Chinese Pinyin

Difference between J, Q, X Sound: Chinese Pinyin Pronunciation Practice

The Killer Trio Part II: Difference between J, Q, X Sound

Difference between J, Q, X sound is the second part of the Killer Trio. They are the Killer Trio because like Part I – G, K, H sound, the phonetics are very close to one another.

I like to ask my students to use their palms to test for the exhalation of air when they pronounce certain Pinyin words with some Chinese consonants.

Out of the J, Q, X sound, J sound exhales no air when you pronounce the Chinese Pinyin whereas Q sound produces the most. The amount of air released by the X sound is in between J and Q depending on which vowels go with the X consonant.

How to Pronounce J, Q, X Sound?

Think about ‘Romeo and Juliet’. You can associate the J sound with the English alphabet J. Likewise for the X sound, it sounds the closest to the ‘xi’ sound in the English word “axis”.

All Pinyin Q Sounds are not pronounced like the English Q which comes mostly with the vowel ‘u’. Examples are ‘quad’ and ‘quay’. The Chinese Pinyin “Quan” will be pronounced differently from the English word “Quad”.

You will hear how we pronounce the “Quan” word below. Neither is the Chinese Pinyin articulated like the English “Qa” sound ‘Qatar’. You can resonate the Chinese Q sound with familiar words like ‘Qing Dynasty’ and ‘Qigong’.

What Vowels Go with J, Q, X Sound?

An interesting to note is that this group of consonants J, Q, X only goes with the Chinese vowels [ i ] and [ u ]. It will not start with any other vowels.

When J Sound meets Vowel [ i ]

When J sound meets the vowel [ i ], widen your mouth to pronounce the words as shown in the photo.

Wide Mouth Shape when pronouncing some Chinese Pinyin


For practice purpose, maintain your mouth position as in the photo and pronounce all 21 Pinyin words at one go by just adjusting your tongue. If you can read all the above words without moving your mouth, it means you have got the technique and sound correct.

J Sound Exception with Vowel [ i ]

There are 9 Chinese Pinyin that have exceptions with words starting with ‘ji, qi and xi’. You have to move your mouth in order to pronounce these words below.


When J Sound meets Vowel [ u ]

When J sound meets the vowel [ u ] which is in fact, an [ ü | yu ] sound, always protrude your mouth when you read the words below.

Pout Mouth Position: Chinese Pinyin Pronunciation Practice


For practice, maintain your mouth position as in the photo and pronounce all 12 Pinyin words at one go by pouting your mouth. You can move your mouth during the pronunciation. The crucial thing is that you will start and end the mouth shape in the same ‘O’ position if you get the practice right.












Next Pinyin Pronunciation Practice

For the next post on the Difference between Z, C, S and Zh, Ch, Sh Sound, we have something more challenging. We will extract one tone from each sound  Z, C, S like the one that you see above and put them into one group. Concurrently, we have another group using the same vowels but with an ‘h’ sound. There will be images to show you too.

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