Here’s my list: 队伍, 成分, 身分, 才力, 呼噜, 亮堂, 好处, 种子, 妥当, 爽快, 痛快, 记性, 出息, 佩服, 分析, 哈欠, 寒毛, 活泼, 鼻涕, 道理, 滑稽, 考究, 讲究, 打算, 正经, 裁缝, 得罪, 意识 (and also意识 形态), 熟识, 见识, 体谅, 兴趣, [东/西/南/前/后/那/上/下/头/里/外/左/右]边, 知道, 父亲 and 困难.

This list is made up of two-character words, for which I have found that different dictionaries disagree with each other on the pronunciation of the tail character: one or more dictionaries may give the neutral tone, whereas one or more other dictionaries may give a different tone (almost always, the “citation” tone for the character). I would be inclined to believe that, given the difference between dictionaries, it may not matter a great deal if the neutral tone is used or not for these words. Could anyone confirm this? Or else give a detailed answer to the question in the title above?

The list also contains a few words (痛快, 呼噜, 出息, 知道, 父亲 and 正经) for which a dictionary has said that both using the neutral tone, and not using it, are possible.

The dictionaries used are those I have installed on a smartphone Android app called Pleco. They are: Pleco C-E, CC-CEDICT and Adso. I’ve noticed that often (but by no means always) Adso gives the citation tone whereas the other two give the neutral tone.

By the way, this question is a follow-up to words where it is important to distinguish between the neutral tone and the citation tone, which I asked a few months ago. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t get more answers or comments, so I decided to follow up with this question which is more specific. I believe around 75% of the words are fairly common, standard terms. Sorry if there are too many unusual or abstruse words, and if the list is a bit long.

PS I just noticed some other related (but not duplicate) questions with useful info on this topic.

Mandarin Neutral Tone: Tone Value?

Where does the 4th tone go on wan3shang (evening)?

  • according to 现代汉语词典(1998) citation:才力、佩服、分析、寒毛、鼻涕,滑稽、得罪、意识、意识形态、体谅、兴趣、知道、父亲 neutral: 队伍、身份(身分)、成分、亮堂、好处、种子、妥当、爽快、痛快、记性、出息、哈欠、活泼、道理、考究、讲究、打算、裁缝、熟识、见识、困难、边 bian 方位词后缀 cit/neu with difference in meaning 呼噜:象声词;正经:旧时指十三经 呼噜:睡着时由于吸阻而发出的呼噜声;正经:1。端庄正派2。正当的3。正式的。4(方)确实
    – user6065
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 16:55
  • for some users one well known example immediately comes to mind: 媳妇,cit:1。儿子的妻子,也叫媳妇儿。2。晚辈亲属的妻子(前面加晚辈称呼):侄~|孙~。媳妇儿,neu(方)1。妻子。2。泛指的年轻妇女。小马词典only has 媳妇 xí fu showing that with some 复合词 there may be a trend toward neutralization (with 儿ization) of tone of tail (b/c of frequent use)。Also 口音 cit:发音时软腭上升,阻住鼻腔的通道,气流专从口腔出来的叫做口音,。。。口音 neu 1。说话的声音:听他的~,好像是山东人。2。方音:有~(说话带方音)|~很强 (2nd meaning much more common: accent)
    – user6065
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 20:26
  • possible explanation for disagreements: 360doc.com/content/11/0318/15/6465590_102293896.shtml 9、口语中常用的双音词的第二个音节:例为:大夫、编辑、闺女、苍蝇、柴火、打听、忘记、规矩、明白
    – user6065
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 21:32

1 Answer 1


The difference would be the degree of correctness. Certain words must have no citation. Certain words must have. And certain words are in between.

If you come to China, you will hear correct version and wrong version as well based on what province, what city you are. The reason is 1/ oral language is free style. 2/ dialect influence.

Based on what you give, I'll give you a reference to what Beijing people are speaking:

队伍, 成分4, 身分4, 才力4, 亮堂, 好处4, 种子, 妥当4, 爽快4, 痛快4, 记性, 出息4, 佩服, 分析1, 哈欠, 寒毛2*, 活泼1, 鼻涕4, 道理3, 滑稽, 考究4, 讲究4, 打算4, 正经3*, 裁缝, 得罪4, 意识 (and also意识 形态4), 熟识2, 见识2, 体谅4, 兴趣4, [东/西/南/前/后/那/上/下/头/里/外/左/右]边1, 知道4, 父亲1 and 困难4.

  • Only number - it's ok to have that citation
  • With * - It must have the citation

Take 正经 for example, I would never ignore the citation on the tail. I won't understand it if the tail is not in 3rd tone. The 3rd citation tone must apply here. It means "serious, gentleman, not-fooling-around".

Take 成分 for example, it's ok if you give no tone to the tail but even you say you give no tone, there is still a bit of 4th tone, just not quite as strong as normal. So does all the so-called neutral tone at tail like "好吧,吃了,没了,呆着"

  • Thanks for your answer. A few questions in order to help me understand. 1. In cases where you didn’t add anything (队伍, 亮堂, 种子, 记性, 佩服, 哈欠, …), do you mean Beijing people would hardly ever use the citation tone in the tail? Do you mean it’s preferable to use the neutral tone in these cases? 2. About 种子. Normally this is zhong3zi5, but might you pronounce it zhong3zi3 (same tones as for 你好) if the meaning was “seeded player”, rather than “seed”? i.e. in 种子选手? 3. Regarding 正经, all dictionaries I have consulted give the 1st, not the 3rd tone, for 经. Are you sure you mean the 3rd tone? 4. 困难:nan2? Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 14:40
  • (continued..) 4. 困难:is kun4nan2 OK? 5. 讲究: is jiang3jiu1 OK? I thought the citation tone for 难 in 困难 was 2; and for 究 in 讲究 I thought it was 1. Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 14:49
  • 1. For sure. it's correct not to use citation for those words. Adding citation would be incorrect, if not quite wrong - might even mean other meaning. 2. Zhong3zi5 always, never zhong3zi3 either zhongziyuanshou, or the seed. zhong3zi3 is weird, no one say it. If you mean "son" as oppose to father, you can say zi3 out loud. fu4zi3 relationship for example.. 3. Well, if you argue it's really really zheng4jing1, then its meaning would be "the modern bible" or "the main book" or "the 1st law book". Not the meaning of zheng4jing3 which is "moral, serious gentleman".
    – Hao
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 16:54
  • continue..jing1 is the word "taoism jing" 道德经.4. Kun nan2 is the president of China doing an official speech and he is very afraid to be unclear. In oral speaking, kunnan2 sounds very strange. But we understand you. Nan2 only sound really really 2 is when you want to express the difficult meaning of it - "nan2 ma?难吗?5. Again, 研究1 yes, that jiu1 has very strong meaning of research in there, but Jiangjiu5 is not very "research" sort, so don't really need to stress that 1 citation tone please. If you stress the 1st word 讲,it's actually more orally correct.
    – Hao
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 17:00

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