You would assume that with pinyin sounds like “zhu” (住) and “ju,” (据) the “u” part would sound the same. Actually, they’re different! The “u” in “zhu” sounds more like the “oo” in “moo,” while the “u” in “ju” sounds more like the letter “u.” You just have to listen very carefully and memorize the patterns.

Each character has only one sound, or syllable, each syllable is formed by Initial (or non-initial) + Final + Tone.

Pinyin has 47 basic letters (or 47 phonemes), of which 23 are initials and 24 are finals. Pinyin letters are fonts borrowed from Latin letters, but pronunciation is unique (see Tip #1), so don’t use English pronouncement. Furthermore, some pinyin letters are composed of two Latin letters, such as “zh”, “ch” and “sh” in the initials. They represent a unique syllable by itself and it is not a combination of z + h, for example.

The Initials and Finals can be connected together to form syllables. Adding “four tones” can accurately pronounce Chinese characters. The finals are like the vowels in the Indo-European language family. Only with it can syllables be formed.

But these 47 phonemes are not sufficient to represent all the characters’ syllables, and we have a back-and-forth history of the development of Pinyin,  This course does not want to make you a perfect Chinese linguist and we will introduce those “addition” in a simplified manner that you just need to know how it sounds, and we might not talk much about why it sounds that way.