chinese-numbers

Chinese Numbers: A No-nonsense Guide to Counting from 1 to 1,000 and Beyond!

If you recently started learning Chinese, odds are learning Chinese numbers is one of your first goals.

Numbers are one of the most basic language milestones that many beginners try to surpass in the early phases of language learning, and it’s easy to see why.

Chinese numbers are used for slang, listing quantities, talking about money and so much more.

Yet, a lot of learners get stuck on numbers.

Counting in different languages is possibly one of the most difficult tasks for language learners to overcome. For a lot of people, math in their native language is enough of a challenge.

Lucky for you, Chinese numbers aren’t that difficult. They follow a pattern that’s easy to learn and makes logical sense.

If you’re stuck trying to learn how to count, look no further. This is your all-in-one guide to everything you need to know about Chinese numbers from zero to one billion, as well as how to use them in everyday sentences.
 


 

Tips for Learning Chinese Numbers

Before we learn how to count in Chinese, let’s take a look at some tips that’ll make learning Chinese numbers as easy as one, two, three!

  • Use a Chinese numbers chart. If you’re a visual learner, having a reference chart can be extremely helpful when learning Chinese numbers. Number charts not only make excellent visual aids, but they’re also ordered in a way that makes logical sense. This Chinese number chart from The Language Playground, a language learning site, is an excellent place to start. The downloadable PDF contains a chart with numbers from one to 100, and on the following pages, there are worksheets to test your memory.

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  • See Chinese numbers used in authentic contexts. Watching native Chinese speakers use numbers in real life is a great way to remember the vocabulary. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons. Every video is accompanied by interactive subtitles that let you click on a word or phrase to find out more about it and see it used in other videos. You can also add Chinese numbers and other vocabulary words to customized vocabulary lists and flashcards. Or, test your knowledge of Chinese numbers with fun quizzes. Sign up for a free FluentU trial to see this app in action!
  • Learn a Chinese numbers song. Using songs to learn Chinese numbers makes the process fun and easy. This “Chinese Numbers 1 to 100 Song for Kids” from Math Songs by Numberock is a great one to sing along to. The beat gets stuck in your head, and the lyrics walk you through every number up to one billion.

  • Count using Chinese numbers hand gestures. Did you know that in Chinese, the numbers one through 10 can be counted on just one hand? How does that work? Unlike in many countries, where people count by the number of fingers they hold up, Chinese has its own hand gestures for each number, making it possible to use only five fingers to count to 10. These gestures are fun to learn and can make learning to count easier. Yoyo Chinese has an excellent video tutorial on YouTube that will teach you every gesture in just 24 seconds.

  • Try using spaced repetition. Sometimes, we run across topics in language learning that just won’t stick. If you’re struggling to remember Chinese numbers, give spaced repetition a try. According to an article published by Psychology Today, repeating information over and over again without many breaks between repetitions (called “massed repetition”) in an attempt to memorize it is barely any better than not repeating at all. Spaced repetition, on the other hand, involves reviewing the information in between break periods. So, instead of repeating Chinese numbers over and over, review them in between breaks.

Chinese Numbers: A No-nonsense Guide to Counting from 1 to 1,000 and Beyond!

Chinese Numbers 0-10

Now that you’ve been equipped with the tips needed for a successful Chinese number-learning journey, let’s dive into numbers zero through 10.

The best part about these numbers is that they’ll help you remember every number after them. Think of these numbers as building blocks for numbers 11 and beyond.

(líng) — 0

(yī) — 1

(èr) — 2

(liǎng) — 2

(sān) — 3

(sì) — 4

(wǔ) — 5

(liù) — 6

(qī) — 7

(bā) — 8

(jiǔ) — 9

(shí) — 10

Why are there two ways to say the number two? Here’s something you have to remember: When counting, use (èr), and when listing quantities, use (liǎng). For example, 两个人 (liǎng ge rén) is the correct way to say “two people.” But, if you were counting “one, two, three…” you’d say 一,二,三 (yī, èr, sān).

Chinese Numbers 11-20

Remember how we talked about numbers one through 10 as building blocks? Well, you’re about to see that in action.

What makes learning Chinese numbers easy is the fact that to count beyond 10, you continue to use numbers one through 10 along with basic addition. For example, the number 11 is 十一 (shí yī). The literal translation of this number is “10 plus one.”

Let’s take a look.

十一 (shí yī) — 11

十二 (shí èr) — 12

十三 (shí sān) — 13

十四 (shí sì) —14

十五 (shí wǔ) — 15

十六 (shí liù) — 16

十七 (shí qī) — 17

十八 (shí bā) — 18

十九 (shí jiǔ) — 19

二十 (èr shí) — 20

Notice that the number 20 literally means “two and 10.” Easy, right? The good news is that every other number from 30-90 follows this pattern.

Chinese Numbers 21-99

Let’s begin with counting by tens.

三十 (sān shí) — 30

四十 (sì shí) — 40

五十 (wǔ shí) — 50

六十 (liù shí) — 60

七十 (qī shí) — 70

八十 (bā shí) — 80

九十 (jiǔ shí) — 90

Counting by tens is one of the easiest things to do in Chinese. To form the number, simply think of it as a multiplication problem. For example, the number 50 is the numbers five and 10 combined, as if to say “five times 10.” The number 80 is the numbers eight and 10 combined, such as “eight times 10.”

But what about forming numbers like 22, 57, 68 or 99?

Take a look at numbers 21 to 29.

