My teacher said I pronounce this wrong:

CC-CEDICT: 一举两得 (yī​jǔ​liǎng​dé​) one move, two gains (idiom); two birds with one stone

On paper, the tones are 一(1) 举(3) 两(3) 得(2), but then we need to incorporate tone sandhi. With two 3rd tones in a row, the first one becomes 2nd tone, in this case 举两. But this is complicated by the fact that 一举 is itself a word. So maybe we think of 一举两得 as 一举 (yī​jǔ​) followed by 两得 (liǎng​dé​) for the purposes of tone sandhi, in which case there is no tone change for 举. I'm not sure.

Question: How is 一举两得 pronounced?

  • 1
    add a tiny pause between two words and pronounce it as yi4ju3-liang3de2, for ju3 omit the last half part of the third tone (goes down as normal third tone and don't go up). (i'm native speaker, this sounds less strange to me comapred with yi4ju2liang3de2)
    – imkzh
    Oct 19, 2021 at 12:23
  • @Becky李蓓 Hi, may I ask you what your teacher says? How is your pronunciation wrong? What is the error? Oct 19, 2021 at 19:06
  • @imkzh No offense, but to be native speaker is not enough in this case. You do agree that the variation in pronunciation can be quite wide among native speaker coming from the South or from the North of the Mainland, and even more if they are from Hong Kong or Taiwan. It would be interesting a comparison of these variations, but I guess here OP is asking about its pronunciation in Standard Mandarin. Oct 19, 2021 at 19:24
  • Honestly, I forget precisely what she said. In class, I read aloud my textbook's 课文 and my teacher mentions where my pronunciation is wrong, and I'm just revising my past mistakes. (And yes, Standard Mandarin.)
    – Becky 李蓓
    Oct 19, 2021 at 22:26
  • 2
    @WayneCheah Standard Mandarin is the standard language of the People's Republic of China. It is called 普通话, that is "我国国家通用语言,现代汉民族的共同语,以北京语音为标准音,以北方话为基础方言,以典范的现代白话文著作为语法规范。" The standards used in the Mainland and Taiwan, for example, are not the same. Too bad this site is not fully open to users from the Mainland. It can be easily felt that a lot of answers here are Taiwan/Hong Kong biased (it's not a matter of good or bad—just different). Oct 20, 2021 at 6:35

3 Answers 3


In actual speech (after tone sandhi), two third tones never appear consecutively, whether they are in one word or not.

So it should be pronounced as yi4ju2liang3de2 (tone sandhi also happens for yi1).

  • "two third tones never appear consecutively" I beg to differ. I have given the example (一桶)(柳橙)。My pronunciation of it is 1-3-3-2. I even used a pitch analysis program to analyze my pronunciation and confirmed it's 1-3-3-2. The first 3, however, is only a half 3. It's missing the second half, exactly like what imkzh said above.
    – joehua
    Oct 19, 2021 at 12:41
  • @fefe 请问,你是北京人吗? If so, can you provide an audio file with your pronunciation of 一举两得 and 一桶柳橙, please? Oct 19, 2021 at 18:45
  • 1
    Hi @r13, you are right when you said "if you read 一举两得 as 4-2-3-2 then it will sound 一"局"两得 1-2-3-2 or 4-2-3-2." Yes, that is exactly how it should (and actually does in Standard Mandarin as in the videos in my answer) sound. I see you may not like this rule because you feel that some characters or words are pronounced differently, but the rule stands and we have to comply if we want our speech to be Standard Mandarin. For example, 你好 sounds as 泥好, 五百 as 无百, 老板 as 痨板 😄, etc. Oct 20, 2021 at 6:27
  • 1
    I'm not going to comment on your debate, but I've used pitch analysis programs for hundreds of hours and I can definitely tell you than they are not simple and not without problems. If you don't know what you're doing and using the appropriate settings for what you want to investigate, you can easily generate very weird pitch patterns for short, isolated samples.
    – Olle Linge
    Oct 21, 2021 at 6:16
  • 1
    Also, after reading all the other answers and comments, this is the correct one. :) The fact that there are many native speakers who can't explicitly describe how tone sandhi works is not surprising. Being able to speak a language is different from being able to describe it accurately. I know much more about Mandarin phonology than either Swedish phonology, even though my pronunciation is undoubtedly better in my native language. That happens in all languages and there's nothing strange or wrong about it!
    – Olle Linge
    Oct 21, 2021 at 17:52

In addition to @fefe's answer, which correctly explains this very basic pronunciation rule, I'd suggest to search for videos in Standard Mandarin about 一举两得 and see how its pronunciation is invariably yìjúliǎngdé.

