Chinese Numbers – LTL’s Comprehensive Guide to Learning Mandarin Chinese Numbers
Here’s the deal:
Chinese Numbers are an essential part of day to day life and one of the first things you’ll study when learning Chinese.
How can we help?
We’ve prepared this ultimate guide to Mandarin Chinese numbers which covers numbers in Chinese up to the heady heights of millions and billions.
Also included are important aspects such as saying your age in Chinese, your phone number, and introducing you to the two curious variations of 1 and 2…!
When learning Chinese numbers, the first approach is pretty basic:
A horizontal stroke 一 (yī) means 1, two horizontal strokes, 二 (èr), represents the number 2, three strokes, 三 (sān), as you can easily imagine, they means the number 3!
Then, of course, it’s not all about parallel horizontal strokes.
Once you’ve learned the characters that represent 4 (四 sì), 5 (wǔ), 6 (六 liù), 7 (七 qī), 8 ( 八 bā), 9 (九 jiǔ) and 10 (shí), Chinese numbers, up to 99 (九 十九 jiǔshíjiǔ), are quite easy to learn.
Let’s get stuck in
Chinese Numbers 0-10
The basics, the ones you need to know.
Notice how easy characters one, two and three are to remember!
From then in, it gets a bit more complex but a bit of practice and you’ll be there in no time
|0||零 / 〇||Líng|
Chinese Numbers 1-20
So we already know numbers in Chinese up to 10, time to take that to the next level.
Here is 11-20 in Chinese:
Chinese Numbers 1-100
You’ve now mastered the basics, so from 21-100 it should be pretty straightforward with the same theory applying for every number.
Numbers in Chinese from 21-100 are as follows:
|21||二十一||Èr shí yī|
|22||二十二||Èr shí èr|
|23||二十三||Èr shí sān|
|24||二十四||Èr shí sì|
|25||二十五||Èr shí wǔ|
|26||二十六||Èr shí liù|
|27||二十七||Èr shí qī|
|28||二十八||Èr shí bā|
|29||二十九||Èr shí jiǔ|
|31||三十一||Sān shí yī|
|32||三十二||Sān shí èr|
|33||三十三||Sān shí sān|
|34||三十四||Sān shí sì|
|35||三十五||Sān shí wǔ|
|36||三十六||Sān shí liù|
|37||三十七||Sān shí qī|
|38||三十八||Sān shí bā|
|39||三十九||Sān shí jiǔ|
|41||四十一||Sì shí yī|
|42||四十二||Sì shí èr|
|43||四十三||Sì shí sān|
|44||四十四||Sì shí sì|
|45||四十五||Sì shí wǔ|
|46||四十六||Sì shí liù|
|47||四十七||Sì shí qī|
|48||四十八||Sì shí bā|
|49||四十九||Sì shí jiǔ|
|51||五十一||Wǔ shí yī|
|52||五十二||Wǔ shí èr|
|53||五十三||Wǔ shí sān|
|54||五十四||Wǔ shí sì|
|55||五十五||Wǔ shí wǔ|
|56||五十六||Wǔ shí liù|
|57||五十七||Wǔ shí qī|
|58||五十八||Wǔ shí bā|
|59||五十九||Wǔ shí jiǔ|
|61||六十一||Liù shí yī|
|62||六十二||Liù shí èr|
|63||六十三||Liù shí sān|
|64||六十四||Liù shí sì|
|65||六十五||Liù shí wǔ|
|66||六十六||Liù shí liù|
|67||六十七||Liù shí qī|
|68||六十八||Liù shí bā|
|69||六十九||Liù shí jiǔ|
|71||七十一||Qī shí yī|
|72||七十二||Qī shí èr|
|73||七十三||Qī shí sān|
|74||七十四||Qī shí sì|
|75||七十五||Qī shí wǔ|
|76||七十六||Qī shí liù|
|77||七十七||Qī shí qī|
|78||七十八||Qī shí bā|
|79||七十九||Qī shí jiǔ|
|81||八十一||Bā shí yī|
|82||八十二||Bā shí èr|
|83||八十三||Bā shí sān|
|84||八十四||Bā shí sì|
|85||八十五||Bā shí wǔ|
|86||八十六||Bā shí liù|
|87||八十七||Bā shí qī|
|88||八十八||Bā shí bā|
|89||八十九||Bā shí jiǔ|
|91||九十一||Jiǔ shí yī|
|92||九十二||Jiǔ shí èr|
|93||九十三||Jiǔ shí sān|
|94||九十四||Jiǔ shí sì|
|95||九十五||Jiǔ shí wǔ|
|96||九十六||Jiǔ shí liù|
|97||九十七||Jiǔ shí qī|
|98||九十八||Jiǔ shí bā|
|99||九十九||Jiǔ shí jiǔ|
Chinese Phone Numbers – How to Say Yours
Now you know Chinese numbers from 1-100 the phone number should be easy!
