Learn to Read Chinese: Pinyin Initial Sounds (greetings)

Pinyin* letters d, t, n, and l represent four more sounds pronounced similarly to sounds in English.

diàn electricity (as in “stay”)
tā she / her (as in “tag”)
nǐ you (as in “need”)
lǐ Li (last name) (as in “clear”)


The trick to remembering the 2nd and 4th tone* is to think of them as rising (2nd) and falling (4th).

shí 2nd tone*: Rising Like asking “What?” in English.
4th tone*: Falling As in “Ready, set, go!”

Very Good! 很好(hěn hǎo)

In English, we say I am good or She is happy, but in Chinese you don’t use words like am or is before adjectives*. Instead, adjectives are usually preceded by (hěn). Sometimes means very, but it’s more often just a way to connect a noun* and an adjective.

hěn hǎo I am good
高兴 hěn gāoxìng You are happy

也 (yě,also)

In English, we can say I am happy, too or I’m also happy, but in Chinese the word for also or too (也) always comes before the adjective*.

我很高兴 Wǒ hěn gāoxìng I am happy
很高兴 hěn gāoxìng I am also happy


  • Pinyin – letters from the Roman alphabet used to represent Chinese sounds.
  • Tone – Tone refers to the spoken quality (for example, the highness or lowness) of a syllable. In tonal languages (like Chinese), tone  can change the meaning of a word.
  • Adjectives (such as “red”, “funny”, “interesting”) describe people, places, or things.
  • A noun is the name of something, such as a thing (“spoon”, an idea “love”, a place “Atlanta”, or a person “John”.
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