#30 Learning Tip: SFPs 4 - gwaa3, wo3/bo3, wo4, and wo5 (English/粵語)

How can this be happening?! In this episode, we dig into SFPs (sentence final particles) useful for expressing surprise, reacting to information that should have been known previously, or relaying sketchy things someone else said that you disagree with.

Basic Sentence-final Particles in Hong Kong Cantonese, by Yuen-lam Tsang

1. 確定 kok3 ding6 (ADJ/V) certain
2. 肯定 hang2 ding6 (ADJ/V) sure
3. 相對 soeng1 deoi3 (ADJ/ADV) relative; relatively
4. 八卦 baat3 gwaa3 (N/ADJ) gossip; nosy
5. 猜測 caai1 caak1 (V) to speculate
6. 典型 din2 jing4 (ADJ) typical
7. 難以置信 naan4 ji5 zi3 seon3 (EXP) unbelievable
8. 誇張 kwaa1 zoeng1 (ADJ/V) exaggerating; to exaggerate
9. 趕時間 gon2 si4 gaan3 (ADJ/VO) in a hurry; to rush
10. 遇到 jyu6 dou2 (V) to encounter, to run into
11. 意外 ji3 ngoi6 (N) accident
12. 爆胎 baau3 taai1 (VO) to have a flat tire
13. 轉換 zyun3 wun6 (N/V) conversion; to convert
14. 突然 dak6 jin4 (ADV/ADJ) suddenly; sudden
15. 秘密 bei3 mat6 (N) secret
16. 主觀 zyu2 gun1 (ADJ) subjective
17. 倒(返)轉 dou3 (faan1) zyun3 (V) to reverse
18. 判斷 pun3 dyun6 (N/V) judgement; to judge
19. 配合 pui3 hap6 (V) to pair with, to coordinate
20. 固定 gu3 ding6 (ADJ/V) fixed; to secure
21. 解釋 gaai2 sik1 (V/N) to explain; explanation
22. 出入 ceot1 jap6 (N/V) difference; to go in and out
23. 完美 jyun4 mei5 (ADJ) perfect
24. 配搭 pui3 daap3 (N/V) pairing; to match
25. 質疑 zat1 ji4 (V) to question
26. 驚訝 ging1 ngaa3 (ADJ) surprised
27. 事實 si6 sat6 (N) fact
28. 純粹 seon4 seoi5 (ADV) purely, simply
29. 覆述 fuk1 seot6 (V) to repeat, to quote
30. 諷刺 fung3 ci3 (ADJ) ironic, sarcastic
31. 反(白)眼 faan2 (baak6) ngaan5 (VO) roll eyes
32. 明顯 ming4 hin2 (ADJ) obvious
33. 鼓勵 gu2 lai6 (V/N) to encourage; encouragement
34. 反應 faan2 jing3 (N) reaction
35. 演戲 jin2 hei3 (VO) to act (in drama)
36. 情感 cing4 gam2 (N) emotion

ADJ - Adjective
ADV - Adverb
EXP - Expression
N - Noun
V - Verb
VO- Verb object


Cameron: So Raymond, today is our 4th episode for discussing SFPs, and we’ve got a few more today to help people add more variety to their Cantonese phrases. So what SFPs will we be discussing today? 

Raymond: 好,噉呢,我諗我哋喺呢一集呢,講幾個唔一樣嘅,呢啲嘅助詞啦,語氣助詞,佢地都好常見嘅。噉但係理解上我諗因為佢哋各自有自己嗰個語氣同埋意思呢,我諗要理解、要明白,唔係好難嘅。第一個,噉我又,不如又考吓 Cameron 喇。當你唔確定1、唔肯定2一件事嘅時候,你可以用咩嘢助詞呀?

(Yes, so in this episode we’ll be discussing many different SFPs that are all different in tone but pretty common. However, I think conceptually, because each one has its own tone and meaning, in terms of comprehension and understanding, they’re not too hard. For the first one, how about I test you, Cameron… When you aren’t sure or not certain about something, what SFP do you use?)

Cameron: Ooh, what SFP would I use if I am not sure about something? 

Raymond: 係呀。


Cameron: “啩”?


Raymond: 係呀,係“啩”,係“啩”。

(Yes, it’s gwaa3.)

Cameron: 係啩?


Raymond: 係,係呢個“啩”。但係“啩”呢其實同普通話有一個相對3嘅。廣東話講“啩”呢,其實等於普通話嘅邊個字?

