The Chinese language has a basic of 21 initials, 24 finals and 4 tones.The combination of initials and finals can form 413 syllables in common use and they can represent thousands of Chinese characters. How? Because of tones. When an Initial and a final match together, they form a syllable and the syllable can mean at least four different things depending on which tone of the four you use. And of course some words share the same tone but have different meanings and are written differently. To learn more, watch our series on learning basic pinyin.