Useful 15+ Cantonese Adverbs: Gateway To Advanced Cantonese


Ever felt like your Cantonese is missing something? A certain spark, perhaps? It could be that you’re not using enough adverbs. 

You see, adverbs are like the seasoning in a dish – they add depth and flavor to your language.

Take this example: when you say “慢慢行” (maan4 maan4 haang4), which means “walking slowly,” instead of just “行” (haang4), which means “walking,” you’re not merely walking, you’re strolling leisurely. 

That’s the magic of adverbs – they help you describe actions more specifically and vividly.

In this guide, we’ll peel back the layers of Cantonese adverbs. 

We’ll start with a rundown on what adverbs are, explore their unique role in the Cantonese language, and wrap up with some handy tips and exercises. 

By the end, you’ll easily add adverbs to your conversations. Ready to spice up your Cantonese skills? Let’s get cracking!

What Are Adverbs?

Let’s start by answering a simple question: what are adverbs? In the broadest sense, adverbs are the chameleons of language. They’re versatile, adaptable, and oh-so-important for adding detail and color to your conversations.

Do you know how an adjective adds information about a noun? Like when you say a “red apple,” “red” gives you more details about the apple. Well, adverbs do a similar job. But, instead of describing nouns, they’re all about verbs, adjectives, or even other adverbs.

Let’s take a look at some examples. 

Imagine you’re describing an action – say, running. Now, if you want to explain how someone is running, you’d use an adverb.  So instead of saying, “He runs,” you could say, “He runs quickly.” 

Notice how “quickly” adds a little more flavor to the sentence? It gives us a better idea of how the action is being performed.

But here’s the fun part: adverbs aren’t just about the ‘how.’ They can also describe the ‘when,’ the ‘where,’ and the ‘to what extent.’ Let’s jump to the next lesson for Cantonese grammar!

Cantonese Adverbs - A photo of grammar books and a chalkboard on the table.

The Role Of Adverbs In The Cantonese Language

In a Cantonese sentence structure, the adverb usually comes directly before the word it’s modifying.

Think of it as the modifier clinging on to the word or words it’s about to change. For instance, take the phrase “好 快” (hou2 faai3), which means “very fast.” Here, “好” (hou2) is an adverb of degree, and it comes right before “快” (faai3), the adjective it’s modifying.

But what if you’re using an adverb with Cantonese verbs? The same rule applies. Take the phrase “佢哋喺度慢慢食” (keoi5 dei6 hai2 dou6 maan4 maan4 sik6), which translates to “They are eating slowly here.” 

The adverb “慢慢” (maan4 maan4), meaning “slowly,” comes right before “食” (sik6), the verb for “eat.”

And when it comes to adverbs of time, they usually sit at the beginning of the sentence.  For example, “聽日我會去” (ting1 jat6 ngo5 wui5 heoi3) translates to “Tomorrow, I will go.” Here, “聽日” (ting1 jat6), the adverb meaning “tomorrow,” is leading the sentence.

Types Of Adverbs In Cantonese

Just as in English, Cantonese adverbs come in various types. Each type has a special role, adding layers of meaning to your sentences. 

Let’s take a closer look.

Adverbs Of Time In Cantonese

Adverbs of time inform us when something happens. Most of these adverbs can describe the time and date in Cantonese. Also, these adverbs usually come at the beginning of the sentence. For instance, “而家” (ji4 gaa1) means “now,” and “將來” (zoeng1 loi4) means “in the future.”

So, if you want to say, “I am eating now,” you would say, “而家我食緊” (ji4 gaa1 ngo5 sik6 gan2). Notice how the adverb of time, “而家” (ji4 gaa1), comes first?

Adverbs Of Degree In Cantonese

Adverbs of degree signify the degree or intensity of an adjective, action, or another adverb. 

One common adverb of degree in Cantonese is “好” (hou2), which means “very.”

For example, if you want to say in Cantonese, “The tea is very hot,” you’d say, “茶好熱” (caa4 hou2 jit6). 

Here, “好” (hou2) modifies the adjective “熱” (jit6), telling us just how hot the tea is.

Adverbs Of Frequency In Cantonese

Adverbs of frequency tell us how often something happens. 

Common adverbs of frequency in Cantonese include “常常” (soeng4 soeng4), meaning “often,” and “有時” (jau5 si4), which is “sometimes.”

Let’s say you want to express, “I often go to the park.” 

In Cantonese, you’d say “我常常去公園” (ngo5 soeng4 soeng4 heoi3 gung1 jyun4). 

The adverb “常常” (soeng4 soeng4) tells us how frequently the action – going to the park – happens.

Adverbs Of Manner In Cantonese

Adverbs of manner describe how something happens. 

In Cantonese, these adverbs usually come right before the verb they’re modifying. 

A common adverb of manner is “慢慢” (maan4 maan4), which means “slowly.”

This is perfect for describing Cantonese personality. So, if you want to say, “He speaks slowly,” you’d say “佢慢慢講” (keoi5 maan4 maan4 gong2). 

Here, “慢慢” (maan4 maan4) comes right before the Cantonese verb “講” (gong2), painting a clear picture of how the action is performed.

Up next, we’ll list down some commonly used adverbs in Cantonese, so stay tuned!

Cantonese Adverbs - A language teacher discussing English grammar and adverbs in Cantonese on a whiteboard while holding a marker.

