Chinese Numbers – The Ultimate Guide

Chinese Numbers – LTL’s Comprehensive Guide to Learning Mandarin Chinese Numbers

Chinese Numbers from 0-10

Chinese Numbers from 0-10

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

Chinese Numbers 1-20

Chinese Numbers 1-100

Chinese Phone Numbers – How to Say Yours

When Is Your Birthday in Chinese

Your Age in Chinese

Chinese Finger Counting

The Curious Case of Liang

What the experts say

BONUS – Big Chinese Numbers
How to Pronounce the 0, 1 and 2 in Large Numbers

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

Number Hanzi Pinyin
0 零 / 〇 Líng
1
2 Èr
3 Sān
4
5
6 Liù
7
8
9 Jiǔ
10 Shí

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:

Number Hanzi Pinyin
11 十一 Shí yī
12 十二 Shí èr
13 十三 Shí sān
14 十四 Shí sì
15 十五 Shí wǔ
16 十六 Shí liù
17 十七 Shí qī
18 十八 Shí bā
19 十九 Shí jiǔ
20 二十 Èr shí

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:

Number Hanzi Pinyin
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
30 三十 Sān shí
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
40 四十 Sì shí
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
50 五十 Wǔ shí
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
60 六十 Liù shí
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
70 七十 Qī shí
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
80 八十 Bā shí
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
90 九十 Jiǔ shí
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
100 一百  Yì  bǎi

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.

Chinese Phone Numbers

Chinese Phone Numbers

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:

Chinese Numbers - Learn them and it opens many doors

Chinese Numbers – Learn them and it opens many doors

13439191994

To say this number we simply say: Yao, San, Si, San, Jiu, Yao, Jiu, Yao, Jiu, Jiu, Si

13866889988

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:

Year

Pinyin:nián

Meaning: year

Month

Pinyin: yuè

Meaning: month

Date

日( formal Chinese)

Pinyin: rì

meaning: date

Date (Oral)

号(oral Chinese)

Pinyin: hào

meaning: date

Chinese birthday numbers

How to Say Your Birthday in 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)

Easy!

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:

Hanzi Pinyin English
suì year; age
what number; which number
duō how much
big; old

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.

Lucky Numbers in Chinese

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:

Chinese hand counting

Counting with One Hand in Chinese

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

Number 2 in Chinese

Number 2 in Chinese

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:

  • (liǎng) is used when counting people or things
    • 两个人(liǎng gè rén) is two people
  • 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

Lindsay from Lindsay Does Languages

Lindsay from Lindsay Does Languages

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.

Big Numbers in Mandarin - 1,000

Big Numbers in Mandarin – 1,000

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)

All clear?

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

Big Numbers in Chinese = Ten Thousand

Big Numbers in Chinese = Ten Thousand

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:

BIG Chinese Numbers - A BILLION

BIG Chinese Numbers – A BILLION

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

Learning Big Numbers - A Hundred Million

Learning Big Numbers – A Hundred Million

9,9999,9999,9999

As we learned, you should read every 4-digit group as 9999 九九 (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

九兆 九千九百九十九亿九千九百九十九万九千九百九十九

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).

Headache with Chinese Numbers? Read on, we can help!

Headache with Chinese Numbers? Read on, we can help!

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:

  1. 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).

  1. 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

  1. 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:

Chinese Numbers - The Ultimate Guide

Chinese Numbers – The Ultimate Guide

  • 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.

2,222  =两千两百二十二

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

Further Reading

Does the Chinese Alphabet even exist?

Does the Chinese Alphabet even exist?

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:

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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  • John Avatar John

    Hey LTL, really like the post and learnt a lot about Numbers.

    The videos were super useful, thanks

    John

    Reply
  • Campbell Alizzi Avatar Campbell Alizzi

    Hi John,
    Really appreciate the comments. Plenty more videos to come via our YouTube Channel here >>> https://www.youtube.com/LTLMandarinSchool

    Reply
  • 唐龙 Avatar 唐龙

    Thank you for the nice explanations. I would like to add one correction:

    Chinese counting system:
    1万=1,00000
    1亿=1,0000 万 = 1,0000,0000
    1兆=1,0000 亿 = 1,0000,0000 万 = 1,0000,0000,0000

    American counting system:
    1万 = 10,000
    1亿 = 100,000,000 = 100 Millions = 0.1 Billions
    1兆 = 1,000,000,000,000 = 1 Trillion (not 1 Billion)

    Reply
    • LTL Team HQ Avatar LTL Team HQ

      Thanks for your feedback 唐龙

      Numbers are an interesting element to learn in Chinese. They open so many doors!

      LTL Team

      Reply