Shi in Chinese: How To Say It Like A Native

Saying Shi like a native


The “Shhhhh” Is Super Thick

How do you say shi in Chinese like a native? The “sh-“ in Chinese naturally sounds much thicker than in English, because it is a “retroflex” pronunciation of Mandarin. Basically, that’s a complicated way of saying that you need to take your tongue and curl it back against the roof of your mouth. Some languages do this, but English does not. It takes deliberate practice to master.

When your tongue is in the correct place, it creates a wind tunnel effect within your mouth cavity, hence the “thicker” nature of the sound of shi in Chinese. Regarding the vocalized aspect of this syllable, it’s much like trying to say “shrrrrrr.” You do NOT need to move your lips whatsoever. Once you set your mouth in the right position, hold that position throughout the entire articulation of the syllable.

How To Say Shi, The 3rd Most Common Chinese Character

Master the Pronunciation of 是 shì & Get the Respect of Your Chinese Friends
"Shhhh! Be Quiet!" How to say "Sh" in Chinese

It’s More About the “Sh” Than “Shi” in Chinese

A very easy trap to fall into when practicing pronunciation is to think that the retroflex tongue position only applies to the four individual syllables zhi, chi, ri, or shi in Chinese but it’s actually applicable to any pronunciation that starts with zh, ch, sh or r. Regardless of what comes after any of these four initials, your tongue should still be curled back.

Kill the Snake in that Book! Meanwhile, learn more about SH in Chinese

Kill the Snake In Your Book!

So, combine that knowledge of how to say shi in Chinese with a few simple finals to learn the common words.

shā – to kill,
shū – book
shé – snake

The principles of how to pronounce simple finals “A, U & E” respectively are the same. The tongue position and articulation of the “sh-“ is the only thing that you add on top. And there you go, you mastered the shi in Chinese.

And if you want to learn how to produce, understand, and read every Mandarin syllable just like a native speaker in record time go ahead and check out our Pronunciation Mastery Course.