I've heard some people pronunce it zhen and some pronunced it ren (spoken like "you had a hot potato in your mouth") and because of this I am very confused what is the correct pronunciation.

  • Quote:- “I've heard some people。。。。。” Maybe if you tell us who these people are we might have a better inkling as to why, because "zhen" & "ren" are quite far apart when spoken correctly, not discounting some punk rock singers might mix it up for special effect. As @Kexi Chen says " I guess it might be pronounced by someone who feels it hard to pronounce 'r-' Yes, especially when you have "a hot potato in your mouth" :) Jan 24, 2021 at 8:25
  • Some are from Beijing (the ones that pronunce it "zhen"), and the others are from Chengdu.
    – capice_0
    Jan 24, 2021 at 11:53
  • Does this answer your question? Different accents/dialects applicable to the pinyin "r" sound Jan 25, 2021 at 1:33
  • 1
    @WayneCheah By "zhen" I assume OP means the "s" sound in "vision" (IPA [ʒ]) - apparently zh is used by some to represent this sound. This is close enough to [ʐ], one of the realisations of r in Mandarin. By "r" OP probably means the English sound, which is [ɻ] and is also a realisation of "r" in Mandarin.
    – 范阮煌
    Jan 26, 2021 at 18:53

2 Answers 2


In the Mandarin Chinese, it should be 'ren' (with a second tone). About the 'zhen', I guess it might be pronounced by someone who feels it hard to pronounce 'r-' well. Also, there can be some accents which make 人 sort of sounds like 'zhen'.


The place of articulation varies connsiderably from the approximant /ɹ/ sound of the English phonem usually transcribed as /r/. Eng. RP (received pronunciation) is a true retroflex /r/ (like Slavonic pron.) and is also a distinct from what I would here as the initial in 人, or 日 for example. I've lived in several areas and have been exposed to a number of Mandarin and other Chinese dialects. With Chinese pron. I tend to think of what is the most widely understood, rather than correct or incorrect.

"Similar to s in pleasure in English, but with a retroflex articulation. Otherwise, some speakers pronounce it as an English R, but lips are unrounded."

Denti-alveolar and retroflex series

"The retroflex consonants (like those of Polish) are actually apical rather than subapical, and so are considered by some authors not to be truly retroflex; they may be more accurately called post-alveolar.[2][3] Some speakers not from Beijing may lack the retroflexes in their native dialects, and may thus replace them with dentals.[1]:26"


This is true in my experience.

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