I have seen examples that show 对不起 as duìqǐ and duìbuqǐ in pinyin. For instance:

对不起,我踩到你的脚了。 duìqǐ, wǒ cǎi dào nǐ de jiǎole.

对不起,我听不懂。 duìbuqǐ, wǒ tīng bù dǒng.

Similarly, I have also seen the same issue with 没关系 as méiguān and méiguānxi.

Why is the neutral tone being marked as a falling tone in these words?

  • Most likely poor tagging software.
    – vermillon
    Aug 25, 2016 at 18:33
  • cf。wenku.baidu.com/view/505e6f25964bcf84b9d57b55.html 汉字在什么时候读轻声: 日常口语双音节常用词第二个音节读轻声,但没有明显的规律可循需要在语言实践中逐步掌握。
    – user6065
    Aug 25, 2016 at 18:55
  • This seems to happen with 一 as well. Its pronunciation is different between 一个 and just 一. On google translate both are marked with the same pinyin but there is an audible difference in the pronunciation.
    – Jack Pan
    Aug 25, 2016 at 19:52
  • I was just in a bookstore and checked three different phrasebooks. Two of them had one version and the other book showed the other way. Still no idea why this discrepancy keeps showing up.
    – Akriel
    Aug 25, 2016 at 22:29
  • So, after researching for quite a while, I came across a possible answer. From what I have been able to find, duìqǐ and duìbuqǐ are both acceptable. It seems that becomes bu when the syllable is not stressed. Another possible explanation that I came across is that duìqǐ seems to be more common in Taiwan and duìbuqǐ more common in the PRC. Concerning méiguān and méiguānxi, the situation seems to be the same; both are acceptable. If anyone has any expertise or knowledge to correct these assumptions please, by all means, do so.
    – Akriel
    Aug 26, 2016 at 0:32

1 Answer 1


This is only a pronunciation variation in spoken Chinese. Most untrained Chinese people may not even notice the difference between them.

There is no difference between the two variations in your examples.

It's like asking what is the difference between "I'm going to do ..." and "I'm gonna do ...".

Note: There are word that would carry different meaning using neutral tone or not. E.g, 东西 means "east and west" when pronounced as "dōngxī" (without neutral tone), and means "thing" when pronounced as "dōngxi" (with neutral tone). In a dictionary, a word that must be pronounced with a neutral tone will be explicitly noted with a neutral tone.

  • So then was I right in assuming that these variations are found within different Chinese-speaking areas (i.e. duìqǐ more prevalent in Taiwan than in the PRC and vice-versa)? Also, thanks for the tip concerning it being explicitly marked in a dictionary; I'll use that to my advantage in the future.
    – Akriel
    Aug 26, 2016 at 16:25

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