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[PLS HELP!] The Four Mandarin Chinese Tones

Hello just started learning Chinese and am having extra hard time familiarizing myself with the Four Mandarin Chinese Tones.

  • mā & mà :

They are very distinct and I can definitely tell the difference with my own ears.


  • má & mǎ

I can barely sense the sound difference at this stage between má & mǎ (as far as my ears are concerned) - má just sounds slightly longer than mǎ

Kindly help! What's the best way for my ears to get used to the sound differences once for all?

Any tips, please? You are more than welcome to recommend videos you found helpful in youtube or elsewhere also.

I mean my eye can see the differences from the 4 different graphs but my ears will definitely struggle unless you guys can help, share how you overcame this pls. Many thanks in advance for your precious time and help! Also your advice on what to do , not to do as a beginner would greatly help! :D

Pls help! If it goes like this won't be able to speak properly nor understand spoken Chinese properly.

January 26, 2018



If you are a native English speaker maybe this will help. It was in my Chinese textbook and it made me laugh, but is also pretty helpful:

second tone: the same tone that you might say "what?!" to something shocking? "WHAT?" The tone goes from your comfortable mid-tone to your comfortable high-tone

third tone: same tone as if you're saying "yeah....." to something you don't really agree with, or feel is irrelevant. "I mean... yeah.... but...." Your voice should drop to the lowest comfortable tone before going back up.

mǎ pronounced correctly is a little bit longer than má, actually. I grew up in a bilingual Chinese/English household and the difference when speaking quickly is not always clear to me either.


This website has a flash illustration inside. Just ignore the Chinese explanation first.


Super! This is the stuff for the Chinese kids! Can't be better! :D


I found this, there are audio samples there along with explanation:



Thank you! This one is better than the one I was listening to. :D


you are master chinese speakers




At first, when I was learning, I was under a time limit, and that put pressure on me. I was not listening to the tones, but with the help of Litao on Litao Chinese( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krO-A8L47UI&t=5s ) I was able to get it. It does take practice to learn the tones, but you will actually find that Chinese is easier. For example, the words for the pronouns, he and she, are the same. I really hope this helps.

OH! One more thing. Litao started pricing his elementary lessons, but I think his pinyin and tone ones are still free. Personally, if you are still struggling with the beginner courses (which I doubt you will be) then it is worth the money to buy the elementary lessons. I think you can still watch the first half of the elementary lessons though, to try it out.


The tone of a character can change depending on the the tone of the character that follows or precedes it. For example 不要 is 4th followed by 4th but bu would change to second. Most introductory text books will cover tone changes. Chinesepod also has some good material on tones.


ma at the third tone is first at a regular tone then arcs down and then goes up. When saying ma at the fourth tone, say it very fast.


I have a hard time to XD I had a bit of brain power wasted but eventually got it!


Contact me at my email Professerpizzaroll@gmail.com and i can help you with the tones because i too struggled with the tones.


Third tone is not usually pronounced with the full down-and-up contour. Only when saying the syllable by itself, or in very careful pronunciation. Usually, it is just low.

How to pronounce neutral tone depends on what tone comes before it. You can find this information online.

The Sinosplice Tone Pair Drills are a practice tool I can't praise enough. Run through them (preferably in a flashcard program), imitate them, listen blind and try to identify the tones.

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