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U1L2 Cantonese grammar 係 [hai6]

U1L2 Cantonese grammar 係 [hai6]

Welcome to the first lesson of Cantonese grammar(廣東話文法)!  In this lesson, sentence structure subject-predicative(主謂式)and the grammar of 係 [hai6] in Cantonese will be introduced.

Subject-predicative(主謂式)

In Cantonese, there are 7 basic sentence structures.  In this lesson, the most basic sentence structure, subject-predicative(主謂式)will be introduced.  Only a subject(主語)and a predicate(謂語)is needed for constructing this sentence structure.

Gam1 jat6 sing1 kei4 jat6

今日星期日。

Today is Sunday.

Type of sentence structure

Subject-predicative

Functions in sentence

Subject

Predicate

Part of speech

Noun

Noun

Words in sentence

今日

星期日

 

Ting3 jat6 sing1 kei4 jat1

聽日星期一。

Tomorrow is Monday.

Type of sentence structure

Subject-predicative

Functions in sentence

Subject

Predicate

Part of speech

Noun

Noun

Words in sentence

聽日

星期一

 

Ngo5 hoeng1 gong2 jan4

我香港人。

I am a Hong-Konger.

Type of sentence structure

Subject-predicative

Functions in sentence

Subject

Predicate

Part of speech

Noun

Noun

Words in sentence

香港人

 

aa3 maa1 neoi5 jan2

阿媽女人

My mum is a woman.

Type of sentence structure

Subject-predicative

Functions in sentence

Subject

Predicate

Part of speech

Noun

Noun

Words in sentence

阿媽

女人

 

Aa3 baa4 naam4 jan2

阿爸男人

My dad is a man.

Type of sentence structure

Subject-predicative

Functions in sentence

Subject

Predicate

Part of speech

Noun

Noun

Words in sentence

阿爸

男人

Grammar of 係 [hai6] in Cantonese

You can also add a linking verb(繫詞)係[hai6] in the above sentences, which is similar to “to be” in English; the meaning of the sentence would not be changed.  ​If 係 is used in a sentence, the sentence structure of that sentence will become predicative-object(謂賓式).  A subject, a predicate and an object(賓語)is needed for constructing predicative-object.

ngo5 hai6 hoeng1 gong2 jan4

我係香港人。

I am a Hong-Konger.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounLinking verbNoun
Words in sentence香港人

 

ngo5 hai6 naam4 jan2

我係男人。

I am a man.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounLinking verbNoun
Words in sentence男人

 

ngo5 hai6 gung1 jan4

我係工人。

I am a worker.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounLinking verbNoun
Words in sentence工人

Negating(唔)

To negate a sentence, you just need to add adverb(副詞)[m4] into the sentence.

ngo5 m4 hai6 zung1 gwok3 jan4

我唔係中國人。

I am not Chinese.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAdverbLinking verbNoun
Words in sentence中國人

 

ngo5 m4 hai6 neoi5 jan2

我唔係女人。

I am not a woman.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAdverbLinking verbNoun
Words in sentence女人

 

ngo5 m4 hai6 gung1 jan4

我唔係工人。

I am not a worker.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAdverbLinking verbNoun
Words in sentence工人

 

aa3 maa1 m4 hai6 neoi5 jan2

阿媽唔係女人。

My mum is not a woman.

Type of sentence structure

Predicative-object

Functions in sentence

Subject

Adverbial

Predicate

Object

Part of speech

Noun

Adverb

Linking verb

Noun

Words in sentence

阿媽

女人

 

Aa3 baa4 m4 hai6 naam4 jan1

阿爸唔係男人。

My dad is not a man.

Type of sentence structure

Predicative-object

Functions in sentence

Subject

Adverbial

Predicate

Object

Part of speech

Noun

Adverb

Linking verb

Noun

Words in sentence

阿爸

男人

 

Negating sentences in subject-predicative

You cannot use 唔[m4] to negate a sentence in subject-predicative if its predicate is a noun.  You can only use 唔 to negate a sentence in subject-predicative if its predicate is an adjective(形容詞)or a verb(動詞).

 

aa3 maa1 m4 hai6 neoi5 jan2

阿媽唔係女人。(Correct)(Predicative-object)

aa3 maa1 m4 neoi5 jan2

阿媽唔女人。(Incorrect)(Subject-predicative)

Reference

  1. 張洪年(2007)。香港粤語語法的研究(增訂版)。香港:中文大學出版社,頁 386-388。

That’s it for this lesson on the grammar of 係 [hai6] in Cantonese!  If you appreciate our work, sign up now and give us a LikeCoin by clicking the LikeCoin button below 5 times.  It will empower us to create more useful contents for you in the future!

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