How To: Pronounce Mandarin Chinese Pinyin (cheat sheet)

How to Pronounce Chinese Words

“I want to learn Chinese but just give me the basics!”

That’s what this Chinese pronunciation guide is all about. It’s all that you need to know about the pinyin system of Chinese pronunciation to get by.

The 80% that’s important. (Spend 20% of time to learn the 80% that’s important.)

Continued from Part 1, learn Chinese pronunciation, the 4 tones…

1. Consonants

There are 24 consonants in pinyin which are pronounced a lot like in English.

b, p, m, f, d, t, n, l, g, k, ng, h, j, q, x, zh, ch, sh, r, z, c, s, y, w

Learn Chinese pronunciation of Consonants

b as in boy

p as in pine

m as in mother

f as in food

d as in dig

t as in talk

n as in none

l as in loud

g as in good

k as in kid

ng as in song

h as in hot

j as in jeep

q like “ch” in cheat

x like a sound between the “s” in see and the “sh” in she

zh like “dg” in sludge

ch as in children

sh as in shake

r as in raw

z like “ds” in words

c like “ts” in eats

s as in son

y as in Yao Ming

w as in we

2. Vowels

There are 6 simple vowels.

a, o, e, i, u, ü

Learn Chinese pronunciation of Vowels

– a as in mama

– o as in drop

– e as in

– I as in sit

– U as in look

– ü like the u in the French rue

3. Vowel Combinations


In Chinese pronunciation, basic vowels can form vowel combinations with each other or with a nasal consonant.

Learn Chinese pronunciation of Vowel Combinations

– ai like eye

– an sounds like “ah” with an emphatic “n” at the end (NOT like “an” in can)

– ang sounds like “ah” with a soft “ng” (NOT like “ang” in hang)

– ao is like “ao” in Tao

– ei is like “ay” in bay

– en is like “u” in sun

– eng is like “ung” in sung

– er like “ur” in purse

– ia is like ya

– iang is like young

– ie is like yeah

– iu is like the “ou” in you

– ian like yen

– iao is like “eow” in meow

– in as in “in” in gin

– ing as in “ing” in sing

– iong is like pinyin “yong”

– ong is like “ong” in kong

– ou is like “ow” in low

– ua is like “ua” in guava

– uan like one

– uang like “oo” + ang

– ui is like way

– un is like “wou” in would and ending in “n” sound (woon)

– uo sounds like “wo” as in wall

– uai is like why

– ua is like “wa”

– üan like yuan and written without two dots

– üe is like “yue” (”we” in “wet”)

From English Guide

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. DAYA

    This is the only column which i came across where the Chinese mandarin pronunciation is very clearly explained.

    • To Daya,
      I’m glad the pinyin cheat sheet is helpful. I found it online and posted because my kids are learning Mandarin and it looked like it would come in handy.

  2. lily

    thank you, couldnt get what i was reading on all the other things i found it’s now understandable, ive been trying to learn mandarin and everything i find doesnt say how to pronounce thank you 🙂

  3. Kim

    Thank you. This is still very difficult for me since so many of the examples seem to sound alike until I pay attention to the position of my facial muscles making the sounds! My boys are learning Mandarin in school. Perhaps this pronunciation guide will help me learn with them.

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