Just a quick one today — I realised that I haven't yet explained how to work out where the tone marks go on pinyin transliterations. First, here's a reminder of what Mandarin tone marks look like and what they mean:
- The first tone is high and sustained, indicated with a macron (e.g. 瓜/guā/gourd).
- The second tone is rising, indicated with an acute accent (e.g. 魚/yú/fish).
- The third tone is falling-then-rising, indicated with a caron (e.g. 水/shuǐ/water).
- The fourth tone is falling, indicated with a grave accent (e.g. 肉/ròu/meat).
The tone mark always goes on a vowel, never on a consonant. As for which vowel, there's a handy chart on pinyin.info, but essentially it just works like this:
- If there's an "a" or an "e", it gets the tone mark (you never get both "a" and "e" together in the same syllable).
- If there's an "ou", the "o" gets the tone mark.
- In all other cases, the final vowel gets the tone mark.
Simple! I should also note that if you can't type the accents, you can use numbers to indicate tones — for example, guā would be gua1, yú would be yu2, shuǐ would be shui3, and ròu would be rou4. The "fifth tone", or neutral/toneless tone, is written either without a number or as e.g. fu5.