I've only been learning Chinese for three days so this may be a very stupid question. I'm seeing the pronunciation for 朋友 sometimes written as [péngyou] and sometimes written as [péngyǒu]. Please could somebody clarify which is the correct pronunciation and why there are two ways of writing it?

Thanks in advance! :)

  • 1
    There are no two ways of writing it. The correct way is Péngyǒu. Any other way is just plain wrong. A dictionary should help? :) Mar 15, 2022 at 15:36
  • 3
    Not sure if your comment was meant seriously or not, but checking authoritative dictionaries here indeed gives two different pronunciations (see my reply)!
    – Olle Linge
    Mar 15, 2022 at 17:33
  • Thanks for the heads up. Perhaps it's just me, but pronouncing it with a neutral tone as "Péngyou" sounds kind of "foreign". I can understand regional "pronouncing" idiosyncrasies, but actually found as a written form in a dictionary is surprising. You live and learn I suppose. Do we then find the same situation with 友谊 ? I wonder what happens in a Pinyin Exam? Perhaps people who have taken such exams could enlighten us? Mar 16, 2022 at 4:02
  • As far as I'm aware, 现代汉语词典 is the most authoritative reference that will be used for official exams. I can add that it does make a difference between pure neutral tones and syllables that are 一般轻读. These are marked differently, and I don't know what formal exams consider acceptable in the second case, because presumably that wording means that it's also okay to use full tones. Still, 朋友 is not an example of this, but is instead listed only with a neutral tone!
    – Olle Linge
    Mar 16, 2022 at 17:25
  • So, I've been mouthing 朋友 wrong all my life and no one pointed it out to me :( As an old dog, (age 73 this March), I doubt I can learn any new tricks. I am not sure whether to thank OP or not because from now on I'll feel so self-conscious when the "P...y.." word comes up for re-visit. Mar 17, 2022 at 2:56

1 Answer 1


There are two ways of writing 朋友 for the simple reason that there are more than one way to pronounce the word. In mainland China, the standard is with a neutral tone, so péngyou (现代汉语词典,第7版).

However, as is often the case, it can also be okay to pronounce the word with a full tone on the second syllable. For example, the standard in Taiwan is with a third tone, so péngyǒu (國語辭典). Please note that this may or may not reflect how actual people talk, and you'll find variations across regions, age groups and so on.

For communicative purposes, it doesn't matter which of these you use since the risk of being misunderstood is insignificant.


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