I'm a struggling very beginner having difficulties with both pronunciation and Pinyin.

I dabble in linguistics so I'm accustomed to dealing with IPA pronunciations. For this reason I have been looking for a table related syllables in Pinyin and IPA. I found this one on talkbang.org, which I thought was just what I was looking for.

When I found my pronunciation of 去 (qù) "go" wasn't good I found on this site that the pronunciation would be /tɕʰu/, with the "u" sound similar to the one in Engish "food".

But my native Chinese speaking friend didn't understand me and the pronunciation he demonstrated for me sounded like /tɕʰy/, where /y/ is the IPA symbol for the "ü" sound not found in English but similar to a sound found in French and German.

I know in Pinyin the spellings and sounds for "ü" and "u" are not totally obvious for new learners and I haven't got a grip on this yet.

So is the chart on this website wrong, thus being part of what's hindering my progress, or am I just not hearing or understanding things at all?

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    On the wiki page "pinyin", there's specially a soundtrack for /y/. Hmm I assume you've already known this. But you should check this section The character ü, though it is written as u in , actually it is ü, so 去 is the /tɕʰy/ sound.
    – Stan
    Nov 9, 2013 at 5:19
  • Yes that's what I thought, which means the webpage I linked to is definitely wrong, which means I need to find a similar website without such mistakes (-: Nov 9, 2013 at 6:55
  • Wait, that webpage has mentioned this phenomenon, and it properly marks it as "Special Spelling Exceptions" with orange color: Treatment of ü: Most syllables with a {ü} are simplified and written with a {u} . The exceptions are {nü, nüe, lü, lüe}.
    – Stan
    Nov 9, 2013 at 7:01
  • Yes but it then contradicts itself when you look up the table following the "c" row across and the "u" column down where it gives the pronunciation tsʰu. It's either a mistake or a terrible design if you are supposed to look up the wrong pronunciation and then use the special spelling exceptions to convert the wrong pronunciation to the correct pronunciation. Nov 9, 2013 at 7:10

3 Answers 3


I think it is a terrible mistake that the website has made, because there is no occasion when qu is pronounced tsʰu in Mandarin. Since you can actually tell the difference between u and ü, things should be easier for you now. You can just memorise that after (pinyin) j, q, x, y, ü is always written as u, and if you see u after j, q, x, y, it's always pronounced as ü. It shouldn't cause any confusion at least to native speakers because these consonants are never followed by a vowel sound u but only by a ü.

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    Mistakes like this kind of ruin my confidene in websites to be helpful. I can try to remember this one rule but if I get rusty or doubt it and go to the Internet to check, I might run up against this mistake or others just as bad. I guess with such large tables it can be hard to make sure there are no errors. Thanks for checking it for me! Nov 9, 2013 at 14:47
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    @hippietrail You should keep some books at hand, which are generally more reliable than internet sources when it comes to language study.
    – NS.X.
    Nov 9, 2013 at 19:36
  • @NS.X.: This is true. I actually have quite a library of language books at home but now I'm on a trip through Asia trying to learn a bit of the language in each country. I'm almost half-way into my 30-day visa but I will be return for a second stay after visiting Mongolia. I'm finding Chinese a lot tougher than I expected. Nov 10, 2013 at 2:24
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    You are mainly right, but I asked someone yesterday about yu stuff, I was told that yu is an 变写 of ü, which cannot be splitted, which means you can't regard it as y followed by ü, it is just one single thing. it is not exactly the same as ju, qu and xu. You can see this Q&A. If you see anywhere that put them together, it is 'quick and dirty' teaching. Nov 10, 2013 at 7:08
  • @shuangwhywhy Yeah, I think you're right. It's mainly because y is not a consonant but like half a vowel. However, I don't think you can say the u in yu is not a ü because as it is said in the Q&A you posted, if you think yu is actually yi+u, it should be pronounced /ju/ as in IPA. Also, the reason why we can actually think yu follows the same rule as ju, qu and xu is that in all cases, u in exclusively pronounced as ü instead of u. It's called 互补分布 in traditional phonology. If it's not taught right now, it is still a valid teaching method.
    – Pennie
    Nov 10, 2013 at 12:38

There are many accents, but I will try to describe the pronunciation. I don't know phonetic characters, but if you go by an American accent, 去 sounds a lot like "chew" if one were to say it fast, adding more of a "ts" sound at the beginning, with a downward inflection, and emphasize the "ee" sound.

Just listen to people talk, and imitate them.


The following is based upon an English accent.

The u in qu is defiantly more of a goo sound, as in the sticky green stuff. As 去 is 4th tone, it is also quite a short sound. This is different to 不, where the u is more oooo, interesting.

The q is more of a choo choo sound, rather than a chip sound.

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    @hippietrail I think rhughes didn't know there's the ü(/y/) sound in Chinese. That u in qu should never ever sound like /u:/.
    – Stan
    Nov 10, 2013 at 15:01
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    @Stan goo is not pronounced like that. That link is more of an ego sound. There is no (at least to me) exact English sound that can accurately represent 去, so goo is a pretty good approximation. Updated answer again.
    – rhughes
    Nov 10, 2013 at 15:17
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    The u in qu has no English equivalent... It's like a German ü. Nov 10, 2013 at 22:09
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    Because the answer is misleading and would probably confuse more than help someone searching for an answer. Try looking for some questions where, after reading the existing answers, you think "I definitely have something important to add" or "my answer would serve as a complete answer, better than what's here." Nov 11, 2013 at 5:38
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    @rhughes: I think somebody downvoted because English has only one "oo" sound, which is very close to the Chinese "u" sound in Pinyin and less close to the Chinese "ü" sound in Pinyin, but still closer than any other sound. Because both Chinese sounds have the same closest equivalent in English it's not much help. English speakers have to learn also the extra sound "ü". I'm a native English speaker and to me the "oo" sounds in "goo" and "oooo" and "choo choo" are all the same. Nov 12, 2013 at 7:48

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