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Understanding Dates in Cantonese: A Cultural and Linguistic Exploration

Updated: Jun 18

Cantonese, widely spoken in Hong Kong, Macau, and parts of Guangdong province, possesses unique attributes in its approach to dates and timekeeping. This blog delves into the intricacies of telling the date in Cantonese, providing cultural insights along the way.

The Calendar Systems

Cantonese speakers traditionally navigate between two calendar systems - the Gregorian calendar and the Chinese lunar calendar. The Gregorian calendar, a solar calendar, is commonly used in everyday life. It is based on Earth's orbit around the Sun, with 12 months in a year. The Chinese lunar calendar, however, is lunisolar, aligning with both the moon phases and the solar year. While not as prevalent in daily life, it remains integral to traditional festivals and agricultural seasons in Chinese culture.

Telling the Date in Cantonese

The basic structure for expressing dates in Cantonese follows a year-month-day format. When verbalising dates, the year is expressed by reading each digit followed by 年 [nin4] (year). For instance, 2023 would be 二〇二三年 [ji6 ling4 ji6 saam1 nin4], literally "two-zero-two-three year."

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