’s come back to that another time. For now, remember the basic rule: when third-tone + third-tone, it is pronounced as second tone-third tone.

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