One important thing to note:
When referring to phone numbers the Number One is not spoken as Yì 一 but instead Yāo 幺 is used. The general belief is that One and Seven sound similar when spoken quickly, hence the introduction of Yao.
Therefore if the start of your phone number reads 136 you will say:
Yao San Liu, not Yi San Liu.
In English we have a habit of sometimes grouping numbers together, such as “0 Eight Hundred” for 0800 or “Twenty Two, Treble One, Nine” for 221119.
In Mandarin Chinese this is not the case. All individual numbers are spoken making it easy to remember. Once you know the numbers 0-10 you are good to go. Just remember, Yao, not Yi!
Let’s practice, take a look at these:
To say this number we simply say: Yao, San, Si, San, Jiu, Yao, Jiu, Yao, Jiu, Jiu, Si
If this is your phone number, you are blessed. Why?
Take a look at our Chinese Lucky Numbers blog for the answer
Anyway, the number: Yao, San, Ba, Liu, Liu, Ba, Ba, Jiu, Jiu, Ba, Ba
When Is Your Birthday in Chinese
Saying when your birthday is in Chinese is also quite comfortable once you know these key characters/words:
日( formal Chinese)
So here’s the deal:
My Birthday is November 24th. In Chinese the order of speech is Year, Month, Date so on that basis…
11月24号 (Shi Yi Yue, Er Shi Si Hao) is how I’d say my birthday in Chinese!
If I want to add in the year you can just use the final two numbers of the year. So for example if you were born in 1986 you can refer to your year of birth as:
86年 (Ba Liu Nian)
Your Age in Chinese
Once you know the numbers, age is pretty elementary stuff. Before learning about Age, let’s learn some key vocab here:
|几||jǐ||what number; which number|
Before telling someone your age you’ll want to wait for them to ask you first!
Expect to hear one of these two questions:
nǐ duō dà – 你多大？
nǐ jǐ suì – 你几岁？
The second question is most likely said to a younger person such as a teenager but expect to hear one of those two questions to which you can reply.
我二十九岁 – Wǒ Èr Shí Jiǔ Suì
I am 29 years old
Nice and simple.
You already know the number 29 so you simply add the word for “I” before and the word for “Age” after.
Chinese Finger Counting
You might be wondering what this chapter is about but hear us out:
In many cultures we gesture numbers with our fingers but we normally just hold up the number of fingers to communicate the number. For 1-5 this is OK but for 6-10 this is a bit more troublesome if one of our hands is holding our phone or a bag of shopping.
Well, the Chinese are one step ahead of us.
Every number in Chinese can be communicated by using just one hand!
Want to know the best part?
When you’ve learned them, you will see them everywhere and they are incredibly useful in day to day life! Let’s reveal them:
Learn these, and rather than have to shout over the busy crowds, you’ll be able to communicate from afar with these useful hand gestures in Mandarin Chinese!
The Curious Case of Liang 两
We touched on how One can be spoken in two ways earlier. Well the same applies for Two!
It’s not so complex though, remember in English we use Nought and Zero for 0.
Two is Er 二 in Chinese but in certain situations this switches to Liang 两
Here are a couple of those reasons:
- 两 (liǎng) is used when counting people or things
- 两个人(liǎng gè rén) is two people
- 两 is also used as the first digit in two hundred (两百), two thousand (两千)
- Note for 221, only the first digit is changed to liang meaning 221 reads Liang Bai Er Shi Yi
To find out more about the differences between 两 and 二 please visit our blog dedicated to Er and Liang.
