In general, people pronounce as . In the movies I hear people pronounce 那个 as Nigè all the time and only when there is no other characters behind 那个. Most of the time when they start to speak a new idea or something like that, they start with 那个.

Do we need to pronounce 那个 as Nigè in this situation?

2 Answers 2


I think you misheard nèige as nigè.

Colloquially 那 is usually pronounced as nèi. Of course nà can also be used colloquially.

nèi is the combined pronunciation of "那 nà" and "一 yī", used to express one or more than one in number:那个 nèige,那些 nèixiē,那三年 nèi sān nián.


Chinese syllables doesn't start with a vowel (exceptions include 啊). Although other allophones are possible, it's usually thought to be a glottal stop. This is why in Chinese, pronouncing two syllables as one (合音) is relatively uncommon, but yet not unseen. Other examples include, 不要、诸 etc. There are some nuances. 诸 is formalized as a single character (诸=之于)so that it can be used in formal contexts. However, 那一 as nei and 不要 as biao are still very colloquial and should be avoided in formal speech.

nei is indeed 合音 rather than an alternative pronunciation of 那. Though people might not actively realize it, if being told, most native speakers, if not all, would agree. In 《现代汉语词典》, 那 is given a pronunciation nèi and glossed as “那”(nà)和“一”的合音,但指数量时不限于一.

nei is partially lexicallized so that the meaning of 一 is sometimes lost. This explains why nei个 refers to "that one" and nei三个 is also considered correct.

  • 1
    Based on further research, looks like it's also used as a filler word?
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 4:03
  • Yep, it’s a common filter word. It still has a slight referative shade, compared to the English word ummm. Feels like you’re searching for something specific to say, and sometimes that thing is known to both parties of the conversation. The English words well and umm are generic.
    – lilysirius
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 4:39
  • Agreed with lily. Regarding @AndrewT.'s comments, maybe 那个 is a filler word in the sense of "like", "you know", "I mean", which do have their functions, but have been abused to the extent that they often play no role in the sentence where they are used, and in this sense, 那个 is similar since it's also abused.
    – ALife
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 3:57
  • Is it not quite strange that nei4san1nian2 should be appropriate usage? We would never say na4yi1 san1nian2. This makes me think that the common idea that nei4 is actually an abbreviation of na4yi1 is maybe incorrect? Why don't we just think of it as an alternate pronunciation to differentiate "that" from "there"?
    – Buddy L
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 20:09
  • @BuddyL See my update.
    – lilysirius
    Commented Jul 30, 2022 at 3:26

那 [nǎ, nà, něi, nèi]

"Do we need to pronounce 那个 as Nigè in this situation?"

  • When 那个 is used indicatively or positively that means "that one", it pronounces [nà4 ge] or [nèi4 ge].

  • When used as/in a question, 那个? means "which one", and should be pronounced [nǎ3 ge] or [něi3 ge]. Note, for this case, 那 = 哪.

Note, as opposed to [nǎ, nà], I consider the pronunciations [něi, nèi] are used more in some regions. For instance, it is rarely pronounced that way in Taiwan.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.