Pinyin Lesson 12 – Zero Initials & Spelling Rules

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Zero Initials & Chinese Pinyin Spelling Rules

y w

Zero Initials are not real Chinese Pinyin Initials, realistically they are just some Chinese Pinyin Spelling Rules. Nowadays people type more than they write. If you need to type out characters, you need to use the correct Chinese Pinyin Spelling Rules, or else the character won’t show up. That’s why Chinese Pinyin spelling rules are probably the most important Pinyin rules, even if they do not affect the Pinyin reading. In this lesson we’ll talk about all Zero Initials and their spelling rules. Let’s start now!




Chinese Pinyin Zero-Initial Syllables

We have learned the spelling rule of "j, q, x + ü", in today's lesson, "Zero Initial" is another Pinyin spelling rule that we need to know.

We’ve mentioned in our Pinyin Introduction lesson that a “Zero Initial” is when a Pinyin syllable is made up of a Final and a tone, without an Initial. There’re four situations based on how you write the syllable when there’s no Initial.

For all the Zero syllables in the Pinyin system, all we have to remember is the spelling rules when we write or type them. But the way to pronounce them remains the same.


No.1 - don't have to write any Initial

When there’s no Initial, that means the syllable starts with one of the following vowels, because all Finals in the Pinyin System start with these 6 vowels. So when the syllable starts with a, o, e, we’ll just write the syllable as it is.


No.2  - write “w” as a “Formal Initial”

When the Zero Initial syllable starts with the vowel “u”, we write "w" as a "Formal" Initial, which is not a real Initial.

For ua, uo, uai, uan, uang ueng, we’ll just replace the u with w, and they become wa, wo, wai, wan, wang, weng.

For u, ui, un, we’ll write them as wu, wei and wen.


No. 3 - write "y" as a “Formal Initial” for “i”

When the Zero Initial syllable starts with the vowel “i”, we write "y" as a “Formal Initial”.

For ia, ie, iao, ian, iang, iong, we’ll just replace "i" with "y" and make them ya, ye, yao, yan, yang, yong.

For i, in, ing and iu(iou), we’ll just write or type them as yi, yin, ying and you.


No.4 - write "y" as a “Formal Initial” for  "ü"

When the Zero Initial syllable starts with the vowel “ü”, we write "y" as a “Formal Initial” as well.

There are only four of them: ü, üe, ün, üan. For all of them we’ll add “y” at the beginning of the syllable and drop the two dots. So we have yu, yue, yuan, yun.


Summarize - How To Type Syllables With "ü"

I. For Pinyin syllables with  "ü" , please type "v" instead.

II. In some situations, "ü" in Finals "ü" "üe" "üan" "ün" are spelled and typed "u", the same way it is spelled. Please refer to Pinyin lessons:

❖ TIP: We strongly recommend beginners to finish our Pinyin Course and Tone Course as soon as possible.

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madelinegaleaPremium Student January 8, 2024 at 7:34 pm

Hi, I just want some clarification for the spelling rules.

In the quiz “ing” was written as “ying” and “ian” was written as “yan”. Why in “ying” is the “i” kept and in “yan” the “i” is dropped?

Thank you!

Ryan O'ConnorPremium Student October 7, 2021 at 4:38 am

I understand how they sound without the formal initials, but the addition of the formal initials, definitely helped solidify the pronunciation a lot more.
It made pronunciation MUCH easier! 😀

SufliPremium Student September 13, 2021 at 2:37 pm

Thank you very much, Teacher Lili. All these pinyin lessons are very helpful.

Roxanne CuPremium Student January 1, 2021 at 7:53 am

Thanks for the course.

OWfantasyPremium Student July 12, 2020 at 7:18 pm

Thanks for the course, really amazing!

OmarMustafaPremium Student April 28, 2020 at 6:11 am

Thank you for this course, it’s very clear and precise. All that’s left is to practice it 🙂

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