Do more people pronounce 你 as leih or neih? In most textbooks, and practice dialogues I seem to see it is 'neih' For some reason, leih comes more naturally to me, and I am feeling like I heard it more publicly.

Does it have to do with region?

3 Answers 3


As Stumpy Joe says, N and L have merged. Even outside HK it is quite generalized now -- to the point that people below 40 have difficulties -- up to complete inability -- pronouncing initial N-. I don't know how many times I've heard "What is your lame?" or similar stuff...

I work in the wine business, and every time we have to translate a wine name in Chinese for the Chinese back label, if there's a syllable with an N or an L, it is a complete crapshoot. N- syllables sinicized as 利, L- syllables rendered as 呢, etc. When I point out the errors, my Guangdong clients, even the older loubaan, seem to completely miss the issue: 一樣㗎! Not quite, brother. On the other hand, wines imported in the north usually get named with Ns and Ls in their proper places.

For instance, the famous vineyard Pont-Canet is usually transcribed 朋特卡 (it's imported by just about every company in China, so a Mandarin sinicization prevailed), whereas the excellent La Tour Carnet vineyard, whose wines arrived in China mostly via the south, was named 拉图嘉利. I tried to get that changed to 呢 or similar -- my clients couldn't see what I was talking about. For both 嘉利 and 嘉呢 my clients said gaa.Le(i).

On the other hand, some of my friends, who speak average to good English, are vaguely aware of the L/N issue, but can't control it 100%. N- appearing in L- words happen regularly. A friend of mine is very fond of saying nousy for lousy. I tried to tell him it's Lousy. He said, Yeah, nousy!. Hopeless...


Initial n- and l- are merged for many young HK Cantonese speakers. Obviously this is not the case for all dialects of Cantonese, but HK is influential. Also, as one might expect, this sound change is considered improper by some people.

  • we called it "懶音" ~ "lazy tone", imo, well, it's a plague 😼 Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 4:26
  • @水巷孑蠻 Don't worry, all the ways in which Cantonese differs from Middle Chinese were once "lazy" changes :) Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 4:39
  • well, i'm pessimistic ;-) gone are the days . . . 🎶 Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 4:45

In Cantonese, 你 (u+4f60) is pronounced as nei5, sound file

However, there are several characters with the pronunciation as lei, such as:

There are a few more. Frankly, sometime it's quite difficult to distinguish amongst them, by the sound only.

Have fun :)

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