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I was chatting online with a Chinese person and he sometimes added 么 at the end of questions:

  • 你觉得汉语难么?

  • 是因为声调掌握不好么?

Can 么 and 吗 be used interchangeably? Do they have the exact same meaning?

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3 Answers 3

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么 at the end of the sentence can both have the meaning of 吗 of that of 嘛. If you look-up 吗 and 嘛 in 《现代汉语词典》 么 is mentioned as alternative (but the pinyin is still ma!).吗 and 嘛 seem to be newer variants of 么.

These last years I've seen it used a lot in songs, on QQ and Weibo. Especially young people use it, but they often pronounce it me.

I've found a very interesting (but not always very accurate) "homework" about 么 and 吗.

Apparently at the time 鲁迅 (Luxun) it was used systematically used by most writers.

In the article the author give this example “孔乙已,你当真不识字么?” (but actually this contains an error, 鲁迅 actually wrote "你当真识字么", and in the same story there is the more famous sentence "你读过书么?").

Other famous writers such as 茅盾 and 曹禺 also systematically used 么. New editions of there books still often have 么 instead of 吗 and this usage hasn't completely disappeared. 么 was apparently already used during the Qing and Ming dynasties, but during the Spring Autumn Period they used 乎.

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In the situation you listed, “么” and “吗” have the same meaning. In daily communications we often choose “么” instead of “吗".

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i'm Chinese. I seldom use 么, except when saying "What", I say "什么", anywhere else at the end of an sentence, I use 吗. the reason why you often see sentences end with 么, is that We often use pinyin input software, and when it pops up 么, we just choose it, because we don't want to spend time for searching the right one: 吗. if you input the character rightly once, the next time you use the same pinyin to type 吗, computer will always give 吗 first. if not, they will be wrong forever, because most of us are not willing to spend time for searching. when writing the formal articals, i think you will seldom see the 么 at the end of sentence.

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On the contrary, I intensively use 么 instead of 吗. It would just be a personal choice, as far as I understand. –  user706 May 15 '12 at 1:20
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