U7L7 Cantonese grammar 咧 [le4]

In this lesson, the grammar of particle(助詞) 咧 [le4] in Cantonese will be introduced.  咧 [le4] is a particle that is extremely similar with particle 罷啦 [baa2 laa1] and it has two usages too.

Below are the rules of using 咧.  First of all, the subject of sentences described by 咧 have to be a human that can do something consciously.

Secondly, the predicate of sentence described by 咧 have to be a verb(動詞), instead of noun(名詞)or adjective(形容詞), and it has to be a verb that can be executed intentionally by the subject.

Thirdly, sentences described by 咧 cannot be described by any predicative suffix(謂詞詞尾)except 咗 [zo2].

Usage 1 of 咧 [le4] in Cantonese grammar

When 咧 is attached to an imperative sentence, it expresses a nuance of persuading the listener to accept an advice proposed by the speaker.

nei5 m4 hou2 zoi3 faat3 ming4 sing1 mung6 le4

你唔好再發明星夢咧。

How about you stop dreaming for becoming a superstar?

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbials Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Adverb Auxiliary verb Clause Particle
Words in sentence 再發明星夢

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbials Predicate Object
Part of speech / Adverb Verb Noun
Words in sentence / 明星夢

 

nei5 sik6 je5 le4

你食嘢咧。

How about you just eat your food?

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

 

Bei2 zi1 bat1 ngo5 le4

畀支筆我咧。

How about you give me a pen?

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Direct object Indirect object Particle
Part of speech / Verb Noun Noun Particle
Words in sentence / 支筆

Usage 2 of 咧 [le4] in Cantonese grammar

When the subject is the speaker himself, 咧 [le4] is used to suggest something to be done by the speaker himself for the listener.

ngo5 sai2 wun2 le4

我洗碗咧。

I will do the dishes.

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

 

ngo5 bong1 nei5 zou6 le4

我幫你做咧。

Let me help you do it.

Type of sentence structure Predicative expression in series
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate 1 Object Predicate 2 Particle
Part of speech Noun Preposition Noun Verb Particle
Words in sentence

 

ngo5 gaau3 nei5 le4

我教你咧。

Let me teach you.

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

Difference between 咧 [le4] and 罷啦 [baa2 laa1]

The main difference between 咧 and 罷啦 lies in the assertiveness of the speaker.  Sentences created with 罷啦 are more assertive than sentences created with 咧.

Therefore, due to their different assertiveness, 咧 is usually used in the beginning or the middle of the process of persuading while 罷啦 is usually used in the end.

To be more specific, for usage 1, sentence described by 咧 is used to simply persuade the listener to accept the suggestion made by the speaker with an unsure and hesitate tone.

Meanwhile, sentence described by 罷啦 is used to inform the listener of speaker’s suggestion, usually comes with an annoyed tone and after speaker’s suggestions have been already rejected by the listener once or twice.

For usage 2, sentence described by 咧 is similar to an attempt for persuading the listener to accept the suggestion made by the speaker and its tone is more unsure and hesitate.

Meanwhile, sentence described by 罷啦 is similar to informing the listener for speaker’s decision and its tone is more decisive as if that suggestion is the final call for an event.

Reference

  1. 鄧思穎(2017)。粤語語法講義。香港:商務印書館,頁 252-254

That’s it for this lesson on the grammar of 咧 [le4] 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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