Powerful “Suffix-r” in Chinese
Suffixation of 儿（r） to nouns and sometimes verbs or adjectives, causing changing pronunciations of the preceding vowels, is a typical situation of pronunciation in Putonghua, or standard Chinese and some dialects.
In Mandarin, “Suffix-r” has the distinction functions for meanings and properties of a certain words. When it occurs changings in the context between the “Suffix-r” and normal words, you have to be careful about the different meanings and properties of certain words. Otherwise it will cause ambiguity. Such as:
dǐng (顶) is a verb, which means carry something on the head or push from below or behind . But when it’s changed to be Dǐngr(顶儿), the property is changed to be a noun, and its meaning is also changed to be the thing that bear the weight.
yì diǎn(一点) means one o’clock when it is a normal word. But it turns to be a measure word and means “little, few” when it is has suffix-r, yì diǎnr(一点儿).
头 tóu means people’s head
→头儿 tóur means the head of a gang or the person in charge
眼 yǎn means eyes
→眼儿 yǎnr means a small hole
Another one kind of suffix-r after words are expressing the emotional coloring such as love, favor, joy and so on.
花儿 Huār (flower) indicates love to flowers.
小孩儿 Xiǎo hair (little kids) indicates love to kids.
好玩儿 Hǎowánr (funny) indicating prefer having fun.
老头儿 lǎotóur (old man) indicates having a good relations with the old man.
小曲儿xiǎoqǔr (ditty) indicates having fondness of the ditty.
When we are expressing small, less, or light things, we also use suffix-r. Such as:
米粒儿 Mǐ lìr indicates few rice that we can count
门缝儿 Mén fèngr means a narrow crack between a door and its frame
雨点儿 yǔ diǎnr indicates few raindrop
一会儿 yí huìr indicate a short time, a little while
小事儿 xiǎo shìr means little things
In the actual reading, end with suffix-r is pronounced with the preceding vowel. It is not a single part, which means is can’t be separated alone and read clearly.
哪 →哪儿 nǎr [nǎ]─→[nǎr] where
那 →那儿 nàr [nà]─→[nàr] there
But in the broadcast language, especially in politics, science, academic programs, which require a higher degree of accuracy in language, we should minimize the using of suffix-r; and in written language or formal environment we also reduce the using of suffix-r.
Besides, you have to notice that there are a lot of words end with 儿 naturally. So don’t confound them with suffix-r.
女儿 nǚ ér is naturally ended with 儿 and means daughter.
婴儿 yīng ér is also ended with 儿 naturally. It means infant.