Mnemonics for Remembering Tone Numbers

In this lesson

  • Mnemonics for remembering tone numbers

From the last lesson, we know that Cantonese has six tones and each tone is represented by a number. Do you find it difficult to remember the tone each number represents? In this lesson, we are going to share with you our mnemonics for remembering the tone numbers. You probably can come up with something cleverer, but don’t judge ours!

Here are the four things you need to remember:

  1. Higher tones come first and lower tones come last. Just remember the word hello, high low, high before low.

  2. For the level tones (Tones 1, 3 and 6), imagine that you really hate the subject physics and promise yourself: I will never (level) read one (1) physics (3, 6) book. Remember hello, high before low. So Tone 1 is high level, Tone 3 is mid level and Tone 6 is low level.

  1. For the rising tones (Tones 2 and 5), imagine that one day you look out of the windows and you see two (2) gigantic rice (rise) noodle rolls flying (5) in the sky. They look so yummy! Again, remember hello, high before low. So Tone 2 is high rising and Tone 5 is low rising.
  1. For the falling tone, tone fall, Tone 4. And remember the word follow (fall low). So Tone 4 is low falling.



Say which tone each number represents as quickly as possible:

Tone 5

Low rising.

Tone 6

Low level.

Tone 2

High rising.

Tone 1

High level.

Tone 3

Mid level.

Tone 4

Low falling.


In reverse, say which number represents each tone as quickly as possible:

Mid level

Tone 3.

Low falling

Tone 4.

High rising

Tone 2.

Low level

Tone 6.

High level

Tone 1.

Low rising

Tone 5.

Hopefully you find it easier to remember the tone numbers now. See you in the next lesson!


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Overview of Cantonese Tones