二十一 (èr shí yī) — 21

二十二 (èr shí èr) — 22

二十三 (èr shí sān) — 23

二十四 (èr shí sì) — 24

二十五 (èr shí wǔ) — 25

二十六 (èr shí liù) — 26

二十七 (èr shí qī) — 27

二十八 (èr shí bā) — 28

二十九 (èr shí jiǔ) — 29

Notice the pattern? The equation is simple: number + ten + number.

Chinese Numbers 100-999

Counting from 100 to 999 is about as easy as counting from 21-99. Let’s take a look at the pattern:

一百 (yī bǎi) — 100

二百 (èr bǎi) — 200

两百 (liǎng bǎi) — 200

三百 (sān bǎi) — 300

四百 (sì bǎi) — 400

五百 (wǔ bǎi) — 500

六百 (liù bǎi) — 600

七百 (qī bǎi) — 700

八百 (bā bǎi) — 800

九百 (jiǔ bǎi) — 900

Pretty simple, right? The formula is as follows: the number one through nine plus (bǎi).

Now, let’s take a look at how to form numbers such as 101, 129, 146 and so on.

一百零一 (yī bǎi líng yī) — 101

一百零二 (yī bǎi líng èr) — 102

一百二十九 (yī bǎi èr shí jiǔ) — 129

一百四十六 (yī bǎi sì shí liù) — 146

四百五十八 (sì bǎi wǔ shí bā) — 458

九百九十九 (jiǔ bǎi jiǔ shí jiǔ) — 999

Notice the pattern: the number one through nine plus (bǎi) plus the number zero through nine plus (shí) plus the number zero through nine.

However, keep in mind that to count from numbers 101 to 109, you must add a (líng) — zero. For example:

一百零一 (yī bǎi líng yī) — 101

一百零二 (yī bǎi líng èr) — 102

一百零九 (yī bǎi líng jiǔ) — 109

When counting from 110 to 119, it’s a little different:

一百一十 (yī bǎi yī shí) — 110

一百一十三 (yī bǎi yī shí sān) — 113

一百一十五 (yī bǎi yī shí wǔ) — 115

一百一十八 (yī bǎi yī shí bā) — 118

一百一十九 (yī bǎi yī shí jiǔ) — 119

The pattern is as follows: the number zero through nine plus (bǎi) plus (yī) plus the number 10-19.

Chinese Numbers 1,000 and Beyond

So far, the patterns of Chinese numbers have been pretty simple and easy to notice. The number system has followed a logical order, and odds are you feel comfortable forming your own numbers from zero to 999.

But what about Chinese numbers above 999?

Here’s where Chinese numbers can get a bit tricky. In English, we continue putting the word “thousand” after numbers one through nine to count to one million. But in Chinese, there’s a new word for ten thousand, and after we reach that number, we never use the word for “thousand” again.

Let’s take a look.

(qiān) — thousand

(wàn) — ten thousand

十万 (shí wàn) — hundred thousand

百万 (bǎi wàn) — million

亿 (yì) — hundred million

十亿 (shí yì) — billion

In Chinese, 1,000 to 9,000 is 一千 (yì qiān) to 九千 (jiǔ qiān).

However, 11,000 is not 十一千 (shí yī qiān). The correct way to say 11,000 is 一万一千 (yī wàn yì qiān), which is literally “10,000 plus 1,000.” Similarly, the number 17,000 is 一万七千 (yī wàn qī qiān), which is 10,000 plus 7,000.

To get from 10,000 to 90,000, the formula is as follows: the number one through nine plus (wàn).

For example, the number 50,000 is 五万 (wǔ wàn). The number 30,000 is 三万 (sān wàn).

What about 58,000? That would be 五万八千 (wǔ wàn bā qiān).

The same applies to numbers 十万 (shí wàn) — a hundred thousand to 十亿 (shí yì) — billion.

How to List Quantities in Chinese: 10 Must-know Measure Words

In Chinese, you can’t simply say “I want two apples.” You have to insert a measure word in between the number two and the word “apples.”

Not only would leaving out a measure word be incorrect, but it would also be extremely difficult to understand.

Measure words are one of the few things in Chinese that many native speakers won’t be able to understand through context. This means that although you might think leaving out a measure word isn’t a big deal, in reality, it is. Native speakers simply won’t understand what you’re trying to say.

Now that you know the importance of using measure words, let’s dive into the first 10 words you should learn.

This measure word can be used to count anything. If you find yourself stuck in a situation where you don’t know which measure word to use, just use (ge/gè).

For example: 两个苹果 (liǎng ge píng guǒ) — two apples

For example: 两只小狗 (liǎng zhī xiǎo gǒu) — two puppies

For example: 三间房 (sān jiān fáng) — three rooms

For example: 八棵树 (bā kē shù) — eight trees

For example: 一张纸 (yī zhāng zhǐ) — one paper

For example: 一双袜子 (yī shuāng wà zi) — one pair of socks

For example: 三辆车 (sān liàng chē) — three cars

For example: 两本书 (liǎng běn shū) — two books

  • (jiā) — used to count buildings, gatherings and establishments

For example: 一家公司 (yī jiā gōng sī) — one company

For example: 三位老师 (sān wèi lǎo shī) — three teachers

 

And there you have it: the all-in-one guide to Chinese numbers from zero to one billion! If you have trouble falling asleep tonight, you can count sheep in Chinese.

Mastering Chinese numbers will take a bit of time and practice, but by following a few strategic tips and recognizing number patterns, the process will become a whole lot easier.

Happy counting!


Brooke Bagley is a freelance writer and passionate language learner. She’s learned Mandarin Chinese for seven years, Spanish for three and Indonesian for one. Aside from languages, Brooke runs her freelance writing business, Writing & Thriving, and specializes in B2B copywriting, content marketing and holistic health and wellness.
 

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