呀 and 啊 both seem to be used in the end of sentences for exclamation, and the only difference that I can think of is that the pronunciation in Putonghua (Mandarin) is different. In Cantonese, even the pronunciation is the same. Do 呀 and 啊 mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably or are their meaning different?

  • see grammars or dictionaries, e.g."汉语800虚词用法词典":呀[助](aux。)used in place of 啊 when the preceding character ends in the sound a,o,e,i,or v (u umlaut) 是"啊"受前一字韵母a,o,e,i,v 的影响而发生的音变。
    – user6065
    Mar 3, 2018 at 13:41
  • Reading all the questions here makes me doubt whether I am really a Chinese. I have never thought about this before. :-)
    – Yu Zhang
    Mar 3, 2018 at 16:19

3 Answers 3


ABC's entry for 呀 says:


(replacing a (啊) when preceding word ends in a, e, i, o, or (y)u)

快来呀! Kuài lái ya! Come quickly!

呀 is a replacement for 啊 when it comes after a vowel.

This is also corroborated by《规范》's entry:

助 “啊(a)”受前一个音节末尾音素ɑ、e、o、i、ü的影响产生音变而采用的不同写法

说话(huà)呀 | 车(chē)呀 | 你说(shuō)呀 | 起来(lái)呀 | 快去(qù)呀。


It's a hard question.

They are interchangeable most of time in this usage without affecting meaning. I can't think of an example in which you can only use one over the other.

To me, 呀 sounds more folksy, while 啊 sounds a bit more formal.

  • 我这儿经常听到‘啊懂啊?’,从来没听到‘呀懂呀?’
    – Pedroski
    Mar 3, 2018 at 22:32

The simplistic way to remember it is: they are various forms of 啊 depending on (the shape of the mouth in) the ending sound of the previous syllable. There're also 哪 which is 啊 preceded by a final n-sound (人哪 Oh people!); 哇 (好哇;不够哇);啦 (preceded by 儿 sound in Northern-speak);etc.

However, there is still a difference between them in some cases (need more context), sometimes conveying surprise, disbelief, amazement, etc.

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