Once you think you have mastered the Mandarin Chinese tones, you may be disheartened to realize like almost everything in life, there are the exceptions to the rule.
Do not allow this to bother you for too long though, as the exceptions are not too complicated and soon you can be back to your confident self of speaking Chinese.
These exceptions are often called tone changes, and they will usually not be marked in Pinyin. The reason for this is it could cause confusion in what the original tone of the character is. In Chinese writing, you will always see the original tone, and you will simply need to know when to change the pronunciation to a different tone.
Bù (4th tone) will change to bú (2nd tone) whenever 不 (bù) is followed by another 4th tone. Remember this is not for every character with the “bù” pronunciation, but simply this one character for “no”. There are no exceptions to this rule.
|不要||bú yào||(not want)|
|不对||bú duì||(not right)|
|不是||bú shì||(am/is not)|
Keep in mind that typically you will not find the above labeled “bú”, this is solely to make it clear in this article to understand how to pronounce it.
When followed by 1st, 2nd, and 3rd tones, yī will change to yì (4th tone). When followed by a 4th tone, similar to the above, yī will change to yí (2nd tone). Remember the Pinyin is written according to the pronunciation, and usually this will not be the case.
|一个||yígè||(one of something)|
Unfortunately, there are exceptions to the exceptions! When 一 (yī) is in the context of numbers, it remains in the 1st tone.
|二零一五年||Èr líng yīwǔ nián||(the year 2015)|
|一点三||yī diǎn sān||(1.3)|
Multiple 3rd Tones
The third exception is when two 3rd tones are together; the first pronunciation will turn into a 2nd tone.
A few examples with vocabulary you might already be familiar with include:
|很好||hén hǎo||(very good)|
One last reminder that you will usually see the Pinyin for the above words with third tones for both characters.
And there you have it! It may take some time for you to get used to reading something and pronouncing something different, but the more you practice, the more you will find it coming naturally to you!