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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech / Adverb Auxiliary verb Verb Particle
Words in sentence /

 

nei5 dei6 m4 hou2 king1 gai2 aa3

你哋唔好傾偈啊。

You should stop chatting.

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Adverb Auxiliary verb Verb Particle
Words in sentence 你哋 傾偈

 

teng1 syu1 aa3

聽書啊。

Focus on the lesson.

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

 

tai2 ce1 aa3

睇車啊。

Watch the road.

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech / Verb Noun Particle
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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Auxiliary verb Clause Particle
Words in sentence 你哋 扣安全帶

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object
Part of speech / Verb Noun
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 structure Subject-predicative
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Particle
Part of speech Noun Clause Particle
Words in sentence 食嘢之前 要洗手

 

Predicate of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object
Part of speech / Auxiliary verb Clause
Words in sentence / 洗手

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

Paai4 deoi2 aa3

排隊啊。

Line up.

Type of sentence structure Subject-predicative
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Particle
Part of speech / Verb Particle
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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech / Adverb Auxiliary verb Clause Particle
Words in sentence / 食手指

 

zou6 gung1 fo3 aa3

做功課啊。

Do your homework.

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech / Verb Noun Particle
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 sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2 Particle
True value True True Particle
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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object
Part of speech Noun Noun Auxiliary verb Clause
Words in sentence 聽日 (一齊食飯)

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object
Part of speech / Adverb Verb Noun
Words in sentence / 一齊

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object
Part of speech Noun Noun; Adverb Auxiliary verb Clause
Words in sentence (你) (聽日); 唔 一齊食飯

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object
Part of speech / Adverb Verb Noun
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 sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2 Particle
True value True True Particle
Words in sentence 你想去韓國 定去日本

 

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 去韓國

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence
Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Conjunction Subject Predicate Object
Part of speech Conjunction Noun Auxiliary verb Clause
Words in sentence (你) (想) 去日本

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Cognate object
Part of speech / Verb Noun
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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Adverb Verb Noun Particle
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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Linking verb Noun Particle
Words in sentence 呢個靚仔 邊個

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subordination
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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Adverb Verb Noun Particle
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 structure Subject-predicative
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Particle
Part of speech / Verb Particle
Words in sentence /

 

m4 hai6 aa3

唔係啊。

No.

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

 

m4 goi1 saai3 aa3

唔該晒啊。

Thank you.

Type of sentence structure Subject-predicative
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Predicative suffix Particle
Part of speech / Verb Predicative suffix Particle
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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Adverb; Adverb Verb Noun Particle
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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Linking verb Noun Particle
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 sentence Complex sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2
True value True False
Words in sentence 我依家做𡁵嘢 唔得閒啊

 

Sentence 1 of the sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Predicative suffix Object
Part of speech Noun Adverb Verb Predicative suffix Noun
Words in sentence 依家 𡁵

 

Sentence 2 of the sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Particle
Part of speech / Adverb Adjective Particle
Words in sentence / 得閒

 

keoi5 faan1 gan2 gung1 aa3

佢返𡁵工啊。

He is working now.

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Predicative suffix Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Verb Predicative suffix Noun Particle
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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Verb Noun Particle
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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Auxiliary verb Clause Particle
Words in sentence 學好廣東話

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Object
Part of speech / Clause Noun
Words in sentence / 學好 廣東話

 

Predicate of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-complement
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Complement
Part of speech / Verb Adjective
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 structure Predicative-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Noun Auxiliary verb Clause Particle
Words in sentence 今晚 飲酒飲到醉

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-complement
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Complement
Part of speech / Clause Clause
Words in sentence / 飲酒 飲到醉

 

Predicate of that sentence

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

 

Complement of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicative-complement
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Complement
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

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