啫 in Cantonese grammar

U12L4 Cantonese grammar 啫 [ze1]

In this lesson, the grammar of particle(助詞) 啫 [ze1] in Cantonese will be introduced.  啫 [ze1] is used to express the judgement of the speaker on an event, which the speaker believes the event is not as important as how other people think.

Grammar of 啫 [ze1] in Cantonese

In the grammar of Cantonese, particle 啫 [ze1] expresses that the speaker does not take something seriously like others.  This particle can only be used when the judgement of the speaker is different with the judgement of other people in conversation or the general public.

If the your opinion do not contradict with others, you should use other particles like 啊 [aa3] and 喎 [wo3].

nei5 daap3 co3 zo2 jat1 tai4 ze1,m4 hou2 m4 hoi1 sam1 laa1。

你答錯咗一題啫,唔好唔開心啦。

You have just missed a question (and it is not a big deal).  Don’t be sad.

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2
True value True False
Words in sentence 你答錯咗一題啫 唔好唔開心啦

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicate-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Predicative suffix Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Clause Predicative suffix Noun Particle
Words in sentence 答錯 一題

 

Predicate of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicate-complement
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Complement
Part of speech / Verb Adjective
Words in sentence /

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subordination
Modifier
Head

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

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 / 唔開心

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

hou2 siu2 si6 ze1

好小事啫。

It is nothing.

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

 

keoi5 tung4 nei5 waan2 haa5 ze1,m4 sai2 gam3 jing6 zan1 wo3

佢同你玩吓啫,唔使咁認真喎。

He is just playing with you (and it is not a big deal).  You don’t need to be serious.

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2
True value True False
Words in sentence 佢同你玩吓啫 唔使咁認真喎

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

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

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicate-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech / Adverb Auxiliary verb Clause Particle
Words in sentence / 使 咁認真

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicate-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate
Part of speech / Pro-adverb Adjective
Words in sentence / 認真

 

ngo5 soeng2 man6 haa5 nei5 gei2 si4 dak1 haan4 ze1,ngo5 m4 hai6 soeng2 joek3 nei5 wo3。

我想問吓你幾時得閒啫,我唔係想約你喎。

I just want to ask when will you be free.  I don’t mean I want to hang out with you.

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2
True value True False
Words in sentence 我想問吓你幾時得閒啫 我唔係想約你喎

 

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 問吓你幾時得閒

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicate-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Predicative suffix Object
Part of speech / Verb Predicative suffix Sentence
Words in sentence / 你幾時得閒

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subject-predicative
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicative
Part of speech Noun Adverb Adjective
Words in sentence 幾時 得閒

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicate-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech Noun Adverb Auxiliary verb Clause Particle
Words in sentence 想約你

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

nei5 dai6 jat1 ci3 caam1 gaa1 laam4 kau4 bei2 coi3,syu1 hou2 zing3 soeng4 ze1。

你第一次參加籃球比賽,輸好正常啫。

It is your first time to join a basketball competition, thus losing is expected (and it is not a big deal).

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2
True value True True
Words in sentence 你第一次參加籃球比賽 輸好正常啫

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicate-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object
Part of speech Noun Noun Verb Noun
Words in sentence 第一次 參加 籃球比賽

 

Adverbial of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subordination
Modifier 第一
Head

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

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

 

ngo5 dei6 heoi3 zo2 naam4 fei1 saam1 jat6 ze1。

我哋去咗南非三日啫。

We have just been to South Africa for 3 days (and it is not a big deal).

Type of sentence structure Predicate-object
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Predicative suffix Cognate object Cognate object Particle
Part of speech Noun Verb Predicative suffix Noun Noun Particle
Words in sentence 我哋 南非 三日

 

go2 go3 neoi5 zai2 mong6 haa5 nei5 ze1,m4 doi6 biu2 keoi5 zung1 ji3 nei5 wo3

嗰個女仔望吓你啫,唔代表佢中意你喎。

That girl just looks at you (and it is not a big deal).  It doesn’t mean she likes you.

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2
True value True False
Words in sentence 嗰個女仔望吓你啫 唔代表佢中意你喎

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

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

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subordination
Modifier 嗰個
Head 女仔

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicate-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech / Adverb Verb Sentence Particle
Words in sentence / 代表 佢中意你

 

Object of that sentence

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

 

keoi5 gong2 je5 daai6 seng1 di1 ze1,m4 doi6 biu2 keoi5 mou5 lai5 maau6 wo3。

佢講嘢大聲啲啫,唔代表佢冇禮貌喎。

He speaks loudly, yet it doesn’t mean he is impolite.

Composite sentences

Type of composite sentence Compound sentences
Components Sentence 1 Sentence 2
True value True False
Words in sentence 佢講嘢大聲啲啫 唔代表佢冇禮貌喎

 

Sentence 1 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subject-predicative
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate Cognate object Particle
Part of speech Sentence Adjective Noun Particle
Words in sentence 佢講嘢 大聲

 

Subject of that sentence

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

 

Sentence 2 of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Predicate-object
Functions in sentence Subject Adverbial Predicate Object Particle
Part of speech / Adverb Verb Sentence Particle
Words in sentence / 代表 佢冇禮貌

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structure Subject-predicative
Functions in sentence Subject Predicate
Part of speech Noun Adjective
Words in sentence 冇禮貌

Difference between particle 啫 [ze1] and 咋/ 喳 [zaa3/ zaa4]

Although both particle 啫 [ze1] and 咋/ 喳 [zaa3/ zaa4] translate into ‘only’ in English, the implications of these two particles are drastically different.

Particle 啫 [ze1] emphasizes what happened is not important; particle 咋/ 喳 [zaa3/ zaa4] emphasizes the number involved in that sentence is limited.

These two particles are not always interchangeable.  You can easily understand their differences with the following example sentences.

nei5 dou2 syu1 zo2 jat1 baak3 man1 ze1。
你賭輸咗一百蚊啫。
You have just lost 100 dollar in gambles (You have just lost 100 dollar and it is not big deal).

nei5 dou2 syu1 zo2 jat1 baak3 man1 zaa3。
你賭輸咗一百蚊咋。
You have just lost 100 dollar in gambles (You have just lost 100 dollar, not 200, not 300).

Reference

  1. 鄧思穎(2017)。粤語語法講義。香港:商務印書館,頁 206-209

That’s it for this lesson on the grammar of particle 啫 [ze1] 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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