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Both phrases are listed in CantoDict (http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/words/3497/).

It seems like 剩係 makes more sense, but which is actually correct?

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For those who don't speak Cantonese: 淨係 or 剩係 mean "only". –  user4086 Mar 3 at 3:16

3 Answers 3

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They are both correct but I would say 淨係 is better than 剩係.

  1. 淨 means "pure, clean", while 剩 means "leftover, remains".
  2. The original pronunciation of 剩 is sing6, not jing6.
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I hear 淨係 more than 剩係 in daily conversations though both are correct. 剩 is more Mandarin than Cantonese I think. 剩 means remainder.

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aren't they both pronounced the same in cantonese? –  Crashalot Feb 27 at 7:56
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Nope. 剩 is sing6 and 淨 is jing6. –  user3992 Feb 27 at 9:13
    
淨係 sounds more like 仅剩 or 只剩。 So yeah, 淨係 is the correct one. –  user3992 Feb 27 at 16:10
    
hmm, according to cantodict (cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/words/3497), they are pronounced the same. –  Crashalot Feb 27 at 20:46
    
Look at Wikitionary instead. It's more accurate. –  user3992 Feb 28 at 2:11

淨係 is correct. You can find it in earlier literature, e.g. in the anonymously written prose 俗話傾談 published in Canton back in 1870:

唔通 淨係 你做好細佬,我就唔好細佬嗎 (Oh, [you really think] only you behave as a good younger brother, and I'm not a good one?)

But I wouldn't say 剩係 is wrong. The character rhymes with 淨 (zing6) in spoken Cantonese in the first place. And it's a long and quite common tradition in Chinese (whatever the topolect is) to "borrow" (假借) a rhyming character to signify another one. I had also heard people saying "zing6 hai6" (which could be both 淨係 and 剩係) and "sing6 hai6" (剩係) in the past.

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