Powerful “Suffix-r” in Chinese


         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.

Such as

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.

Such as

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.


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