this is a follow up question regarding Cantonese Pronunciation. Previous question here.

Does anyone know how people from Guangdong, who would speak Cantonese at home but be taught in Mandarin at school, read in Cantonese? Would they know that 给 is pronounced as KAP or would they just read it as BEI?

  • 2
    the prior question seems to have a reasonable answer for this... What's different?
    – Tommie C.
    May 27, 2014 at 23:41

2 Answers 2


Well, 俾 is BEI, and 给 is KAP in Cantonese pronunciation. In fact, 俾 and 给 also can be pronounced in Mandarin: 俾 is something like BI, I guess, and of course 给 is GEI.

So, they won't get confused, because they would certainly be taught that both words contain the same meaning but with a different pronunciation. In fact, I think 俾 is sort of like an unofficial word, which people usually use in texts/chats, and 给 is the official one. If you noticed, songs usually use 给 instead of 俾 :)

  • I have been told by someone from Shanghai that 俾 is non-standard and the only reason she knew it was pronounced as BI is because she knows Cantonese. I guess I'm still trying to get my head around why 俾 has to exists. As a thought experiment, suppose 俾 is eliminated from the language altogether and everyone is taught that 给 is now pronounced as BI in Cantonese, what has been lost?
    – mfc
    May 28, 2014 at 14:39
  • haha perhaps you can think of it this way: After all 俾 and 给 both are Chinese words. When Cantonese uses BEI to mean 'give', they needed a word for its written form, since BEI is a similar pronunciation of 比 in cantonese, and then 比 is BI in mandarin, so to avoid confusion they'd choose a different word that pronounces as BI from mandarin, it turns out 俾 was chosen because 俾 is not popularly used in Mandarin world! for your experiment, i suppose nothing would be said lost, as long as you got a word to write, to spell and to mean, you're fine isn't it? haha.
    – LCS
    May 29, 2014 at 1:54

給 will never be pronounced bei2. There can't be any confusion here. At least not in the minds of Cantonese speakers.

The reason you are confused is because you seem to assume that the only difference between Mandarin and Cantonese is a few odd sinograms here and there. There's more to it than this. These are two Chinese languages with differences that span grammar, vocabulary, and of course phonology. Why use 給, which is a "foreign", ie a non-Cantonese word, if you are writing in Cantonese, where you have 俾 and 畀?

Cantonese is often used, in a written form, by the government, public announcement and in advertising, at least in HK, when they want to make sure they reach the larger public. I see it every day in the streets, and in government buildings. It is also used online and in texting -- and there's also Cantonese poetry.

  • Ok, I'd like your opinion regarding the usefulness of learning how to read written Chinese in cantonese. From a practical point of view, I have a daughter going through the HK schooling system, so I have a great interest in ensuring she gets maximum benefit from her education. It does seem to me that she should learn to speak cantonese and be able to read 'Cantonese' characters. But it also seems that when confronted with written Chinese, she would be better off reading it in Mandarin. I just don't get reading written Chinese in Cantonese.
    – mfc
    Jun 1, 2014 at 0:35
  • "I just don't get reading written Chinese in Cantonese." doesn't compute. You're apparently talking about 2 different things at the same time. Written Chinese can be read out loud in Mandarin, Hokkien, Canto, etc. It's not a spoken language, and thus not bound to a specific version of spoken Chinese. HK peeps, when reading a newspaper out loud for instance, will pronounce each character in the Cantonese pronunciation. Doesn't mean it's Cantonese. Or Mandarin.
    – dda
    Jun 3, 2014 at 6:39
  • dda, when a Cantonese reads a newspaper in his/her head, they are thinking spoken Cantonese, they are not thinking about the pronunciation of written Chinese at all. They automatically translate 給 to bei in their head. I have asked countless Hong Kong Cantonese speakers, they all tell me the same thing.
    – mfc
    Jun 3, 2014 at 13:56
  • You seem to know better, why bother asking, eh?
    – dda
    Jun 4, 2014 at 6:44

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