(Yes, it’s this gwaa3. However, there is a corresponding term in Mandarin for gwaa3. While Cantonese has gwaa3, what word does Mandarin have?)

Cameron: You can add “吧” (ba), can’t you?

Raymond: 係個“吧”字啦。普通話會講個“吧”字,“口”字一個“巴”啦,“巴士”嘅“巴”啦。噉廣東話呢就會講“啩”嘅,“口”字一個“八卦4”嘅“卦”喇。噉所以理解就唔係好難嘅,基本上你唔肯定呀、你要猜、要猜測5嘅時候你就會用個“啩”字啦。例如你話:“你覺得聽日天氣點呀?”噉呀,我唔知呀,我諗落雨啩”噉樣囉。噉 Cameron 不如你又俾返個例子俾我哋啦?

(Yes it’s ba. Mandarin uses the word ba, a mouth radical next to a ba radical, the ba from “bus.” In Cantonese you say gwaa3, a mouth radical added to the gwaa3 from baat3gwaa3 [eight trigrams/gossip]. So understanding it isn’t very hard, it basically means to not be sure, so when you want to guess or speculate, you use gwaa3. For example, you’d say, “Do you think it will rain tomorrow?” “Well, I don’t know, I think it might rain.” Cameron, why don’t you try giving me an example?)

Cameron: Or if I am at a party, and someone’s asking me, “oh, who is he talking to over there across the room?” I could say “應該係佢嘅女朋友啩?” (She’s probably his girlfriend.)

Raymond: 係啦。


Cameron: I think this is his girlfriend, but I am not totally sure. 

Raymond: 係啦,呢個係非常之常聽到啦。呢個係一個好典型6嘅一個例子呀。噉所以呢,“啩”呢,我諗都唔算好難嘅,應該唔係好難啩,係咪,大家?噉呢,同埋呢另外記呢一個呢,仲有一個我哋經常講嘅一句嘅,噉譬如呢次我又講吓英文喇。你如果你覺得一啲事呢,哇好難以置信7呀, “吓,唔係,”即係你覺得係好誇張8嘅,噉你會話 “What?” 噉呢,噉我就會噉樣講嘅,就係“唔係啩?”不如你俾個,你俾個情境我幾時會講“唔係啩”,好唔好呀?

(Yes, you hear this a lot, this is a classical example. I don’t think gwaa3 is very difficult, right everybody? For another instance that I remember I say it a lot–let’s use English as an example–if you think that something is hard to believe, like, “No, it can’t be,” you think it is very over the top, you say, “Really?”--what I’d say is, “M4 hai6 gwaa3?” How about you try and think of a situation where you would use m4 hai6 gwaa3, alright? )

Cameron: Oh, like, you found out that somebody… somebody called you and said there’s a car broke down, like “唔係啩?” like, “Oh that can’t be…” but that happened.

Raymond: 係,係啦。係啦你趕時間9嘅時候跟著你遇到10啲咩嘢意外11呀,架車爆胎12呀,你話“唔係啩?又會咁啱嘅,呢個時候爆胎?”係啦,所以呢個“唔係啩”呢,就經常成句噉樣講嘅,“唔係啩”。你覺得有啲嘢好難相信,“唔係啩”啦。噉所以應該“啩”呢個唔會好難啦。噉我哋不如又轉另外一個,一個嘅助詞喇,另外一個句尾詞喇。噉呢,就係。。。等等我搵緊嗰頁書。噉不如我講多個字先啦。噉呢個呢可能大家都聽得好多嘅,係“喎”,係“喎”。

(Yes, yes. When I’m in a hurry and I have an accident/mishap, like a flat tire, I’ll say, “Really? Just my luck, of all times, getting a flat tire at this moment?” Yes, so this m4 hai6 gwaa3 is usually a full sentence like this, m4 hai6 gwaa3. If there is something that you think is hard to believe, m4 hai6 gwaa3. So this gwaa3 shouldn’t be too difficult. Let’s switch over to another particle, another SFP. This is one… Wait for a second while I look for the right page. How about I bring up another first. This one I think people have heard a lot, it’s wo3.)

