Basic Cantonese Phrases

Cheerful business partners talking face to face, Hong Kong
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Lets cut to the chase: Cantonese is one of the world's most difficult languages to learn. Trying to learn the Cantonese language is not easy, Cantonese is tongue twisting, due to the tones in the language. Learning the Cantonese language is made more difficult by the 9 distinct tones, meaning one word can have up to 9 meanings, depending on both the tone and context. The majority of Hong Kong has at least basic English and you're unlikely to find a lack of Cantonese will impede you at any point.

However, if you want to impress the locals, here are some basic phrases you might like to try.

The examples below are written in the Roman alphabet, and due to the tonal differences, their pronunciation can make them difficult to understand. You can listen to Cantonese pronunciation techniques on many of the phrases below, as well as plenty more, at this Learn Cantonese Page.


Hong Kong - herng gong
America - may gwok
China - Chung gwok
Britain - ying gwok


1 - yat
2 - yee
3 - saam
4 - say
5 - mm
6 - lok
7 - chat
8 - bat
9 - gow
10 - sap


How are you? - lay hoe ma
Good morning - jow sun
Goodbye - joy geen
Excuse me/Thank you - m goy
My name is - ngor guw
I don't understand - ngor m ming bat

Restaurants and Shopping

How much is it? - ching mun, gay daw cheen?
Cheque please? - m goy, mai dan?
Too expensive - Tai Gwei le
Where is the toilet? - Chee saw hai been doe ah?
Do you have any? - lay yow mo?

And Importantly

Do you serve beer - leedo yow mo bair tsow yum ah?
Yes we do - yow ah!
No we don't - mo ah!