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Essential Cantonese Phrases


Sometimes you don't have time to learn long lists of words and phrases. All you want to know are the bare essentials for communicating to get what you need, or where you need to go.

Here are the bare minimum of Cantonese words and phrases you need to know to survive.

Learn the Top 10 Phrases if you only have time for the barest minimum. If you need or want more, then take a look at the Top 20 Phrases, Top 30 Phrases and the Extra Phrases.



If you need help with pronunciation,
please see the Pronunciation Guide below.

If you need help with the tones,
please see the Tone Guide below.

Here are ten easy phrases to get you started ...

The Top 10 ...

Hāa-lóu.
Hēi.
Néih hóu?
Hello.
Joi-gin.
Goodbye.
Néih sīk m`h sīk Yīng-mán aa?
Do you speak English?
Ngóh m`h mìng.
I don't understand.
Yāt-dī.
A little.
Haih. M`h haih.
Yes. No.
Géi-dō chín?
How much is it?
Taai gwai laa. Ōu-kēi.
Too expensive. OK.
Chéng.
M`h-gōy.
(asking for something)
Please.
Dō jeh (saai). (for gifts and favours)
M`h-gōy (saai).
Thank you (very much).

Here are ten more phrases that will help you make new friends and ask for directions ...

The Top 20 ...









Néih giu māt-yé méng aa?
What is your name?
Ngóh giu ...
My name is ...
Néih géi hó ā maa?
How are you?
Géi hó. Néih lē?
Fine. And you?
... hái bīn-doh?
Where is ...?
Chi-ó hái bīn-douh? Nàahm-yán/Néuih-yán
Where is the toilet? Men/Women
Deui m`h jüh. M`h gōy.
Sorry. Excuse me.
Móuh mahn tàih.
No problem.
Ngóh yiu ...
I want ...
Ngóh m`h yiu ...
I don't want ...

Here are another ten phrases to help you make a little more conversation and to get around ...

The Top 30 ...


















Néih haih bīn-douh yàhn?
Where are you from?
Ngóh haih há Ngòuh-daaih-leih-aa.*
I am from Australia.
M`h-gōy màaih-dāan.
The bill, please.
Ngóh dohng-sāk-louh.
I am lost.
Tìhng! Dáng!
Stop! Wait!
Lēi-douh, gó-douh.
Here, there.
Dīk-sí. Jáu-dim. Fēi-gēi-chèuhng. Chē-jaahm.
Taxi. Hotel. Airport. Station.
Ngóh jūng-yi ...
I like ...
Ngóh m`h jūng-yi ...
I don't like ...

yāt, yih, sāam, say, ńgh.
one, two, three, four, five.
luhk, chāt, baat, gáu, sahp.
six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

*Or choose your country:
Méi-gwok - America
Gāa-nāa-daaih - Canada
Yīng-gwok - England
Ngoi-yíh-làahn - Ireland
Sān-sāi-làahn - New Zealand

Here are some extra words and phrases you might find useful, especially if you have dietary needs or allergies ...

Useful Extras ...

















Yám sing!
Cheers!

hó / waaih
good / bad
daaih / sai
big / small
káhn / yǘhn
near / far
síu dī / dō dī
less / more
joi làih yāt-go / gau
enough

Ngóh haih sihk jāai ge.
I am vegetarian.
Ngóh m`h sihk yuhk.
I don't eat meat.
... gāi.
... chicken.
... yǘ.
... fish.

Ngóh deui gwó-yàhn go-máhn.
I am allergic to nuts.
... fāa-sāng ...
... peanuts.
... yǘ ...
... fish.
... hóy-sīn ...
... seafood.
... gāi-dáan ...
... eggs.



Pronunciation Guide
Tone Guide:
There are 6 tones:
ā indicates a high level tone (Hong Kong) or high falling tone (high to mid)
á indicates a rising tone, mid to high
a indicates a mid level tone
àh indicates a low falling tone, mid low to low or sometimes simply low
áh indicates a low rising tone, low to mid
ah indicates a low level tone

Vowels:
Double vowels indicate long vowels.
ai indicates ai as in aisle
ei indicates a as in gate
eu indicates the ur sound as in hurt (œ)
o indicates o as in dot (ɔ)
oi indicates oy as in boy
ou indicates o as in dote
ü indicates a u sound with narrowed lips (IPA y)

Consonants:
ch is pronounced as ts with a puff of air (tsʰ)
b is pronounced as p as in spin
d is pronounced as t as in still
g is pronounced as k as in skin
j is is pronounced as t as in cats
k is pronunced as k as in kite (kʰ)
ng is pronounced as ng as in singer (ŋ)
p is pronunced as p as in put (pʰ)
t is pronunced as k as in tin (tʰ)

Please note:
m`h is often pronounced as ǹgh
néih is often pronounced as Néih
Many words beginning with an n may be replaced with an l in colloquial speech,
eg. néuih-yán replaced by léuih-yán in more colloquial speech.


 


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