Most Common Cantonese Adverbs

Armed with the basics, let’s dive into some commonly used Cantonese adverbs. 

We’ll look at each in detail, with example phrases to show how they’re used in everyday life Cantonese conversations.

Adverbs Of Manner

  • 寧願 (ning4 jyun6) – “Preferably/Would rather.” In the sentence “我寧願留喺屋企” (ngo5 ning4 jyun6 lau4 hai2 uk1 kei2), “寧願” (ning4 jyun6) expresses a preference, meaning the speaker would rather stay at home than do something else. This translates to “I preferably/would rather stay at home.”
  • 輕輕地 (hing1 hing1 dei6) – “Gently.” In “佢輕輕地閂門” (keoi5 hing1 hing1 dei6 saan1 mun4), “輕輕地” (hing1 hing1 dei6) describes the manner of the action. This sentence translates to “He gently closes the door.”

Adverbs Of Frequency

  • 幾時都 (gei2 si4 dou1) – “Always.” For instance, “我幾時都鍾意飲茶” (ngo5 gei2 si4 dou1 zung1 ji3 jam2 caa4) means “I always like to drink tea,” indicating that the speaker enjoys drinking tea at all times.
  • 從不 (cung4 bat1) – “Never.” An example could be “我從不抽煙” (ngo5 cung4 bat1 cau1 jin1), which translates to “I never smoke,” showing that the speaker does not smoke at any time.

Adverbs Of Degree

  • 極 (gik6) – “Extremely”. For instance, “今日極凍” (gam1 jat6 gik6 dung3) translates to “Today is extremely cold,” showing a high degree of coldness.
  • 全部 (cyun4 bou6) – “Completely.” For example, “我全部嘔完咗” (ngo5 cyun4 bou6 au2 jyun4 zo2) can be translated as “I have completely vomited,” indicating that the action of vomiting is entirely done.

Adverbs Of Time

  • 早前 (zou2 cin4) – “Earlier.” For instance, “我早前已經食過飯” (ngo5 zou2 cin4 ji5 ging1 sik6 gwo3 faan6) means “I have eaten earlier,” suggesting that the action of eating occurred before the current time.
  • 未來 (mei6 loi4) – “In the future.” An example would be “我未來會學廣東話” (ngo5 mei6 loi4 wui5 hok6 gwong2 dung1 waa2), which translates to “I will learn Cantonese in the future,” indicating the action of learning Cantonese will happen in a future time.

Practical Tips For Using Adverbs In Cantonese

Ready to level up your Cantonese with some adverb action? Hold on, let’s make sure we have some practical strategies in our toolbox first. 

We don’t want to dive in headfirst without a plan, do we?

The Art Of Understanding Context In Cantonese

Think of context as the magic key that unlocks meaning in Cantonese. 

Sure, you can memorize adverbs, but you must understand the context to avoid ending up on a different page during an actual conversation. 

You’ve heard of “實在” (sat6 zoi6), meaning “really” or “truly,” right? 

But did you know it can also express regret in certain contexts? 

If someone says, “我實在好對唔住你” (ngo5 sat6 zoi6 hou2 deoi3 m4 zyu6 nei5), they’re not just being ‘real’ – they’re saying “I’m truly sorry.” 

So, context? It’s a game-changer.

Tones And Adverbs: A Dynamic Duo In Cantonese

Cantonese and tones, they’re like two peas in a pod. 

With six distinct tones, this language sure keeps you on your toes. 

And adverbs? Yeah, they’re in on it too. 

Take “只” (zi2) and “知” (zi1). 

They might look like twins, but their tones make all the difference – “only” and “know” are not exactly interchangeable, are they? 

So, remember to mind your Cantonese tones. Your future self, chatting smoothly in Cantonese, will thank you.

A language tutor teaching her students about Cantonese adverbs in front of a laptop inside a room.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls With Adverbs In Cantonese

Let’s face it, we all goof up when learning something new.

But hey, why not learn from those who’ve been there, done that? Here’s the deal:

First off, adverb placement. 

In English, adverbs are like musical chairs. They can pop up here or there. 

But Cantonese adverbs? They’re more like “before the verb” homebodies. 

So, “我已經食咗飯” (ngo5 ji5 ging1 sik6 zo2 faan6) isn’t about eating ‘already rice’ – it’s “I have already eaten.”

Then, there’s the case of the soundalikes or Cantonese homonyms

You’ve got “突然” (dat6 jin4) and “特然” (dak6 jin4). 

They sound like long-lost cousins but trust me, “suddenly” and “especially” live in different neighborhoods.

And finally, the classic overuse trap. 

Yes, adverbs are great for jazzing up your sentences. 

But too much jazz? It’s like too much hot sauce – use it sparingly.

Phew, that was a handful! 

But with these tips, you’re all set to conquer Cantonese adverbs. 

Ready to take the plunge?

Learn Cantonese Adverbs With Ling!

Who knew Cantonese adverbs could be such an adventure, right? 

We’ve had some fun, uncovered handy tips, and even encountered a few examples along the way. 

And guess what? This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole world of Cantonese waiting for you to discover!

Want to keep the momentum going? With the Ling app, you can! 

It’s not just an app. It’s your personal language coach, ready to guide you through the ins and outs of 60+ fascinating languages.

Dive into fun, interactive lessons, practice with native speakers, and watch your language skills take off. 

With the Ling app, you’re just a click away. Get the app from Google Play and the App Store now!

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