Cameron: 嗯。


Raymond: 另外一個,基本上可以同呢個轉換13嘅呢,基本上意思係一樣,係“噃”,所以係 “bo”, “wo” 啦。你係啱啱先知嘅。即係呢,或者係,因為有啲人講,或者有啲事發生令到你“啊,我突然14,我而家先知呢件事”,你會就會講:“係喎,係噃。”例如,我諗吓先,有咩嘢例子好呢?嗱,除咗你啱啱話有人同你講之外,我講返呢,譬如有人會話:“你知唔知呀,原來呢,嗰個秘密15係噉樣㗎。”噉跟著你話:“係喎,你唔講,我而家諗,諗諗吓,又啱喎,啱噃。”噉樣。即係你而家明白咗件事喇,你就會講“喎”同“ 噃”囉。

(Another one that is essentially equivalent and means the same is bo3, so it can be bo3 or wo3. You just found out something, whether because someone said it or you discovered something that made you go, “Ah, I suddenly know it now.” You’d say, “Hai6 wo3, hai6 bo3.” For example, let me think for a moment, what examples are there…? Ah, besides from when someone just told you something, someone might say, “Did you know that was previously a secret?” Then you’d say, “Hai6 wo3, you didn’t mention that, but now that I think about it, it makes sense/fits.” Like that. It means you now just got it, so you’ll say wo3 or bo3.)

Cameron: 嗯嗯嗯嗯嗯。


Raymond: 係,同埋呢樣嘢呢,係你好主觀16嘅睇法嚟嘅。即係又可以倒返轉17呢,你係想令到人、幫人去明白呢件事。噉你會話:“唔得嘅喎,噉樣唔啱嘅噃。”噉樣。即係我,係呀,我要去提醒你呀,即係如果我唔講你都唔知呀噉樣。一啲事嘅,一啲判斷18啦可以噉樣講。係喇,噉所以呢,呢個就係我諗一個比較常見、基本嘅用法啦。噉但係呢,噉我但係呢有陣時,我頭先,或者之前呢,我哋都會話,呢啲嘅語氣嘅,句末嘅助詞呢,你配合19其他字呢,有啲固定20嘅用法或者一啲固定嘅句型嘅。噉例如呢,一個就係加個“點解”,“點解喎”。呢個呢係會經常一齊用嘅。你有冇聽過呀啲人噉樣用呀?“點解喎?我點解要聽佢講喎?”噉你覺得呢個“喎”有咩嘢意思呀?

(Yes, and these things are your subjective opinion, as in it could be reversed, and you want to let someone know or help them understand this thing. You might say, “That’s not right, it’s incorrect.” Like that. If I want to remind you, and if I don’t say something then you wouldn’t know. Some things, some judgments, can be said this way. Yeah, so let me think of a common, basic usage. Actually, first, we would say that these tone words, these SFPs, they fit with other words, and there are set usages or phrases. For example, one is, Dim2 gaai2 wo3 [But why?]. This is used a lot. Have you heard people use it? “But why? Why should I listen to him?” What meaning do you think this wo3 has?)

Cameron: Like unwillingness?

Raymond: 係啦,噉同埋呢個係你有啲唔係好同意嘅。即係你唔明白呀,我請你解釋21、幫我明白呢,點解要噉樣喎,我噉樣做唔得嘅咩,噉樣。噉呢個“點解喎”呢,係會經常一齊用嘅。噉所以你聽到,即係呢好幾個用法都同呢一個“理解”、“明白”係有啲關係嘅。即係你唔講呢個,你唔講呢,我係會唔知,或者對方唔知嘅。噉所以呢個係基本嘅用法啦。噉嗰個聲調嘅一啲嘅變化呢,就會亦都喺意思上就會開始有啲出入22喇。噉呢,嗱,而家你明白咗基本第三聲呢個啦,噉你而家我將佢變成另外兩個聲調,我睇吓你猜唔猜到應該點樣用喇。噉下一個將“wo”呢,變成第四聲,首先應該點樣講呀,“wo”第四聲?

(Yes, and also a tone of disagreement. Like you don’t understand, I am asking you why, help me understand, why is it like that, can’t I do it like that [etc.]. Now this dim2 gaai2 wo3 is often used together [as a set phrase]. So now you’ve heard different usages that are related to comprehension and understanding, as in if you didn’t say something, then I wouldn’t know, or the other party wouldn’t know. So that’s the basic usage. Now if there is a tone change, then the meaning will begin to have a difference. You now have a grasp on the usage of the third tone [version of wo], so I will explain two more tones, and I’ll see if you can guess how they are used. The next “wo” is the one in the fourth tone—first, how would you say that?)