What The Experts Say
When starting out, or maybe at a brick wall, it’s always good to take the advice of someone who made it!
Step forward Lindsay from Lindsay Does Languages.
Lindsay is a fluent Mandarin speaker and has her own website to showcase her knack for languages.
Here is what she has to say about learning Chinese numbers…
Numbers are surprisingly easy in Chinese – and logical! Within a matter of just a couple of hours, you’ll be able to count really high because it all connects together so well. One thing that is worth learning in addition, especially if you’ll be visiting China any time soon, is how people indicate numbers with their fingers because this is different from the expected…!
BONUS – Big Chinese Numbers
This section is kindly brought to you by former LTL Student and Intern who now works for LTL on a freelance basis – Marie Fornabaio
Beyond the number 99, when counting in Chinese, you need to use characters that represent hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, etc… as this might seem confusing.
Because of this we have a couple of tricks for counting BIG CHINESE NUMBERS!
Firstly, check out our simple How To video series to find out how to say the biggest numbers in Chinese!
#1 Trick for counting in Chinese
The first trick to learn Chinese numbers quickly is to change the way you consider them
EASY – When we write the number 23 (二十 三 èr shí sān) in Chinese, for example, we literally have a 2-10-3.
It is very elementary to understand, but, if you consider 10 十 (shí) as a “measure word for tens”, learning Chinese numbers over hundreds and thousands gets a way easier indeed.
In fact, if you stick to this line of thinking, you consider:
百 (bǎi) as a “measure word” for hundreds
Example: 999 = 九百 九 十九 – 9 hundreds – 9 tens – 9 (units)
千 (qiān) as a “measure word” for thousands
Example. 9999 = 九千 九百 九 十九 – 9 thousand – 9 hundreds – 9 tens – 9 (units)
Eventually, we could now add the character 万 wàn to this series of “numeral measure words” to be able to read most of the numbers that you commonly see newspapers, TV, etc.
So, let’s consider…
万 (wàn) as a”measure word” for tens of thousands
Example. 99999 = 九万 九千 九百 九 十九 – 9 tens of thousands – 9 thousand – 9 hundreds – 9 tens – 9 (units)
Learning the sequence from thousands 千, hundreds 百, to tens 十 and units (simple numbers) should make it easier for you to read numbers beyond tens of thousands.
Generally, when teachers start to explain how to count beyond 10000, many of those students who have decided to study a foreign language to stay away from numbers start to feel dismayed. But … here comes our magic ….
#2 Trick for counting in Chinese
Why don’t Chinese people directly count from thousands to millions just like Westerners do? The answer to this question is the key to read all kinds of numbers in Chinese!
For the ease of the reader, when writing big numbers, Westerners normally separate them with a comma, in groups of 3 digits, from right to left (eg 99,999).
When counting in Chinese, numbers are generally separated (from right to left) in groups of 4 digits: 99,999 ⇒ 9,9999
All that clear?
To sum up, when counting big numbers in Chinese, it would be better to separate them into groups of 4 digits and to keep in mind that each group of 4 contains the sequence “千 – 百 – 十 – unit” (thousands-hundreds-tens-units).
Now that you know the 3 characters needed to count up to 10,000, one last little effort is needed:
You only need to learn 2 more characters in order to be able to read numbers up to the billions in Chinese.
Oh yes, only 2 more characters are needed!
亿 (yì) “measure word” for hundreds of millions
兆 (zhào) “measure word” for billions
If the explanation you had in class about “Counting beyond 10,000 in Chinese” seemed a way more complicated than this, remember that it is only a matter of perspectives.
Once you divide a big number into groups of 4 digits with a comma, all you have to do is to replace every comma you added with the relative “numeral measure word” and you’re done!
For example, if we take this number – 9,999,999,999,999
(nine trillion nine hundred ninety-nine billion nine hundred ninety-nine million nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine)
According to the Chinese way it will be divided as follows
As we learned, you should read every 4-digit group as 9999 九千 九百九十九 (Jiǔqiān jiǔbǎi jiǔshí jiǔ). The only and last thing you need to do now is to replace our so-called “numeral measure word” with commas, as follows:
9 兆 9 亿 9 万
And now, from left to right we will read
This reads – Jiǔ zhào jiǔqiān jiǔbǎi jiǔshíjiǔ yì jiǔqiān jiǔbǎi jiǔshíjiǔ wàn jiǔqiān jiǔbǎi jiǔshíjiǔ
How to pronounce the digits 0, 1 and 2 in large numbers?
