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U8L10 Cantonese grammar 先 [sin1]

In this lesson, the grammar of particle(助詞) 先 [sin1] in Cantonese will be introduced.  Particle 先 [sin1] can be used as a particle or an adverb(副詞).  As a particle, despite its meanings would change slightly depending on the type of sentence used with it, they are still circling around “doing something first”; 先 [sin1] can be used with imperative sentence(祈使句)and interrogative sentence(疑問句).

Grammar of using 先 [sin1] in interrogative sentence

When 先 [sin1] is used in interrogative sentence(疑問句), it is used to ask the listener to answer something first before something else; that sentence may or may not contain a displeased and annoyed nuance.  先 [sin1] can be used in all types of interrogative sentence except yes-no question(是非問句).

ni1 go3 sai3 gaai3 bin1 go3 neoi5 zai2 zeoi3 leng3 sin1

呢個世界邊個女仔最靚先?

(Answer this first) Who is the most beautiful girl in the world?

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateParticle
Part of speechNounSentenceParticle
Words in sentence呢個世界邊個女仔最靚

 

Predicate of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicate
Part of speechNounAdverbAdjective
Words in sentence邊個女仔

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier邊個
Head女仔

 

nei5 gei2 si4 wui5 bat1 jip6 sin1

你幾時會畢業先?

(Answer this first) When will you graduate?

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounAdverbAuxiliary verbVerbParticle
Words in sentence幾時畢業

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicate
Part of speech/Verb

 

Words in sentence/畢業

 

keoi5 hai6 hoeng1 gong2 jan4 ding6 zung1 gwok3 jan4 sin1

佢係香港人定中國人先?

(Answer this first) Is he a Hongkonger or a Chinese?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2Particle
True valueTrueTrueParticle
Words in sentence佢係香港人定中國人

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

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

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceConjunctionSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechConjunctionNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence(佢)(係)中國人

 

keoi5 sik1 m4 sik1 gong2 gwong2 dung1 waa2 sin1

佢識唔識講廣東話先?

(Answer this first) Does he know how to speak Cantonese?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2Particle
True valueTrueFalseParticle
Words in sentence佢識唔識講廣東話

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAuxiliary VerbClause
Words in sentence(講廣東話)

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speech/VerbNoun
Words in sentence/(講)(廣東話)

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAdverbAuxiliary VerbClause
Words in sentence(佢)講廣東話

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speech/VerbNoun
Words in sentence/廣東話

 

keoi5 jau5 mou5 duk6 gwo3 daai6 hok6 sin1

佢有冇讀過大學先?

(Answer this first) Has he studied in university?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2Particle
True valueTrueFalseParticle
Words in sentence佢有冇讀過大學

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAuxiliary VerbClause
Words in sentence(讀過大學)

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicatePredicative suffixObject
Part of speech/VerbPredicative suffixNoun
Words in sentence/(讀)(過)(大學)

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAuxiliary VerbClause
Words in sentence(佢)讀過大學

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicatePredicative suffixObject
Part of speech/VerbPredicative suffixNoun
Words in sentence/大學

 

ni1 baan1 jan4 jau5 mou5 bei2 cin2 sin1

呢班人有冇畀錢先?

Has this group of people paid?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2Particle
True valueTrueFalseParticle
Words in sentence呢班人有冇畀錢

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAuxiliary VerbClause
Words in sentence呢班人(畀錢)

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier呢班
Head

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speech/VerbNoun
Words in sentence/(畀)(錢)

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAuxiliary VerbClause
Words in sentence(呢班人)畀錢

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier呢班
Head

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speech/VerbNoun
Words in sentence/

 

go2 go3 naam4 zai2 jau5 mou5 neoi5 pang4 jau5 sin1

嗰個男仔有冇女朋友先?

(Answer this first) Does that boy have a girlfriend?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2Particle
True valueTrueFalseParticle
Words in sentence嗰個男仔有冇女朋友

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence嗰個男仔(女朋友)

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier嗰個
Head男仔

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence(嗰個男仔)女朋友

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier(嗰個)
Head(男仔)

 

nei5 uk1 kei2 jan4 sik1 m4 sik1 nei5 naam4 pang4 jau5 sin1

你屋企人識唔識你男朋友先?

(Answer this first) Does your family know about your boyfriend?

 

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2Particle
True valueTrueFalseParticle
Words in sentence你屋企人識唔識你男朋友

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence你屋企人(你男朋友)

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head屋企人

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier(你)
Head(男朋友)

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAdverbVerbNoun
Words in sentence(你屋企人)你男朋友

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier(你)
Head(屋企人)

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head男朋友

 

nei5 jau5 mou5 jing6 zan1 duk6 syu1 sin1

你有冇認真讀書先?

(Answer this first) Did you study hard?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2Particle
True valueTrueFalseParticle
Words in sentence你有冇認真讀書

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence(認真讀書)

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speech/AdverbVerbNoun
Words in sentence/(認真)(讀)(書)

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence(你)認真讀書

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speech/AdverbVerbNoun
Words in sentence/認真

 

Reference

  1. 鄧思穎(2017)。粤語語法講義。香港:商務印書館,頁 240-241

That’s it for this lesson on the grammar of particle 先 [sin1] 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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