Cantonese Grammar Lesson 1
Pronouns and Plurality











jih /gei/



\jung\ yi

to like


Plural Nouns

Cantonese nouns are generally not marked for being either singular or plural.  They rely on context to note whether one or more than one is intended.  For example, "I believe in God" and "I believe in gods" could be said in the same way.

Pronouns are a great way to clarify the meaning.  "/Ngoh/", "/neih/", and "/keuih/" are all singular.  Adding "deih" directly to the end of the pronoun makes it plural.  That is all that is needed to be done in most sentences, as Chinese grammar does not require subject-verb agreement.


Cantonese has a single pronoun for "he", "she", and "it".  Whether an object is male or female; human, animal, or object, the same pronoun is used.  The only way to determine what is intended is by the context. 

Additionally, Cantonese pronouns do not change depending on whether they are subjects or objects, they remain the same.  In English "I" becomes "me", "he" becomes "him" and "she" becomes "her".  But the Cantonese pronouns do not change.

 \jung\ yi


Plural Pronouns

Plural pronouns are formed by adding 哋 deih after the pronoun.  'I' + deih = 'we'.  'you' + deih = 'you' (plural). 'he', 'she', or 'it' + deih = 'they'





Plural Pronoun





Reflexive Pronoun 自己

In the example above showing how a pronoun does not change, a it is possible to make sentences where the subject and object are the same.  In Cantonese, like in English, sentences like this make sense, but they are not the standard way of expressing the idea and in most cases are not good Chinese.

Instead, Cantonese pronouns are d by the pronoun jih /gei/ when they are used reflexively.

 \jung\ yi jih /gei/=

Additionally, jih /gei/ functions to intensify a subject.  English reflexive pronouns work the same way, but this pattern is much more common in Chinese speech than in English speech.  In this pattern, jih /gei/ follows directly after the noun or pronoun it is intensifying.

 jih /gei/ \jung\ yi=

Written Forms

Pronouns are an area where Cantonese differs from written Chinese.  Cantonese uses "/keuih/" "for he/she/it", while written Chinese uses ,and respectively.  The Cantonese pronunciation of all three written characters is "-ta-".  There is also a more formal and respectful second plural pronoun in written Chinese, but it is pronounced exactly the same as the standard second plural pronoun: "/neih/".  Finally, the Cantonese plural marker is "deih", while the written Chinese form is , pronounced "muhn" in Cantonese.

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