Cameron: “啝 (wo4)”.

Raymond: “啝 (wo4)”。你有冇聽過噉樣講?“啝”,你知唔知幾時用個“啝”呀?睇吓你可唔可以猜到?又可能你已經知喇。

(Wo4. Have you heard this spoken? Do you know how it is used? Can you guess? You might already know.)


Cameron: I’ve heard it when people suddenly find something out. But they didn’t… it’s like a sudden like “oh, so that’s what it is! That’s the way it is!”

Raymond: Yeah, 呢個真係,係啦,就係完美23嘅解釋喇。同埋,即係我應該知嘅,即係我而家先至知,好似有啲遲呀,噉樣。噉呢,另外一個配搭24呢,就係話“原來咩嘢咩嘢啝”、“原來係噉嘅啝,噉我點解會唔知嘅?”噉樣。即係同埋我哋都講過,第四聲呢有少少反問句啦,即係有啲質疑25點解噉樣。噉所以呢,你頭先都話,突然間明白,噉同埋你覺得好驚訝26嘅,你就會話,用個“啝”字喇。不如你試吓又造句啦,好唔好呀?

(Yeah, really, that’s a perfect explanation. Also, it’s something that I should know, but I am just learning it now, a little late. One thing that it fits with is jyun4 loi4 something something wo4. [actually… as a matter of fact… etc.].“It turns out this is the case, how didn’t I know that?” And as we have said, the fourth tone has a bit of a sense of a rhetorical question to it, asking why. So as you just said, when you suddenly understand and are very shocked, you will use this wo4. How about you try making a sentence?)

Cameron: Oh, like if suddenly, one of my friends that I didn’t know speaks Cantonese, suddenly he speaks Cantonese… you know, “你講廣東話啝?”  (You speak Cantonese!?)

Raymond: 係喇,呢個真係好好嘅例子喇。你唔出聲我都唔知,原來你識講嘅啝,噉樣。噉同埋呢你真係覺得非常嘅奇怪、非常之驚訝,你都可以用個“啝”字嘅。即係冇諗過,例如你話“原來來到溫哥華呢,可以唔使講英文嘅啝。”噉樣呢個係一個有啲奇怪,噉但係事實27係噉樣嘅。噉所以就係個“啝”啦。即係極度啦,或者係一啲反問句啦。噉我再將佢變一個聲調啦,變成第五聲喇,“wo”第五聲點講呀?

(Yes, this is a great example. If you didn’t make a noise, then I wouldn’t know that you actually know Cantonese. So when you also think that it’s very strange or you’re very shocked, then you can use wo4. Or when you haven’t thought of something, like, “Actually, in Vancouver, you don’t need to use English.” It’s a little strange, but it’s true, so you can use wo4. It's more extreme, or has a sense of rhetorical question. Now if we change the tone again and make it a fifth tone, how would we say a fifth-tone wo?

Cameron: “𡁜 (wo5).”

Raymond: “𡁜 (wo5)”。“𡁜”,噉呀我又俾你猜吓先,呢個“𡁜”呢,應該係咩嘢意思,或者點樣用?

(Wo5. Now, can you guess what wo5 means or how to use it?)

Cameron: I think this is the one, I know, 5th tone is the one actually supposed to be reported speech, correct?    

Raymond: 係,啱喇,係喇。噉但係係咪純粹28你淨係覆述29呢?你淨係講人哋講嘅嘢呢?仲有冇其他意義呢?

(Yes, that’s right. But is it just purely relaying a statement, repeating what someone said? Is there another meaning?)

Cameron: Well, it can also be linked to the other meaning that we are talking about with, sort of unexpected information, but the tone is different…

Raymond: 嗯。

Cameron: Or the realization where you are less… is less certain?

