10 Important Chinese Radicals You Must Learn

learn mandarin singapore

Using which radicals are the most common or most important is crucial if you want to learn how to write and read Chinese. Because of that, we took the time to list down the ten most important Chinese radicals that anyone interested in learning mandarin language will want to know.

The Grass Radical “艸” (草)
This is a radical commonly used with Chinese characters related to vegetation and greenery. On its own, this radical does not have any meaning, and while it does appear in most plant-related characters, it doesn’t appear in all of them.

The Water Radical “水”
Just like with the grass radical, the water radical is used with just about anything related to water, usually appearing on the left side. Make sure you don’t confuse the water radical with the ice radical (, bīng), as they look identical.

The Wood Radical “木”
The wood radical is a bit complicated. It appears the same in radical and when used by its lonesome, but it’s also not limited to stuff related to it. Characters like 本 and 来 use the wood radical as their basis in addition to being found on the left of other wood-associated characters such as 树 and 林.

The Hand Radical “手”
The hand radical appears in just about every verb that’s “doing” something, although it will shift to the left on the “hands-on” approach and have one fewer stroke compared to 手.

The Mouth Radical “口”
Though they are very similar, you should not confuse it with the enclosure radical (囗); the mouth radical is usually used along with smaller elements and appears to the left, while larger ones are written last and often as the largest element.

You’ll also often see the mouth radical used for sentence-ending particles as well as words related to the mouth.

The Heart Radical “心”
The heart radical appears in both standard (心) and radical forms (忄), making it one of the more unique radicals used in writing Chinese characters. It can appear to the left of characters, or underneath them.

The Insect Radical “虫”
You’ll find this radical used to describe insects, as well as other animals like crabs.

The Bamboo Radical “竹”
Sporting a similar look to small ‘k’s, you’ll find this bamboo character used on top of other Chinese building materials, including “box” (箱), among others.

The Speech Radical “言”
The speech radical is used for writing Chinese characters like, let’s say, “speech” (词) or “language” (语), and appears differently when used in Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese.

The Silk Radical “糸”
You’ll see the silk radical used often in colours red (红) and paper and silk (纸 ,丝), as well as verbs like “to give” (给).

Remember, if you want to take a Mandarin course in Singapore, make sure that you learn these 10 radicals. Otherwise, you’re going to have a hard time trying to learn to read and write Chinese.


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