The pronoun 谁 has two pronunciations — shéi and shuí — without a difference in meaning. When I started learning Chinese, I learnt the pronunciation shéi. However, one of my Chinese language partners (from Henan) said that he had never learnt this pronunciation and said that no other words in Chinese are pronounced as shéi (so this pronunciation was an anomaly).

(I have also noticed that New Practical Chinese Reader, published by Beijing Language and Culture University Press, uses shéi, while another book Chinesisch für Deutsche from Haiwen in Shanghai consistently uses shuí.)

Are these two alternative pronunciations the result of regional differences? Is one of them the "official" pronunciation?

Update: The original version of this question claimed that the final "-éi" (i.e. with the second tone) does not occur in other Chinese words. As 倪阔乐 pointed out in a comment, this is not correct.

  • 1
    "现代汉语词典"has both, but for shui it merely says: 谁 shui '谁'的又音,and at the detailed entry for 谁 shéi there is not the usual reminder of any alternate pronunciation, "汉语水平考试词典"only has shuí,users might draw their own conclusions – user6065 Aug 3 '16 at 14:04
  • 没: méi. 浽: néi. 诶: éi. 欸: éi. 水 is pronounced shěi sometimes. – user4452 Aug 4 '16 at 3:07
  • @倪阔乐 You are right. I had misremembered my language partner's comment and I have updated my question. – Christophe Strobbe Aug 4 '16 at 9:30

Most of dictionaries include both of them:

● 谁


shuí ㄕㄨㄟˊ 又 shéi ㄕㄟˊ

According to 说文解字,


It seems to be shuí[1], but according to 康熙字典 it has both pronunciations in different books.

(pinyin added by me)

《五音集韻》是爲切(shéi) 《玉篇》是推切(shuí),音垂。

In conclusion, both are right. IMO, shéi seems to be used more in spoken language.

[1] has three pronunciations, zhuī, cuī, wéi, but only zhuī was mentioned in 说文解字. So I believe the pronunciation of mentioned in 说文解字 should be shuí.

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