As most of you will probably know, 着 can be pronounced in many ways (depending on the context).

I'm wondering how the 着 in 爱怎么着就怎么着 (meaning: do as you like) should be pronounced. Is it zhe or zhao1, and why? I've heard some people it pronouncing zhe and some zhao1. In MDBG they use zhao1, but say it is also pronounced as zhe, but all the other dictionaries I've checked, I can only find zhe.

EDIT: In the mean-time I've found these websites where people asked for the same question: Baidu, SOSO and Xiaotieba. There doesn't seem to be a consensus, and there are no references.

  • Could you expand MDBG? – deutschZuid Apr 30 '12 at 0:38
  • 1
    MDBG is a Chinese dictionary made by the internet community. Here is the entry: mdbg.net/chindict/… – BertR Apr 30 '12 at 13:01

Dictionaries generally only show the 'standard' heteronymic readings of a Han character, rather than including all its contextual variations. This is the unwritten standard on Wiktionary as well, on which I am an admin.

As you have precisely discerned, both pronunciations are acceptable in this particular phrase; however, the 'standard' reading of zhe0 would be used in a dictionary for this particular phrase instead as it applies to a wider range of contexts, whereas zhao1 is restricted to this particular context (怎么着).

See the Wiktionary entry for more information: 怎么着

  • Thanks for the reply! Hehe, you created that wiki page today :-) I was wondering, how do you know that zhao1 is not standard in this context? There are some words that seem to have two standard ways to pronounce (for example 暖和, 血) – BertR May 1 '12 at 6:32
  • Very astute observation there. Yes I did create it yesterday, based on the conventions used on the dictionary to give you an idea of how things work on there and the ability to attach usage notes. You raise a good question. I am not 100% sure why a pronunciation is considered standard (hence the quotes), but I can find an analogy in English verb entries. Why do we consider the infinitive of an English verb the 'proper dictionary form'? It probably dates back to centuries ago in the lexicographical world. Personally I think zhe0 is used because it's used in far more phrases than zhao1. – deutschZuid May 1 '12 at 22:54
  • ... and/or zhao1 could be a more recent development and/or zhao1 could be more dialectal. Just a few guesses ;) – deutschZuid May 1 '12 at 22:57
  • I just remembered the term. zhao1 is considered to be an allophone of zhe0 in this case. – deutschZuid May 4 '12 at 3:22
  • 字典经常改,其实并不总对。这里肯定是着(zhao1)了。这句话本身就是北方方言,查普通话标准发音字典里没有也不算奇怪啦:) – Shawn Wang May 28 '14 at 1:14

I try to give you an answer from what a native speaker thinks. The two pronunciations have different meanings.

According to the dictionary, 着(zhao1) has the following definitions:

● 着 zhāo ㄓㄠˉ  1. 下棋时下一子或走一步:~法。~数。一~儿好棋。  2. 计策,办法:高~儿。没~儿了。  3. 放,搁进去:~点儿盐。  4. 应答声,表示同意:这话~哇!~,你说得真对!

You can see the closest meaning is "2. 计策,办法 -- strategy, measure". Literally, 怎么着 means "how do you handle it?" when it is pronounced as zhao1.

By contrast, 着(zhe) has the following definitions:

zhe ㄓㄜ  1. 助词,表示动作正在进行或状态的持续:走~。开~会。  2. 助词,表示程度深:好~呢!  3. 助词,表示祈使:你听~!  4. 助词,用在某些动词后,使变成介词:顺~。照~办。

It means '1. on-going', '2. pretty (+verb)', '3. emphasize the verb (imperative)', '4. introducing an object for an intransitive verb'.

None of the meanings is suitable for 怎么着 (how do you handle it?) However, it can mean 'how it is like.' For example, 你猜怎么着,我赢了一张免费票!Guess what (it is like), I got a free ticket. BTW, this phrase can also be pronounced as 怎么着(zhao1), because native speakers are not so strict about colloquial expressions, as long as it can be understood as the right mood and meaning.

At last, the phrase 怎么着 is mostly used in Northern China. In Southern China, a similar phrase 怎么样 or 怎么办 is often used. If you look at more examples, http://www.ichacha.net/%E4%BD%A0%E7%8C%9C%E6%80%8E%E4%B9%88%E7%9D%80.html, you may see yourself that it doesn't make sense to pronounce as zhe. :)


As you see, there are two ways of pronouncing this character, one is zhe and the other one zhao1. They are all correct, but the only difference is in which circumstance. In this "爱怎么着就怎么着" sentence, it should pronounce as zhao1. In this "Wo3 Zheng4 Zuo4 zhe1"="I am doing it", it should pronounce zhe1.

  • I know that a lot of people pronounce it as zhao1, but a lot also pronounce it as 着 in the sentence above. If you check some dictionaries, you'll notice that they all have zhe in 怎么着, so it seems that zhe is the more official pronunciation and zhao1 is actually incorrect. Examples that have zen3mezhe are Nciku: nciku.com/search/zh/detail/%E6%80%8E%E4%B9%88%E7%9D%80/53669 , 现代汉语词典 and 现代汉语规范词典. The only exception I've found is MDBG, but that's an Internet community dictionary. – BertR Apr 30 '12 at 13:07

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