According to ''Wiedenhof's A Grammar of Mandarin'', page 415, shénmo is also a possible transliteration of 什麼 shénme, with their final vowels being schwas.

In what contexts is this true?

  • I have never heard or read someone like this. At least, it is not a proper mandarin Oct 14, 2019 at 10:02
  • I think that you should edit the question title. Shenme in IPA is /ʂən mə/, while shenmo in IPA is /ʂən mwɔ/, so they cannot be homophones.
    – dROOOze
    Oct 14, 2019 at 14:05

4 Answers 4


The word 什麼 being pronounced as shénmo is not Standard Chinese (although it should be readily understandable). Therefore, the answer to

In what contexts is this true?

is almost never, unless one is specifically transcribing a topolectical variation of Mandarin.

That being said,

  • Shénmo is probably a more accurate reflection of how it's pronounced among Southern Chinese speakers of Mandarin.
  • 麼 always had another pronunciation with Pinyin mo
  • 什麼 is quite an old word, with

    • Many variant pronunciations

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    • Many variant spellings

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    so expect many topolectical variations!


While it is completely true that shén mo is not standard Chinese pronunciation, it is an extremely common way to pronounce it in regions across southeast asia---in particular, in Singapore and Malaysia. The vast majority of people there (locals in particular) pronounce it like this, instead of the technically "correct" shén me.

Source: I'm Chinese and I live in this region.


First, 什麽 vs 什么 are just traditional Chinese vs simplified Chinese. They are the same characters.

Second, if you look up them in dictionary, they have the same pinyin, shenme.

Third, pinyin is invented as a standard for the current Mandarin Chinese. In many dialects, me and mo are the same, even in many Mandarin dialects. I couldn't understand why linguists distinguish 么 with 莫墨莫 and so on since I don't distinguish between mo and me as a native speaker.

But historically, 么 is pronounced more close to mo.

  • Hello! Please don't introduce Simplified Chinese explanations in a question that didn't ask specifically about Simplified Chinese. 么 is a variant of 幺, and is pronounced as yāo.
    – dROOOze
    Oct 24, 2019 at 23:42

I don't think shenmo is the correct pronunciation for 什麼. Although shenmo won't confuse people since if you're talking informally, shenmo is a common mispronunciation non-chinese speakers. Some accents/ dialects also pronounce 什麼 as shenmo,so yeah it depends on where you speak and who you're talking to.

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