Example 1
(His pronunciation is yìjúliǎngdé, 4-2-3h-2)

In the video, the man repeats 一举两得 four times. For your convenience, I cut out those small portions of audio. You can listen to the first occurrence clicking on the following link:

一举两得 in video 1

To make it even easier, I further cut only the portion 举两:

举两 in video 1

Example 2
(Her pronunciation is yìjúliǎngdé, 4-2-3h-2)

In this video, the woman repeats 一举两得 five times. As I did for the previous video, for your convenience I cut out these small portions of audio. You can listen to the first occurrence clicking on the following link:

一举两得 in video 2

And it should be easier to get it with the help of the following further cut of 举两:

举两 in video 2

Example 3
(Her pronunciation is yìjúliǎngdé, 4-2-3h-2)

In this last video, the woman repeats 一举两得 eight times. As with the previous videos, click here for 一举两得 in video 3 and here for 举两 in video 3.


The last video is great because she pronounces 举 in three different ways (click on the links and listen to her different pronunciations, then try to repeat):

举 alone at 00:16, 上声, third tone:

举 in 举动 at 00:18, 半上声, half third tone:

举 in 一举两得 at 00:08, 阳平, second tone:

Besides, I put all three 举 in succession (third, half-third, and second tone) to make clear the difference. Listen to it here:


Let's listen now to 举两 using the three different pronunciations of 举 (I've used the same pieces of 举 audio of the previous paragraph):

举两3-3h (don't repeat it :-)

举两3h-3h (don't repeat it :-)

Do you want to compare them with the correct one 举两2-3h? Here they are:

举两3-3h 举两2-3h

举两3h-3h 举两2-3h


Do you wonder what the pronunciation of 一举两得 would be if 举 were in the third or half-third tone? Click the following links and try not to repeat! Note that, again, I've used the same pieces of 举 audio of the paragraph above.

一举两得 4-3-3h-2

一举两得 4-3h-3h-2

The following is the correct one, that is what she actually says eight times:

一举两得 4-2-3h-2

Compare it with each of the mispronounced ones:

一举2两得 一举3两得

一举2两得 一举3h两得

Lastly, in the following audio file you can listen to all the three "versions" of 一举两得 in succession (4-2-3h-2, 4-3-3h-2, and 4-3h-3h-2):

一举2两得 一举3两得 一举3h两得

P.S.: I would love to add some output from the tool suggested by @joehua. @joehua, can you help?

  • Here is the website that provides free pitch analyses. Everyone is welcome to use it to analyze the tones of his/her speech.
    – joehua
    Oct 20, 2021 at 0:28
  • I opened the first example, both pronounce 一举两得 ad 4-3-3-2, the woman even has the pinyin written on the blackboard. Please make sure you are not mistaken.
    – r13
    Oct 20, 2021 at 12:11
  • @r13 In the first video is a man talking, in the second and third are two women. If you pronounce 一举两得 like them, that is fine. What you believe to be 4-3-3-2 actually is 4-2-3h-2. In order to make the difference evident, I will add ASAP some educational exercises in my answer, also including the results from the tool joehua suggested. Oct 20, 2021 at 19:12
  • @r13 About what you see written on the blackboard, it is common practice (unless for educational purpose) not to alter the original pinyin of each singol character. Also dictionaries like 现代汉语词典 don't modify pinyin in case of tone sandhi. For example, 老板 is still written as lǎobǎn (it is not modified according to its pronunciation láobǎn). The pinyin of 不 and 一 is not modified as well. Oct 20, 2021 at 19:13
  • 1
    @GiuseppeRomanazzi please rest assured that as a native speaker grown up in mainland china with fairly standard 普通话, I do not see any major problem in your comments above. Your sense is good and your theory seems all correct to me. Please do not get distracted by comments by some people who are likely not really native speakers (in 普通话's standard)
    – ALife
    Oct 22, 2021 at 5:43

It's very convenient to pronounce two consecutive third tone 3-3 as 2-3. A simple example is 你好. I have to make a clear effort to make "nǐ hǎo". But "ní hǎo" comes pretty naturally and fast from my mouth.

This might be regional where people could make a easier "nǐ hǎo" than "ní hǎo".

Anyway, my point is that if you pronounce 3-3 as 2-3, I wouldn't feel any oddity there.

Have fun!

  • 1
    You do mean "2-3" and not "3-2", I assume? Pronouncing 3-3 as 2-3 is normal, but pronouncing it as 3-2 would be highly unusual. :)
    – Olle Linge
    Oct 21, 2021 at 7:27
  • @OlleLinge Typo, edited. Thanks!
    – dan
    Oct 21, 2021 at 8:12

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