List of Cantonese language Particals and How to use them

cantonese final particals

We all know that the Cantonese language has a lot of final particals that put at the end of a sentence to express different feelings and tones, today I am going to tell you ten of these final particals and show you how to use them correctly.

  1. The first one must be “a”, this is used for forming a question, for example, if you want to say “How old are you” , in Cantonese, you say “neih gei do seui a?” So the partical “a” is at the end of the sentence showing that this is a question, somebody may ask can I just drop the “a” and is the sentence still a question or not? The answer is yes, but the tone sounds less polite and more aggressive.

Practice to say these in Cantonese: 1. Where do you live? 2. What did you eat last night?

  1. The second partical is “la”, this “la” is the 1st tone showing the speaker is trying to make a suggestion. For example, if you are trying to say “Let’s go for dinner now” you should say in Cantonese, “Ngoh deih yih ga heui sihk maahn faahn la!” This is imperative sentence, asking other people’s ideas or giving suggestion to them.

Practice to say these in Cantonese:  1. Let’s go for movie tonight! 2. Shall we go to travel to Japan next month?

  1. The third partical is “Ga”, The “ga” pratical has different meanings, 1st, It is the same as “a” for forming a question but the tone is much stronger, for example: “neih heui mh heui ga!” this means are you going or not going? (I am already feeling a little impatient about you. J), so it is the same as “a” for asking a question but more stronger tone, hope you understand it. OK so let’s see some other example of “ga”.
  2. “Neih jung mh jung yi ngoh ga?!” (DO you really like me or not!?)

II.“Neih haih mh haih gau dim faan gung ga!?” (Do you really work at 9 o’clock or not?!)

Another function for “Ga” Is showing past tense of a sentence, for example: I got up at 7 this morning, “ngoh gam jiu chat dim hei san ga. Here “Ga” express the past tense. Let’s do some practice about this:

How to say these sentence in Cantonese:

  1. What did you do last weekend? 2. How did you get in? 3. Why did you eat chicken last night?
  2. The forth partical I am going to tell you is “ja”, this partical shows people that the speaks thinks the thing they are talking about is very little, very small, for example , I only have 1 dollar, in Cantonese, “ngoh yauh ngh man ja”, Is more like English word “Only”. Let’s see some other examples:
  3. I only know English = Ngoh sik ying mahn ja
  4. We only know each other for 5 minutes = ngoh deih sik jo ngh fan jung ja.

Ok, please now these exercises:

  1. I only know he lives at the peak
  2. I only bought 10 pairs of shoes yesterday.
  3. The fifth one is “Je”, also is it put at the end of a sentence showing “only”, alright, so what is the different between “Je” and “Ja”, “je” is more only but you can do it, “ja” is only but cannot do it. See examples:

It is only 5 dollars, just buy it! / I have only 5 dollars, how can I buy it?!

So the first sentence you should use “je”, but the second sentence should be using “ja”.

So basically people use “ ja” when they think the amount is small and not enough to do anything, but people use “je” is to express that they think the amount is small, it is easy to do anything.

Ok, now compare these sentence weather “ja” or “je” should be used.

  1. I only speak English, I will be in trouble when I go to China.
  2. We only know him for 2 days, we cannot say if he is a good person or not.
  3. This shirt costs only 100 dollars, we can buy it for sure.
  4. Those apples weight only 2 kilos, not enough for all people.
  5. “Gwa” Number 6 is “Gwa”, which has 2 meaning, 1st meaning shows the uncertainty of the sentence, for example: She may come to today’s party, I am not sure. “keuih gam yaht wuih laih jui hui gwa”, another example: They maybe forgot our meeting, “Keuih deih mh gei dak jo ngoh deih ge yeuk hui gwa.”

learn cantonese particals

Another meaning for “Gwa” is hopefully, same put it at the end of a sentence, e.g I hope I can pass the exam, “Ngoh kau si hui hap gak gwa”, I hope he can remember to come, “Keuih wuih gei dak laih gwa”

Now try these sentences, translate them using “Gwa”.

  1. I hope it will not rain tomorrow.
  2. I guess he still remember my name.
  3. He might come to the wedding tonight.
  4. “Wo”. This partical shows the surprise mood, to remind someone something or suddenly realized issue. For example, I just realized that I haven’t done my homework! In Cantonese, “Ngoh meih jouh yuhn gong fo wo!”, or I am surprised that they have been together for 10 years! In Cantonese, “keuih deih yat chaih jo sahp nihn la wo! Or You need to get up at 6am tomorrow morning, do you remember?”, In Cantonese, “Neih ting jiu yiu luhk dim jung hei san wo!”

You might try to translate these into Cantonese by using “wo” at the end of the sentence.

  1. I just realized that I forgot to turn off the light!
  2. Don’t you remember that you have a meeting with John at 1pm?
  3. I am so surprised that John and Mary got married!
  4. “Ji ma”, this is a compound partical showing the speaker thinks the issue is a tiny, little, not important, for instance, This house costs only 50 million Hong Kong dollars. In Cantonese, “Ni cang lauh ngh chin mahn ji ma.”, another example, I only have 50 channel bags!, In Cantonese, “Ngoh yauh ngh saph go Chanel sau doi ji ma.”. So the above sentences show that the speak believes that 50 million hkd is not a big amount and 50 Chanel bags is too little.

Now see if you can translate the following sentences with “Ji ma”.

  1. David has only been studying Chinese for 3 months, but he can speak fluently now!
  2. I only ate half sandwiches, I am now so hungry.
  3. This pair of shoes only cost 2,000USD, please buy it for me. Thanks.
  4. “ho”, this is the second tone, “ho” in English, it means “isn’t it”, to ask people’s agreement about something, for example, You remember tomorrow is my birthday, don’t you? In Cantonese, we say: “Neih gei dak ting yaht haih ngoh saang yaht, ho?” another example, I owe you 500 dollars, right? In Cantonese, “Ngoh jang neih ngh baak man ho?

Now try these exercises:

  1. They have already told you the address, haven’t they?
  2. The movie starts at 6pm, right?
  3. We are going together to the park, aren’t we?
  4. “lok”, this partical shows the suggestions that the speak make. For instance, How about we go hiking this Sunday? “Ngoh deih ni go sing keih yaht heui haang san lok”, or Shall we buy this blue shirt? “Ngoh deih maaih ni gihn laam sik saam lok”.

You may try to translate the following sentences into Cantonese:

  1. Shall we go for a movie tonight?
  2. Let’s go shopping tomorrow morning!
  3. How about we go on holiday to Thailand next week?