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 sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2
True value True Unknown
Words in sentence 我叫陳大文 你呢

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object
Part of speech Noun Verb Noun
Words in sentence 陳大文

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subject-predicative
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Particle
Part of speech Noun / 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 sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2
True value True Unknown
Words in sentence 我今年十八歲 你呢

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate
Part of speech Noun Noun Noun
Words in sentence 今年 十八歲

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subject-predicative
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Particle
Part of speech Noun / 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 sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2
True value False Unknown
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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object
Part of speech Noun Adverb Auxiliary verb Clause
Words in sentence 我女朋友 講法文

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object
Part of speech / Verb Noun
Words in sentence / 法文

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subject-predicative
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Particle
Part of speech Noun / Particle
Words in sentence 你女朋友 /

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subordination
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 sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2
True value True Unknown
Words in sentence 我中意食日本菜 你哋呢

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object
Part of speech Noun Auxiliary verb Clause
Words in sentence 中意 食日本菜

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object
Part of speech / Verb Noun
Words in sentence / 日本菜

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subject-predicative
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Particle
Part of speech Noun / 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 sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2
True value False Unknown
Words in sentence 我支筆冇墨 你嗰支呢

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object
Part of speech Noun Verb Noun
Words in sentence 我支筆

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subordination
Modifier 我支
Head

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subject-predicative
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Particle
Part of speech Noun / Particle
Words in sentence 你嗰支 /

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subordination
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 sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2
True value True True
Words in sentence 你想飲咖啡 定奶茶呢

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Auxiliary verb Clause Particle
Words in sentence 飲咖啡 (呢)

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object
Part of speech / Verb Noun
Words in sentence / 咖啡

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Conjunction Subject Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Conjunction / Auxiliary verb Clause Particle
Words in sentence / (想) (飲)奶茶

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object
Part of speech / Verb Noun
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 sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2
True value True True
Words in sentence 你想食糖水 抑或食蛋糕呢

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Auxiliary verb Clause Particle
Words in sentence 食糖水 (呢)

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object
Part of speech / Verb Noun
Words in sentence / 糖水

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Conjunction Subject Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Conjunction Noun Verb Noun Particle
Words in sentence 抑或 (你) (想) 食蛋糕 (呢)

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object
Part of speech / Verb Noun
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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Auxiliary verb Clause Particle
Words in sentence 應該 點做

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subject-predicative
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate
Part of speech / Pro-adverb Verb
Words in sentence /

 

keoi5 giu3 me1 meng2 ne1

佢叫咩名呢?

(I wonder) What is his name?

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Verb Noun Particle
Words in sentence 咩名

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structure Subordination
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 structure Subject-predicative
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Cognate object Particle
Part of speech Noun Adjective Noun Particle
Words in sentence 邊個女仔

 

Subject of that sentence
Type of sentence structure Subordination
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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Auxiliary verb Clause Particle
Words in sentence 應該 買邊部電話

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object
Part of speech / Verb Noun
Words in sentence / 邊部電話

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structure Subordination
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

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