When studying the Chinese numbers, one of the first characters you learn is 零 líng (zero). Everything seems super easy with it until you learn big numbers in Chinese and you start doubting about whether to pronounce it or not.
There are 3 simple rules to pronounce the digit zero in big numbers so… let’s study them all!
REMEMBER – As you already learned above, the easiest way for counting in Chinese is to divide big numbers into groups of 4 digits and to match each digit the corresponding “numeral measure word” (千 for thousands,百 for hundreds, 十for tens, and nothing for units).
When there is one or more 0 in a group of 4 digits, all you have to keep in mind are these 3 simple rules:
- Do not pronounce the “numeral measure word” when it corresponds to 0
3,038 = 三千零三十八 sānqiān líng sānshíbā (as 百 corresponds to 0, there’s no need to pronounce it).
308三百零八 sānbǎi líng bā (as 十 corresponds to 0 there’s no need to pronounce it).
- Pronounce just one zero when there is more than one 0 in a group of 4 digits
00 = 零零 => 零
3,008三千零八 sānqiān líng bā
- Do not pronounce 0 (or a group of 0) when it is at the end of a number (just ignore the 0）
8,000 八千 bāqiān
8,300 八千三百 bāqiān sānbǎi
800 八百 bābǎi
830 八百三十 bābǎi sānshí
80 八十 bāshí
How to pronounce the digit 1 in large numbers?
As the easiest Chinese character to draw, the number one “一” (yī) is also very easy to use.
What many Chinese students don’t know, is that the pronunciation of the character 一 may vary from yī to yì according to its position in a number. Therefore, there are two rules to keep in mind:
- When 1 is in the position of thousands or hundreds it is pronounced as yì, when in tens or units it is pronounced as yī
1,111 =一千一百一十一 （ yì qiān yì bǎi yī shí yī ）
1,831= 一千八百三十一 （ yì qiān bā bǎi sān shí yī ）
- When 1 is in numbers from 10 to 19, you just consider it as a ten so you pronounce it as 十 shí:
You just say 十 10 (shí), 十一 11 (shíyī), 十二 12 (shíèr) … etc.
How to pronounce the digit 2 in large numbers?
As you know, the digit 2 has two different pronunciations in Chinese：it can be pronounced as 二 (èr) or as 两 (liǎng).
QUESTION – How to distinguish when to pronounce 2 as 二èr or as 两liǎng in big numbers?
When 2 is in the position of thousands or hundreds it is pronounced as 两 liǎng, when it is in tens or units it is pronounced as 二 èr.
To learn more about the difference between 二 and 两, follow this link!
Concluding Big Chinese Numbers
In conclusion, by dividing big numbers into groups of 4 digits (from right to left) and replacing each comma with the relative “numeral measure word” – from right to left, 万 (wàn), 亿 (yì) and 兆 (zhào) – we will be able to read any number in Chinese up to billiards.
Any doubts or doubts about this very personal and debatable theory? Leave a comment!
Editor’s note* the purpose of this article is only to facilitate the study of the Chinese numbers to those who, just like me, have experienced difficulties in understanding them. As already underlined, these “tricks” have no confirmation in official sources, therefore, I ask you to take them as a personal solution and to be lenient in the judgement of the person who conceived them – Marie F
Oh we’ve always got more. No one does content regarding China quite like we do so here’s some others we think you’ll like:
- We’ve done numbers but what about the alphabet? We’ve covered pretty much every question we’ve ever been asked about the Chinese Alphabet/Characters!
- We mentioned them above but in case you missed it Chinese Lucky Numbers is quite a thing here!
- It’s great to know some Chinese Slang when you live in China, or are preparing to move to China.
Oh there’s so much more than that!
Enjoy and drop us a comment below if you have any feedback on learning Chinese numbers whether you are a beginner, intermediate or an advanced learner of Chinese.
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