zuo4cuo4 is the pinyin-notation for 做错 = doing wrong.
To my ear zuo4 and cuo4 sound very similar.

I need the IPA notation to understand the difference in articulation.

3 Answers 3


Pinyin: zuò cuò

IPA: [t͡swo˥˩ t͡sʰwo˥˩]

The difference between the Pinyin z and c is that the latter is aspirated.

  • 1
    Or, for English speakers where non-cluster consonants are always aspirated, it might be helpful to say that the former is unaspirated. To many English speakers ears unaspirated sounds are close to voiced sounds so /ts/ can sound like /dz/. This won't be the case for Chinese speakers though who are used to all three (voiced, unaspirated, aspirated). Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 3:34
  • i've always taken issue with the practice to deny Chinese, Korean, and Tibetan /b,d,g/ and insist on /t—th/ etc for the lenis/fortis opposition. i recommend /duo/, /tuo/, /dzuo/, /tsuo/ for 多托作錯. phonological analyses should strive for simplicity, practicality, and appropriateness. that said, in phonology we can e.g. posit that the nucleus of /dzuo/ is the same as that of /gei, dʑie/, so we get series of oppositions /gua—guɵ, gau—gɵu, gai—gɵi, dʑia—dʑiɵ/. it's all about the differences. make sure your your /dz/ sounds mellow and your /ts/ forceful, and that your sound system works out.
    – flow
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 18:16
  • /tsuo\| ts'uo\|/, in fact. So, this answer is not exact Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 4:57

There is also the issue of tone sandhi. In this combination zuo4 does not descend as low as as cuo4.


IPA just provides a set of letters and diacritics with descriptions of what sounds they represent.

It doesn't provide rules for how these must be used for any particular language. Hence you will find for many languages, including English and Mandarin Chinese, that many sources will use the IPA a bit differently.

The English Wiktionary doesn't yet provide IPA for this term but I'm requesting it. In the meantime, by piecing together pieces of other entries there I'd say the current editors working on Chinese would render it into IPA this way:

/t͡su̯ɔ⁵¹ t͡sʰu̯ɔ⁵¹/

But I think tone sandhi is going to change it again so I'll provide an update when I have one...

And the answer is in. Check the new English Wiktionary entries for 做错 and 做錯:

/t͡su̯ɔ⁵¹⁻⁵³ t͡sʰu̯ɔ⁵¹/


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