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U8L5 Cantonese grammar 啊 [aa3]

In this lesson, the grammar of particle(助詞) 啊 [aa3] in Cantonese will be introduced.  Particle 啊 [aa3] is used to soften a sentence; it can be used to soften interrogative sentences(疑問句), imperative sentences(祈使句)and descriptive sentences(陳述句).  Since particle 啊 [aa3] can be used in all kind of sentences, it is the particle with highest frequency in Cantonese.

Comparing with a sentence without any particle, a sentence with particle sounds more natural.  If you cannot find the right particle to use in a sentence, consider using particle 啊 [aa3] in that sentence.

Grammar of using particle 啊 [aa3] in an imperative sentence in Cantonese

Based on the grammar of particle 啊 [aa3] in Cantonese, it can be used to soften an imperative sentence.

m4 hou2 cou4 aa3

唔好嘈啊。

Stop talking. (Literal meaning: Don’t be noisy)

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speech/AdverbAuxiliary verbVerbParticle
Words in sentence/

 

nei5 dei6 m4 hou2 king1 gai2 aa3

你哋唔好傾偈啊。

You should stop chatting.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounAdverbAuxiliary verbVerbParticle
Words in sentence你哋傾偈

 

teng1 syu1 aa3

聽書啊。

Focus on the lesson.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speech/VerbNounParticle
Words in sentence/

 

tai2 ce1 aa3

睇車啊。

Watch the road.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speech/VerbNounParticle
Words in sentence/

 

nei5 dei6 jiu3 kau3 on1 cyun4 daai2 aa3

你哋要扣安全帶啊。

You should buckle your seatbelt.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounAuxiliary verbClauseParticle
Words in sentence你哋扣安全帶

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

sik6 je5 zi1 cin4 jiu3 sai2 sau2 aa3

食嘢之前要洗手啊。

You should wash your hands before eating.

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateParticle
Part of speechNounClauseParticle
Words in sentence食嘢之前要洗手

 

Predicate of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speech/Auxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence/洗手

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

Paai4 deoi2 aa3

排隊啊。

Line up.

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateParticle
Part of speech/VerbParticle
Words in sentence/排隊-

 

m4 hou2 sik6 sau2 zi2 aa3

唔好食手指啊。

Don’t lick your finger.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speech/AdverbAuxiliary verbClauseParticle
Words in sentence/食手指

 

zou6 gung1 fo3 aa3

做功課啊。

Do your homework.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speech/VerbNounParticle
Words in sentence/功課

Grammar of using particle 啊 [aa3] in an interrogative sentence in Cantonese

Based on the grammar of particle 啊 [aa3] in Cantonese, it can also be used on all types of interrogative sentence(疑問句)except yes-no question(是非問句).

nei5 ting1 jat6 soeng2 m4 soeng2 jat1 cai4 sik6 faan6 aa3

你聽日想唔想一齊食飯啊?

Do you want to eat together tomorrow?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2Particle
True valueTrueTrueParticle
Words in sentence你聽日想(一齊食飯)(你聽日)唔想一齊食飯

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speechNounNounAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence聽日(一齊食飯)

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speech/AdverbVerbNoun
Words in sentence/一齊

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speechNounNoun; AdverbAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence(你)(聽日); 唔一齊食飯

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speech/AdverbVerbNoun
Words in sentence/一齊

 

nei5 soeng2 heoi3 hon4 gwok3 ding6 heoi3 jat6 bun2 aa3

你想去韓國定去日本啊?

Do you want to go to Korea or Japan?

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceCompound sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2Particle
True valueTrueTrueParticle
Words in sentence你想去韓國定去日本

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence去韓國

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence
Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceConjunctionSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechConjunctionNounAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence(你)(想)去日本

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

nei5 dim2 gaai2 m4 sik6 coi3 aa3

你點解唔食菜啊?

Why don’t you eat vegetable?

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounAdverbVerbNounParticle
Words in sentence點解; 唔

 

ni1 go3 leng3 zai2 hai6 bin1 go3 aa3

呢個靚仔係邊個啊?

Who is this handsome boy?

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounLinking verbNounParticle
Words in sentence呢個靚仔邊個

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier呢個
Head靚仔

 

nei5 zou6 mat1 m4 faan1 gung1 aa3

你做乜唔返工啊?

Why don’t you go to work?

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounAdverbVerbNounParticle
Words in sentence做乜; 唔

 

Grammar of using particle 啊 [aa3] in descriptive sentences

On top of imperative and interrogative sentences, particle 啊 [aa3] can also be used to soften a descriptive sentences.

hai6 aa3

係啊。

Yes.

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateParticle
Part of speech/VerbParticle
Words in sentence/

 

m4 hai6 aa3

唔係啊。

No.

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateParticle
Part of speech/AdverbVerbParticle
Words in sentence/

 

m4 goi1 saai3 aa3

唔該晒啊。

Thank you.

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicatePredicative suffixParticle
Part of speech/VerbPredicative suffixParticle
Words in sentence/唔該

 

ngo5 kei4 sat6 hou2 zung1 ji3 nei5 aa3

我其實好中意你啊。

Actually I really like you.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounAdverb; AdverbVerbNounParticle
Words in sentence其實; 好中意

 

ting1 jat6 hai6 sing1 kei4 luk6 aa3

聽日係星期六啊。

Tomorrow is Saturday.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounLinking verbNounParticle
Words in sentence聽日星期六

 

ngo5 ji1 gaa1 zou6 gan2 je5,m4 dak1 haan4 aa3

我依家做𡁵嘢,唔得閒啊。

Because I am working now, I am not free.

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentenceComplex sentences
ComponentsSentence 1Sentence 2
True valueTrueFalse
Words in sentence我依家做𡁵嘢唔得閒啊

 

Sentence 1 of the sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicatePredicative suffixObject
Part of speechNounAdverbVerbPredicative suffixNoun
Words in sentence依家𡁵

 

Sentence 2 of the sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateParticle
Part of speech/AdverbAdjectiveParticle
Words in sentence/得閒

 

keoi5 faan1 gan2 gung1 aa3

佢返𡁵工啊。

He is working now.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicatePredicative suffixObjectParticle
Part of speechNounVerbPredicative suffixNounParticle
Words in sentence𡁵

 

ngo5 go3 pang4 jau5 hai6 lou5 si1 aa3

我個朋友係老師啊。

My friend is a teacher.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounVerbNounParticle
Words in sentence我個朋友老師

 

ngo5 soeng2 hok6 hou2 gwong2 dung1 waa2 aa3

我想學好廣東話啊。

I want to learn Cantonese well.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounAuxiliary verbClauseParticle
Words in sentence學好廣東話

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speech/ClauseNoun
Words in sentence/學好廣東話

 

Predicate of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-complement
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateComplement
Part of speech/VerbAdjective
Words in sentence/

 

ngo5 gam1 maan1 soeng2 jam2 zau2 jam2 dou3 zeoi3 aa3

我今晚想飲酒飲到醉啊。

I want to drink until drunk tonight.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObjectParticle
Part of speechNounNounAuxiliary verbClauseParticle
Words in sentence今晚飲酒飲到醉

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-complement
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateComplement
Part of speech/ClauseClause
Words in sentence/飲酒飲到醉

 

Predicate of that sentence

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

 

Complement of that sentence

Type of sentence structurePredicative-complement
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateComplement
Part of speech/Verb; /Adjective
Words in sentence/飲; 到

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 188-190
  2. 鄧思穎(2017)。粤語語法講義。香港:商務印書館,頁 279-280

That’s it for this lesson on the grammar particle 啊 [aa3] 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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