Chinese (Mandarin) use [x] to pronounce h sound. It does not have any sounds such as [h] and [ɸ].

However, I'm not sure if it is fine to assume that all the h in pinyin are pronounced as [x]. According to this question and the answer, [x] is the standard sound, but is there any case to use a different sound on the h in pinyin? If so, how can I know if it is pronounced as such, given that it is generally impossible to know which IPA sound is used in Chinese words?

  • 1
    Being pedantic, but I assume you are excluding sh-, ch-, zh- from your considerations, aren't you?
    – Michaelyus
    Apr 23, 2019 at 9:27
  • @Michaelyus Ah, I got what you are meaning. Yes, I excluded them.
    – Blaszard
    Apr 24, 2019 at 9:11
  • 4
    Possible duplicate of Pinyin "h" sound, pronounciation
    – mic
    Sep 20, 2019 at 1:17

2 Answers 2


Yes, h = [x] (also ㄏ in bopomofo).

Wikipedia has an entire chart entitled Help:IPA/Mandarin that lists consonants:

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and vowels

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Many old dictionaries, especially topolectical dictionaries, used IPA or a simplified version of IPA.

Consider Li Rong's (李荣) edited Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects (现代汉语方言大词典). Here's an example from《哈尔滨方言词典》:

enter image description here

Here you can clearly see 火 is:


You can also see that the other terms are also written using IPA, albeit slightly simplified.

  • Thanks for the answer and I saw the exact Wikipedia page. But I wonder if the chart is what is only generally applicable and has some exceptions, or can be applied to ALL words.
    – Blaszard
    Apr 23, 2019 at 17:48
  • @Blaszard Yes they all generally stay the same. Otherwise you would see fluctuation in bopomofo and in pinyin. The only exceptions, would be exactly that: exceptions. For instance we get questions like: chinese.stackexchange.com/q/26801/4136 where the pronunciations of characters like 儿 and 二 are slightly different.
    – Mou某
    Apr 24, 2019 at 7:02

Standard pronunciation is indeed [x], but it can vary regionally [h ~ x].

Note, Standard Chinese does contain [h] in some monosyllabic filler words:

SC has three syllabic nasals, [m], [n], and [ŋ], which mostly occur in interjections, such as [hm] (showing contempt), [hŋ] (showing contempt), [m] (‘yes’), [n] (‘yes’), and [ŋ] (‘yes’). Although such words have a somewhat marginal status, they have been included in some dictionaries, such as Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Linguistics 1978).

  • Phonology of Standard Chinese, 2.9 Syllabic Consonants
  • 1
    Has a character ever been assigned to [hm]? I have seen appropriate glyphs for the others but [hm] seems a little harder. Edit: found it - 噷.
    – Mou某
    Apr 13, 2021 at 15:03
  • @Mou某 Apr 13, 2021 at 15:06

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