Cantonese Skills Lesson 2
Introductions and Farewell

/Neih/ gwai sing a?

What is your (honorable) surname?


/Neih/ giu -mat-/yeh /mehng/ a?

What is your name?
(What are you called?)


Joi gin

See you


Baai /baai/.

bye bye


Dialogue Patterns:


/Neih/ gwai sing a ?   Question: /Neih/ giu -mat-/yeh /mehng/ a?

Response 1: 

/Ngoh/ sing Response 1: /Ngoh/ giu .

Response 2: 

/Ngoh/ /siu/ sing Response 2:

Chinese Names

Chinese follow a different pattern than most Western names.
Western names use the following pattern:





 Sally   Thompson

Chinese names reverse that order:
the Chinese surname goes first, followed by given names and then the title.





 Man Wai 


So a Westerner would say Dr. Man-Wai Chan,
while in Chinese it would be Chan Man-Wai Dr. 


Formality and Respect

In Cantonese it is polite and customary to first ask a person's surname.  While the translation to English may appear overly formal, Chinese culture demands the honorific "gwai".  

In Cantonese, "/Neih/ gwai sing a?"  can be shortened to "Gwai sing?"  

The Reply #2 in the pattern above, "/Ngoh/ /siu/ sing ____" is both polite and formal.  The humble "/siu/" has the exact opposite meaning as "gwai".  While using this answer may make a good impression in some situations, it is generally too formal and is not used much in modern society.

Question Patterns

As shown in the dialog patterns above, most questions using question words can be answered by:

  1. Changing the subject of the sentence (if necessary)
  2. Replacing the question word with the answer
  3. Omitting any question particles at the end of the sentence

More details on how to form Cantonese questions will be covered in a later lesson.  

Learning Hints/Additional Information

Cantonese has several "intimate" forms that are very commonly used.  One of these using the pre-fix "-a" before a given name or part of a family title to show familiarity.  Chinese generally familiarize the last given name, for example "Pui Wai Hin" could be shortened to "a-Hin" by his friends. Likewise "Ma -ma-" (Mommy) could be shortened to "a-Ma".

Chinese has several words borrowed from English.  These are called "transliterations", where a Chinese sound is used to make an English word.  "Baai /baai/" is a prime example as the Chinese sound matches the English word perfectly.  There are extremely few cognates between English and Cantonese, but these borrowed words are frequent and can help in learning the language.

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