Raymond: 係喇,差唔多喇。首先你頭先第一個你講得啱啦,即係人哋講嘅,例如,啱啱你話:“我哋嘅老師話聽日要考試𡁜。”噉呀佢講你講返一次。呢個唔代表我係噉樣諗嘅,不過人哋噉樣講啦。噉另外呢,就係再多多少少呢,就係話,即係你有啲諷刺30喇。即係人哋講嘅嘢,但係你一路講呢,你嘅眼呢,反白眼31呀。即係你話,我唔信佢講嘅嘢。“佢話好。。。學廣東話佢話好易𡁜。”噉呢個係咩嘢意思呢你覺得?即係我其實可能都唔同意,我覺得好難囉。

(Yes, that’s roughly it. What you said first was correct, as in it’s when someone says something, and you just said, “We supposedly have a test tomorrow.” So they [the teacher] said it and then you repeated it once. This doesn’t represent what you think, it’s just that someone said it. Also, there’s somewhat of a sense of sarcasm. It’s what someone said, but as you say it, you’re rolling your eyes a bit, suggesting that you don’t trust what they said. “He claims studying Cantonese is so easy.” What do you think that means? Maybe I don’t agree and actually think it’s quite hard.)

Cameron: It's a great way of sort of quoting someone but you're undermining them by expressing your skepticism of what they said.

Raymond: 係呀,同埋呢, 我教呢一個呢,特別係我哋班呢,如果講到第五聲嘅時候呢,我通常會做得好誇張啦。我會講嘢嘅時候一路講呢,我隻眼呢會一路反啦。噉同埋因為呢個第五聲唔係第二聲喎。噉你要落咗去再上返嚟。即係有啲似普通話第三聲,即係其實係低啲嘅。噉所以呢你係誇張啲:“佢話噉樣噉樣𡁜。”噉呢你見到嗰個 arc 呢係好明顯32嘅。

(Yes, and particularly when I teach this in class, when talking about the fifth tone, I’ll say something really over the top. While I speak, I’ll roll my eyes. Also this is the fifth tone and not the second tone, so you want to drop and then come up. It’s like the third tone in Mandarin but a bit lower. You can exaggerate a bit: “She says it’s like this.” You can notice that the arc is very obvious.)

Cameron: 哈哈哈。


Raymond: 要好誇張嘅語氣囉。即係好 dramatic 呀,即係你其實係一個好諷刺嘅語氣。噉樣就幫到大家感覺到、明白到。噉所以我覺得都好好玩係咪?即係你講,你同一句,你加上唔同嘅語氣,甚至淨係變個聲調呢,即係成個,成句說話嘅意思可以好唔一樣。

(You want a very exaggerated tone. It’s very dramatic, it’s actually a very sarcastic tone. It helps everyone perceive or understand. I think it’s pretty fun, right? It’s like if you say the same sentence but add different [semantic] tone, and just change the tone [pitch of the SFP], the meaning of the entire sentence can be different.)

Cameron: Yeah, I know, these are… that’s why I feel you get a lot of bang for your buck when you say the SFPs because it opens up the amount of ways that you can express yourself with just investing and learning, you know, one syllable. 

Raymond: 係呀,同埋我都鼓勵33大家,即係又唔好怕錯啦,噉呀你可以試吓嘅,即係你試吓講,然之後你聽吓對方嘅反應34,即係,佢可能都會理解你多啲個語氣啊,或者如果你用錯都唔緊要嘅,人哋咪最多笑吓囉。噉人哋笑𡁜,冇所謂㗎。

(Yes, and I encourage everyone to not be afraid of making mistakes, you can try it out, try speaking, and then you can listen to the response of the other person. That is, they might understand more of your tone, and if you used it incorrectly, there’s no need to worry, at the very most someone will just laugh. People laugh, it’s no big deal.)

Cameron: Also watch more Cantonese comedy.

Raymond: 係呀。


Cameron: Cause I feel like that's the best way to mimic jokes, and there's also I feel like a lot of jokes. For instance, in old Stephen Chow’s films that people were just references in daily conversations, so if you can pick up from them all the better.

Raymond: 係呀,你睇人哋表演啦,係呀,演戲35,特別係做戲啦,噉因爲你真係要表達,即係你噉多嘅情感36、語氣,噉一定會用上好多好多呢啲嘅句末嘅語氣詞嘅。噉所以呢,你用得多嘅時候呢,你就會發現,哦原來用呢啲嘅語氣詞都唔係咁難嘅噃。

(Yes, you can watch peoples’ performances and see how they act, especially in a play, because then you especially want to convey emotions, tone, etc. so you will use more SFPs. And when you use more, you will discover that using them is not actually that hard.)

Cameron: Raymond 講:“唔係咁難𡁜。”

(Raymond says, “It’s not that hard.”)

Raymond: 哈哈。係喇,噉你,噉即係代表你學到喇,非常好。

(Haha. Yes, this shows that you learned it, great job.)

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