Spoken mandarin: where to pause, where to connect

Posted by Grace Feng on July 9, 2014

20140712-233425-84865266.jpgThe most exciting moment of learning mandarin is probably when you can orally express yourself in fluent and pleasant mandarin. To make yourself understood and sound right, other than getting the tone right, please make sure you pause and connect at the right position within sentence.

Giving the same pause between characters can only make you sound like a “machine”. In mandarin, speaking sentence with the right rhyme does make a big difference.

Let me give you some explanation on “pause” and “connect” first. “Pause” is a very short instant between two independent word or phrase within one sentence. The sound of the previous “independent word or phrase” has been completed and you can give a full pause before you speak the next “independent word or phrase”.

On the other hand, “connect” means you have to speak the whole word or phrase together with no “full pause”. People might even skip the full sound of some characters to make the word or phrase sound as a whole. Otherwise, your conversation partner will have difficulty understanding the exact meaning you want to express through the word and phrase. During a conversation, to pause while you should connect will make your sentence sound alien and easily confuse people.

The question is how would you know when to pause and when to connect? Well, all in all, you can only tell for sure after you’ve listened to enough native communications. Meanwhile, I’d like to share some tips on “Where to pause, where to connect?”. In the examples below, space represents “pause”.


Rule # One: Don’t pause between characters that belong to the same word or phrase.

For example, “我们学习中文吧!” should be spoken with proper pauses as below:

“我们 学习 中文吧!”

我们, 学习, 中文 are words that should be spoken with connecting sound. We only pause between each word of them.


Rule # Two: Character with light tone (fifth tone) needs to be spoken together with its previous word. Such as 的,了,吗,吧 etc.

你 不要 生气了(light),好吗(light)?

我们 走吧(light)!


Rule # Three: While you speak, connect verb and single-character object.

离开家 时,请 先 关灯,再 关门


Rule # Four: If you want to emphasize a word in a sentence, just say that word slower and louder.

你的 父母(slower and louder) 在哪里?


Rule # Five: Single-character transition word is spoken fast and light.

慢慢来,别累着(light) 自己。

出去 走一(light)走。


I know it’s much easier to understand if I can record some audio here. Unfortunately my laptop has crashed with disk error, I will update later.

If you need more clarification, you’re welcome to ask.


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The best way to turn your Chinese learning into active knowledge - writing a journal!
Learning Chinese: 5 great ideas to get ahead


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3 Responses to “Spoken mandarin: where to pause, where to connect”

  1. nothing

    Debbie T:

    10-05-2014 5:36 pm

    This is very useful, xiexie for going over it. I would like to sound as natural as I can when I speak Chinese.


    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      10-06-2014 2:44 pm

      Thanks Debbie for your note. As long as you persist on practicing, big leaps will happen soon.



  2. nothing


    06-12-2015 7:05 am

    You make thgins so clear. Thanks for taking the time!


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