La, Ga, Gae, Ah, Lor sound in Cantonese

2013 March 20
by SWIRLsite

How to use La, Ga, Gae, Ah, Lor sound in Cantonese

Cantonese speakers from Hong Kong often put some funny sound at the end of a sentence; for instance, la, ga, ah, gae, and lor. These are used to imply and emphasize certain emotions, doubts or urgency in a phrase. In the article, we are going to analyse the use of la, ga, ah, gae, and lor in Cantonese conversation.

I. Laa connotes insistence.

English Cantonese Situation Pronunciation
Hurry up! Fai D laa1 In a hurry long sound la1, la like lava
Please let me help you Dung ngoh bong lei laa1! Insist on helping the other person long sound la1, la like lava
Ok, I got it duc laa1 You have understood fully, you don’t need any further explanation.-  OR -You have promised someone to do something and you want that person to stop reminding you to do it. Long sound la1, la like lava
Please wait, it will be your turn soon Dung ha laa1 Urge someone to be patient long sound la, la like lava
Come over Guo lai laa1 Persuade someone to come near you long sound la, la like lava

 

II. Ga connotes questions or doubts

English Cantonese Situation Pronunciation
What is this? Meh-lei gaa1? Curious about an object or food that you don’t know. long sound ga, ga like garage
Is it for real? Hai-maei tzun gaa1? Ask if something is real or not. It could be for goods, bargain and promises. long sound ga, ga like garage
Do you really know it? Lei sic mh sic gaa1? Ask if the person really know what he/she is doing, talking or teaching. long sound ga, ga like garage
Why is it/he/she still not here? Dim-gai chung mei dou gaa1? Wondering why something/someone still hasn’t arrived yet long sound ga, ga like garage
Really? Seriously? Lei gong tzun gaa1? You are not sure if you can believe what has just been said long sound ga, ga like garage

 

III. ah connotes uncetainty or exaggeration

English Cantonese Situation Pronunciation
What’s the matter with you? Yau-mo gau chor ah3! Someone has done something that irritates you. ah is flat tone, like when you say “Argentina” =  ah
I am full (very) Ho bao ah4! Emphasize the feeling of being full; can be used with other adjectives ah is flat tone, like when you say “Argentina” =  ah
Can I? May I? Hor-mh-hor-yee ah3? Asking for permission to do something; ah connotes “please let me” ah is flat tone, like when you say “Argentina” =  ah
What’s up? Dim ah3? Informal greetings among friends ah is flat tone, like when you say “Argentina” =  ah

 

IV. gae – used in a doubtful situation, or used as how come in a sentence

English Cantonese Situation Pronunciation
How come it’s not working? Dim-gai mh duc gae2?Duc – it’s working/ functioning You are trying to work out sth but to no avail; gae – doubtful, how come Gae, rising tone
How come it doesn’t switch on? Mh cheut gae2?Cheut – switch on You are trying to switch on a piece of electric appliance but it doesn’t work Gae, rising tone
How come it’s disappeared? Mh geen tsor gae2? You say it when sth has disappeared. Gae, rising tone

 

V. Lor – used to draw attention, demonstrate or reiterate

English Cantonese Situation Pronunciation
This is how you do it. Gum-yeung chou lor1 Lor – demonstrate; you say it when you are showing sb how to do sth Lor – high tone, flat; like “Lora” – Lor
It’s really his/her fault. Hai kuei mh aam lor1 Lor – to reiterate; you say it when you want to emphasize it is his/her fault Lor – high tone, flat; like “Lora” – Lor
I have already paid! Maei bei chor lor3Bei – to pay or to give, be ichor – had just paid Lor – emphasize an action is completed. Lor – high tone, flat; like “Lora” – Lor
Being sick again! Yao baang chor lor3Yao – again;Baang – sick Lor – emphasize “again” Lor – high tone, flat; like “Lora” – Lor

 

To conclude, I have laid out the general rules for the use of la, ga, gae, ah and lor that Cantonese speakers usually add at the end of a sentence. However, you will definitely be hearing a lot more of them as you interactive with Cantonese speakers or simply as you eavesdrop in the streets. Don’t be shy to ask and find out what they imply.

by Lucy Cheah

Have questions or comments? Contact me: lucy.cheah@hillslearning.com

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