Chinese Characters With Multiple Pronunciations

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Chinese Characters With Multiple Pronunciations

How to pronounce “了” in Chinese? “Le” may be your only answer. But did you know that “了” can also be pronounced “liǎo”? This is one of the Chinese characters that you learn as a beginner. In Chinese, there are some characters that have multiple pronunciations. In this infographic, we present 6 of the most common ones. We list their pronunciations, their meanings, and also provide some examples.

Multiple Pronunciation Characters

便 biàn, pián

便 biàn:

Meaning: convenience, casual

Examples: 方便  fāngbiàn, convenience

便 pián:

Meaning: inexpensive, cheap

Examples: 便宜  piányí, inexpensive


长 cháng, zhǎng

长 cháng:

Meaning: long

Examples: 长头发  cháng tóufǎ, long hair

长短  cháng duǎn, length (Lit. long and short)


长 zhǎng:

Meaning: grow up, refer to someone who is older

Examples: 长大   zhǎng dà, grow up

(If you dream to be a teacher when you grow up. You say  我长大以后要当老师。Wǒ zhǎng dà yǐhòu yào dāng lǎoshī.)

长辈   zhǎng bèi, elders 


还 hái, huán

还 hái:

Meaning: still 

Examples: 还在家 hái zàijiā, still at home.

(You plan to go out, but you got postponed for some reason. You are still home. You say 我还在家。  hái zàijiā.)

还没吃饭 hái méi chīfàn, still have not eaten dinner yet.

还 huán:

Meaning: return 

Examples: 还钱  huán qián, return the money

(If you borrowed money from someone, and you would like to return the money now. We say 还钱  huán qián)

还书  huán shū, return books


得 de, děi, dé

得 de

Meaning: a complement that usually is used with a verb. 

Examples: 跑得很快 pǎo de hěn kuài, run fast

得 děi

Meaning: have to do something

Examples: 我得做完功课。  děi zuò wán gōngkè. I have to finish my homework.

得 dé

Meaning: to gain, to obtain

Examples: 得到   dào, to gain

我跑步比赛得到第一名!Wǒ pǎobù bǐsài dào dì yī míng! I got first place in a race!


乐 lè, yuè

乐 lè

Meaning: happy-related, joy, fun, laugh

Examples: 快乐  kuàilè, happy

乐意  lèyì, willing

乐 yuè

Meaning: music

Examples: 音乐  yīnyuè, music

乐器  yuèqì, instrument


了 le, liǎo

了 le

Meaning: action has been completed, past tense Chinese particle

Examples: 吃了  chī le, ate

(I ate dinner. You say 我吃晚餐了。  wǒ chī wǎngcān le.)

了 liǎo

Meaning: a modifier to understand, to obtain

Examples: 做得了 zuò déliǎo, able to do it

做不了 zuò bùliǎo, able to do it

了解 liǎojiě, understand


Chinese Characters With Multiple Pronunciations Infographic

Chinese characters with multiple pronunciations Simplified Chinese Version Infographic

There are a lot more Chinese characters that have more than one pronunciations, you can also find a list here.

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