Regarding tone sandhi

I understand that the pinyin of 你好 is written as nǐhǎo, although it is pronounced níhǎo due to tone sandhi. The same goes with 很好 (pinyin hěnhǎo, but pronounced hénhǎo). Or 可以(pinyin kěyǐ, though pronounced kéyǐ). Many others, of course.

My question is why 不是 is not shown in the same format. It is currently shown as búshì, instead of bùshì(though still pronounced búshì because of tone sandhi) unlike the others.

here you go: Tone change rules - Chinese Pronunciation Wiki

不 and 一 are a special case

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The website gives 一 and 不 as two of the three ‘essential’ tone changes everyone should know: meaning there are lots more out there.

I am aware that these are special cases. But, why are they not written in their original forms? Even the website states this:

Why Tone Changes Are Not Written

Normally the tone changes above are not written in the pinyin; you are supposed to just know the rule and apply it if you say the word(s) aloud. The reason for this is that in many cases if the tone change is written, you will be confused as to what the “normal” tone of a character is actually supposed to be.

For example, you might wonder, “is this a third tone written as a second tone because it’s followed by a third tone, or is this character always a second tone?” Always writing the original tones solves this problem. But it also means that you really need to know your tone change rules. Learn them well!

This is exactly what I meant in my first question.
Maybe if I phrased it differently: there are four instances I found where words which have tone changes are not written (which is the standard way), but I found an outlier (不是) in which the tone change is written. Why is that?

Here you go: Mandarin tone changes in Skritter

Here’s the bit answering your specific question:

Consider the difference between writing 你好 as “nǐhǎo” (without tone change) and “níhǎo” (with tone change). In the first case, you know the correct pronunciation by memorising a simple rule (3 + 3 = 2 + 3), but in the second case, you can’t know if it’s actually 2 + 3 or 3 + 3, you would need to look up the character individually to learn which one it is.

Thus, if we wrote “níhǎo”, we would destroy valuable information for students. Thus, we write “nǐhǎo” instead. You have to learn the 3 + 3 = 2 + 3 rule anyway, there’s no escaping that.

This isn’t the case for 一 and 不, because it’s never a problem what the original tones are for these characters; they are first tone and fourth tone, period.

In other words, it’s a pedagogical decision! Most dictionaries list them only with first tone and fourth tone, respectively.


Thanks! I fully get it now. Great article!

actually there is a small problem with that. there are quite a lot of words that you have not manually entered and instead are sourced automatically from one of you backing dictionaries and in these cases the reading always contains yi as yi1 making it inconsistent across the website.

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Yes, but I would argue that that is a problem with the words as they are currently listed in Skritter, not a problem with the policy in general. I encourage anyone to report such issues so that they can be updated!