How to Type Pinyin with Tone Marks (Mac OS X Yosemite)


This post covers how to type Chinese Pinyin with tone marks. For example, how to type hànyǔ pīnyīn instead of han4yu3 pin1yin1. I also cover typing actual Chinese characters with pinyin separately for iPhone / iOS, Mac OS X (Yosemite), and Android (Google Pinyin).

Don’t know pinyin? Learn pinyin on your iPhone

Adding an Input Method to type Pinyin Tone Marks

First, open your System Preferences from the Apple menu.

Select System Preferences Mac OS X Yosemite

Then, select Language & Region

Select Language & Region Mac OS X Yosemite

Select Keyboard Preferences… near the bottom of the window.

Language and Region Chinese Mac OS X Yosemite

Make sure Show Input menu in menu bar is checked (near the bottom of the window) so you can see which input method is currently selected by looking at the menu bar.

Then, click the + button under the left column in order to add an additional input source.

Keyboard Preferences Mac OS X Yosemite

First select English in the left column, then scroll down in the right column to find and select U.S. Extended.

Adding an input source Mac OS X Yosemite

Then, click Add to save your choice.

Switching between input methods

Tapping on said menu bar item will reveal the input menu. You can switch back and forth between input methods by selecting the method of choice here.

Switching Input from the Menu - Mac OS X Yosemite

Using keyboard shortcuts to switch between input methods

If you’re like me, you don’t like taking your hands off the keyboard while typing. And, when typing, you’ll often need to switch between English and Chinese. So, let’s set up keyboard shortcuts to quickly switch between English and Chinese Pinyin input methods.

In the same Keyboard Preferences window, select the Shortcuts tab. Then, select Input Sources in the left column. This will reveal the the option for Select the previous input source. Clicking near the right edge of this row will highlight the current shortcut. When highlighted, hold the control key down and press the spacebar. Afterwards, you should see that the shortcut has been set to ^Space.

Setting up Keyboard Shortcuts - Mac OS X Yosemite

From this point on, you can type control-space to toggle between input methods. You can also hold the control key down and tap space (without letting go of the control key!) to reveal a handle input selector.

Input source selector

Note: on Mac OS X Yosemite, the input selector will only appear when using the “Select the previous input source” option and does not appear for the “Select next input source” option.

Typing pinyin with tone marks

Now that you’re all set up, we can finally start typing some tone marks! This part gets a bit tricky, but isn’t too bad once you get the hang of it.

First, open your favourite text editor. Then, switch to the U.S. Extended input method.

First tone

To type a vowel with a first-tone tone mark, first type the following key sequence, then press the vowel key separately.

option
+
a

For example, to type pīn, type the following:

p
option
+
a
i
n

Second tone

Typing a second tone is very similar to typing a first tone:

option
+
e

For example, to type máng, type the following:

m
option
+
e
a
n
g

Third tone

option
+
v

To type hǎo, press the following:

h
option
+
v
a
o

Fourth tone

As you might expect, the process of typing a fourth tone is also much the same:

option
+
~
`

So, to type shùn, type the following keys:

s
h
option
+
~
`
u
n

Typing ü, the 6th vowel in Chinese

Note that just like when typing Chinese via pinyin, the letter v is used to represent ü.

For example, can be typed as follows:

l
option
+
~
`
v

One last thing, if you want to type ü without any tone markers (neutral tone), use the following key sequence:

option
+
u
u

These are all you need to learn to type any pinyin sound with a tone marker!

If you found this article helpful, please take a moment to share it! Also, let me know if you have any questions.




3 comments

  1. Samantha Alvarez - reply

    This was exactly what I needed. Thank you! So many of the other posts about this are out of date, or skip the part about how to actually get US English Extended. Yours included that, and after 45 minutes of trying other (incorrect) methods, yours worked in less than 5 minutes, so thank you.

    • steven - reply

      Hi Samantha, thanks for stopping by, I’m glad I could help!

  2. AC - reply

    You are a life saver- thank you so much for the quick and easy to follow tutorial :).

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