I noticed that CC-CEDICT uses a mixture. For example:

mian4: 前面, 对面, 里面
mian5: 后面, 上面, 下面, 外面

ABC is similar except:

mian4: 后面 (but also has mian5 as a less common pronunciation)
mian5: 前面

Is there any standard for these? Is it reasonable that the same dictionary would have a mixture like these do?

Baidu Dict has all 面 as 4th tone.


2 Answers 2


Sorry I can't tell the strict grammar rule (about the tone of when used for the meaning of "side, aspect") as a native Chinese. I tried some research, but can't find any uniform and convincing explanation about it. So I tried to summarize it by myself as follows:

  1. light tone only:

    上面, 下面

    For 上面 and 下面, without special context, when pronounced with the 4th tone tends to be considered as noodle.

  2. 4th tone only:


    For 对面, can't be pronounced with the light tone, it's just weird.

  3. both light tone and 4th tone:

    前面, 后面, 里面, 外面, 左面, 右面

    In these cases is pronounced by light tone more commonly.

  • Thanks! please could you also include 里面 in your answer?
    – Mark
    Mar 27, 2017 at 3:35
  • 1
    @MarkCarter Added, and also 左面/右面.
    – user4072
    Mar 27, 2017 at 3:38
  • Would it be possible to format the answer (to make it more understandable) so that it is groups into 3 parts: . 1. neutral only, 2. 4th tone only, 3. both acceptable ?
    – Mark
    Mar 27, 2017 at 3:40
  • 1
    @MarkCarter Fine.
    – user4072
    Mar 27, 2017 at 3:47
  • 1
    @MarkCarter That's why I said "can't find any uniform and convincing explanations", it seems chaotic; it's even not uniform among dictionaries. And most dictionary doesn't consider about the variation of pronunciation, including the light tone.
    – user4072
    Mar 27, 2017 at 4:41

As a native Chinese speaker, I pronounce mian (neutral tone) only to make my words soft, and miàn definitely when I want to emphasize. I think there's no difference, what other character stands before 面. When 面 stands before other characters, I constantly pronounce miàn.

  • The issue only occurs when 面 is used in a "side; aspect" word (on, under, next to, behind, etc). All other words with 面 as second character use mian4 (at least from dictionaries I've seen).
    – Mark
    Mar 29, 2017 at 2:45
  • 1
    @hsulin 我觉得你写错了,miān是第一声,不是轻声。正写是mian或者mian5.你可以改正吗?或者我也可以 //@hsulin I think you made a mistake when writing miān, you probably should have written "mian" or "mian5" which is pinyin for the neutral tone. I can edit your post or you can to fix this. Mar 30, 2017 at 9:01
  • @goPlayerJuggler 当时查了一下,说:“轻声一般不被当作声调看待,因为它没有固定的调值”。我觉得自己发的是第一声。现在,看到一种说法,“语法上的虚词、或有虚化性质的方位名词和趋向动词,一般都会念轻声”。我想你是正确的的。
    – hsulin
    Mar 30, 2017 at 12:22
  • @hsulin Would you also pronounce 面 in 4th tone when 上面 or 下面 is said before other characters?
    – Mark
    Apr 27, 2017 at 5:05
  • 1
    @MarkCarter Yes. And I think it's always right in 4th tone, but here pronounce the 4th tone not too "harsh".
    – hsulin
    Apr 28, 2017 at 16:47

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