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U8L11 Cantonese grammar 呢 [ne1]

In this lesson, the grammar of particle(助詞) 呢 [ne1] in Cantonese will be introduced.  In general, 呢 [ne1] is a particle for directing focus towards a subject that is different from previous statements.  呢 [ne1] can be used in an exclamation sentence(感嘆句)and an interrogative sentence(疑問句).  Do not confuse particle 呢 [ne1] with demonstrative determinatives(指示性代詞)呢 [ni1].

Usage 1 of particle 呢 [ne1] in Cantonese grammar

There are three different usage of 呢 [ne1] in Cantonese grammar.  呢 [ne1] can be used to create a question that asks for the information of a noun(名詞)by directing the focus from a previously mentioned fact to that noun.  The information being asked is related with that previously mentioned fact. In order to create such question, 呢 will be used in the sentence that uses that noun as its subject(主語).

ngo5 giu3 can4 daai6 man4,nei5 ne1

我叫陳大文,你呢?

My name is Chan Tai Man, what about you?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2
True valueTrueUnknown
Words in sentence我叫陳大文你呢

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence陳大文

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateParticle
Part of speechNoun/Particle
Words in sentence/

 

ngo5 gam1 nin2 sap6 baat3 seoi3,nei5 ne1

我今年十八歲,你呢?

I am 18 this year, what about you?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2
True valueTrueUnknown
Words in sentence我今年十八歲你呢

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicate
Part of speechNounNounNoun
Words in sentence今年十八歲

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateParticle
Part of speechNoun/Particle
Words in sentence/

 

ngo5 neoi5 pang4 jau5 m4 sik1 gong2 faat3 man2,nei5 neoi5 pang4 jau5 ne1

我女朋友唔識講法文,你女朋友呢?

My girlfriend does not speak French, what about your girlfriend?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2
True valueFalseUnknown
Words in sentence我女朋友唔識講法文你女朋友呢

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAdverbAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence我女朋友講法文

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateParticle
Part of speechNoun/Particle
Words in sentence你女朋友/

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head女朋友

 

ngo5 zung1 ji3 sik6 jat6 bun2 coi3,nei5 dei6 ne1

我中意食日本菜,你哋呢?

I like eating Japanese cuisine, What about you?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2
True valueTrueUnknown
Words in sentence我中意食日本菜你哋呢

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence中意食日本菜

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateParticle
Part of speechNoun/Particle
Words in sentence你哋/

 

ngo5 zi1 bat1 mou5 mak6,nei5 go2 zi1 ne1?

我支筆冇墨,你嗰支呢?

My pen has run out, what about yours?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2
True valueFalseUnknown
Words in sentence我支筆冇墨你嗰支呢

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence我支筆

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier我支
Head

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateParticle
Part of speechNoun/Particle
Words in sentence你嗰支/

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier你嗰支
Head(筆)

Usage 2 of particle 呢 [ne1] in Cantonese grammar

呢[ne1] can also be used with interrogative sentences(疑問句)to direct the focus onto a question from other irrelevant things; 呢 can be used with all types of interrogative sentence except Yes-no question(是非問句).  Depending on which type of interrogative sentence used with 呢, the nuance is slightly different.  For disjunctive question(選擇問句), 呢[ne1] is used to emphasize the given options in the question.  The meaning of 呢 here may be vague until you have expanded the disjunctive question back to two sentences.

nei5 soeng2 jam2 gaa3 fe1 ne1?ding6 nei5 soeng2 jam2 naai5 caa4 ne1?

你想飲咖啡呢?定你想飲奶茶呢?

Do you want to drink coffee? (Emphasizing the option coffee) Or do you want to drink milk tea? (Emphasizing the option tea)

 

nei5 soeng2 jam2 gaa3 fe1 ding6 naai5 caa4 ne1?

你想飲咖啡定奶茶呢?

Do you want to drink coffee or milk tea?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2
True valueTrueTrue
Words in sentence你想飲咖啡定奶茶呢

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounAuxiliary verbClauseParticle
Words in sentence飲咖啡(呢)

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceConjunctionSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechConjunction/Auxiliary verbClauseParticle
Words in sentence/(想)(飲)奶茶

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

nei5 soeng2 sik6 tong4 seoi2 jik1 waak6 sik6 daan6 gou1 ne1

你想食糖水抑或食蛋糕呢?

Do you want to eat sweet soup or cake?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2
True valueTrueTrue
Words in sentence你想食糖水抑或食蛋糕呢

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounAuxiliary verbClauseParticle
Words in sentence食糖水(呢)

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceConjunctionSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechConjunctionNounVerbNounParticle
Words in sentence抑或(你)(想)食蛋糕(呢)

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

For specified interrogative sentences(特指問句)or affirmative-negative question(正反問句), 呢[ne1] is used to direct the focus from a previously mentioned fact to a new question; this question has to be used to ask for unmentioned information related with that previously mentioned fact.

A: 有啲人話嗰間日本餐廳嘅壽司同天婦羅好好味,所以我尋日去咗嗰度食飯。嗰度啲壽司真係好好味。(Mentioned sushi in that Japanese restaurant is delicious)

B: 咁啲天婦羅好唔好味呢?(Asking if Tempura there is delicious or not, the unmentioned and related information)

 

A: 呢部電話真係好好用,佢有好多新嘅功能。(Mentioned the function of the phone)

B: 部電話賣幾多錢呢?(Asking for the price of the phone, the unmentioned and the related information)

Usage 3 of particle 呢 [ne1] in Cantonese grammar

呢[ne1] is often used as the particle for a self-talk question.  Based on what we explained above, 呢 is used to drive the focus to a question from other things.  Therefore, when 呢 is used as the particle for a self-talk question, it shifts your focus from other things that you are doing or thinking to that self-talk question, thus giving out a nuance of wondering.

ngo5 jing1 goi1 dim2 zou6 ne1

我應該點做呢?

(I wonder) What should I do?

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounAuxiliary verbClauseParticle
Words in sentence應該點做

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicate
Part of speech/Pro-adverbVerb
Words in sentence/

 

keoi5 giu3 me1 meng2 ne1

佢叫咩名呢?

(I wonder) What is his name?

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounVerbNounParticle
Words in sentence咩名

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head

 

bin1 go3 neoi5 zai2 leng3 di1 ne1

邊個女仔靚啲呢?

(I wonder) Which girl is prettier?

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateCognate objectParticle
Part of speechNounAdjectiveNounParticle
Words in sentence邊個女仔

 

Subject of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier邊個
Head女仔

 

ngo5 jing1 goi1 maai5 bin1 bou6 din6 waa2 ne1?

我應該買邊部電話呢?

(I wonder) Which phone should I buy?

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounAuxiliary verbClauseParticle
Words in sentence應該買邊部電話

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speech/VerbNoun
Words in sentence/邊部電話

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier邊部
Head電話

 

Reference

  1. 鄧思穎(2017)。粤語語法講義。香港:商務印書館,頁 209
  2. 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196-197

That’s it for this lesson on the grammar of 呢 [ne1] 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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