I'm surprised this question hasn't been asked yet!

The pinyin for 那个 is nà gè, but in conversation, Chinese people often pronounce it more like nee-guh than nah-guh. I asked my teacher and she says this is just an example of spoken language diverging from "proper" language. Is that true?

Does that mean that in a formal setting (like giving a speech), that you would pronounce it nah-ge?

4 Answers 4


The pronunciation actually already find its way into the "Contemporary Chinese Dictionary" (现代汉语词典), though still not enough to form its own entry.

Under entry 那(nà), you can find:



In spoken language, when '那' is used alone or directly followed by a noun, it is usually pronounced as 'nà' or 'nè'; '那' followed by a 量词 or numeral+量词 is usually pronounced as 'nèi' or 'nè'. In '那程子', '那个', '那会儿', '那些', '那样', it is usually pronounced as 'nèi' or 'nè'; in '那么', '那么点儿', '那么些', '那么着', it is usually pronounced as 'nè'.

This is in fact very common in spoken language. Sometimes using 'nà' even sounds a little strange. Note that in some situations above, 'nà' is not an option.

However, as foreigner learning Chinese, I think you can stick to 'nà' at first. You can start to try the variations when you think you are familiar enough with the language.

  • All good answers, but I awarded this one because of the authoritative citation. Thanks! Commented May 20, 2012 at 2:55

The pronunciation nèigè originally came from a contraction of 那一个 (nà yī gè). The same thing happened with 这一个 (zhè yī gè > zhèigè) and 哪一个 (nǎ yī gè > něigè).

While the standard prescribes that you pronounce them , zhè, and , many speakers end up using the contracted forms, nèi, zhèi, and něi, respectively, whenever they occur before a measure word. Because speakers no longer even realize that they are contractions, they can also occur when other numbers are specified; for instance, 那三个 can be nà sān gè or nèi sān gè.

However, these pronunciations can only occur before numbers and measure words. For instance, 那里 is always pronounced nàlǐ and never *nèilǐ.

  • 2
    For instance, 那里 is always pronounced nàlǐ and never *nèilǐ. - or, just to confuse things further, it's often pronounced nà'r in Beijing ;)
    – Cocowalla
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 13:20
  • 2
    @Cocowalla: but when it's pronounced nàr, it's written 那儿, no? I can't remember a time when I heard someone read the characters 那里 as nàr.
    – Alf
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 13:48
  • @Jon, ah, yes, you are right :}
    – Cocowalla
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 14:03

As far as I am aware, this is due to regional variation.

In particular, in Beijing I have always heard 那个 pronounced like nèi gè, even in formal settings such as business meetings. Same with 这个, which was always zhèi gè.

In Shanghai and Suzhou I only ever heard them pronounced as nà gè andzhè gè.


You need to understand that standard pronunciation is set by the government in various Chinese speaking societies, and its use is for, a, formal occasions, b, avoiding misunderstanding and confusion. On formal occasions, 那个, is pronounced na4ge. In speaking, provided that you are in Northern China, it depends on what you mean--it could mean "that", or it could mean "um, uh" as in English "I'ah, I am here to, um, ...". To mean "that", you can pronounce either way, but to mean "um", it is nei4ge, and not everywhere where Chinese is spoken, do people use 那个 to mean "um", just like English people use "um" more and "ah" less than Americans. In other parts of China or elsewhere, I would be careful not use 那个 to mean "um", and I would only pronounce it the formal way, because in the local dialects 那个 sounds variously, for example, Szechuan people would say lago for 那个.

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