chinese-numbers

Chinese Numbers from 1 to 1,000 and Beyond

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

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

Luckily, they follow a pattern that’s easy to learn and makes logical sense.

Here’s your guide to Chinese numbers from one to 1,000 (and more!) as well as how to use them in everyday sentences.

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Chinese Numbers 0-10

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.

ChinesePinyinNumber
líng0
1
èr2
liǎng2
sān3
4
5
liù6
7
8
jiǔ9
shí10

Why are there two ways to say the number two?

When counting, use (èr). 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 I said that numbers one through 10 are building blocks? Well, you’re about to see that in action.

When you 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.

ChinesePinyinNumber
十一shí yī11
十二shí èr12
十三shí sān13
十四shí sì14
十五shí wǔ15
十六shí liù16
十七shí qī17
十八shí bā18
十九shí jiǔ19
二十èr shí20

Notice that the number 20 literally means “two and 10.”

Easy, right? The good news is that every other number from 30-99 follows this pattern.

Chinese Numbers 21-99

Let’s start with counting by tens.

ChinesePinyinNumber
三十sān shí30
四十sì shí40
五十wǔ shí50
六十liù shí60
七十qī shí70
八十bā shí80
九十jiǔ shí90

To form the number, just 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.

ChinesePinyinNumber
二十一èr shí yī21
二十二èr shí èr22
二十三èr shí sān23
二十四èr shí sì24
二十五èr shí wǔ25
二十六èr shí liù26
二十七èr shí qī27
二十八èr shí bā28
二十九èr shí jiǔ29

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

ChinesePinyinNumber
一百yī bǎi100
二百èr bǎi200
两百liǎng bǎi200
三百sān bǎi300
四百sì bǎi400
五百wǔ bǎi500
六百liù bǎi600
七百qī bǎi700
八百bā bǎi800
九百jiǔ bǎi900

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: a number one through nine plus (bǎi), then a number zero through nine plus (shí) and then a final 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 easy to understand. The number system has followed a logical order, and odds are you feel comfortable forming your own numbers from zero to 999.

But above 999, 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. After we reach that number, we never use the word for “thousand” again.

Let’s take a look.

ChinesePinyinEnglish
qiānthousand
wànten thousand
十万shí wànhundred thousand
百万bǎi wànmillion
亿hundred million
十亿shí yìbillion

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 yī 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.

So, 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.

Quantities in Chinese: 10 Must-know Measure Wordschinese numbers

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.”

Leaving out measure words is one of the few errors in Chinese that many native speakers won’t be able to look past using context alone.

Although you might think leaving out a measure word isn’t a big deal, it could well mean that native speakers simply won’t understand what you’re trying to say.

Let’s dive into the first 10 measure words you should learn.

ChinesePinyinUsageExample
zhīcounting animals两只小狗 (liǎng zhī xiǎo gǒu) — two puppies
jiāncounting rooms三间房 (sān jiān fáng) — three rooms
counting plants and trees八棵树 (bā kē shù) — eight trees
zhāngcounting anything flat一张纸 (yì zhāng zhǐ) — one piece of paper
shuāngcounting pairs一双袜子 (yì shuāng wà zi) — one pair of socks
liàngcounting vehicles三辆车 (sān liàng chē) — three cars
běncounting books两本书 (liǎng běn shū) — two books
jiācounting buildings, gatherings and establishments一家公司 (yì jiā gōng sī) — one company
wèicounting people三位老师 (sān wèi lǎo shī) — three teachers

And lastly, there’s (ge/gè) — generic measure word.

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

Chinese Numbers in Dates

Days of the Week in Chinese

For Chinese days of the week, you only need to know the numbers one through six, the word (tiān) and the three ways to say “week”:

  • 星期 (xīng qī)
  • (zhōu)
  • 礼拜 (lǐ bài)

After you’ve chosen which form of “week” you’d like to use, simply attach a number one through six at the end. Or if you want to say Sunday, attach 天.

In the examples below, I’m using 星期.

ChinesePinyinEnglish
星期一xīng qī yīMonday
星期二xīng qī èrTuesday
星期三xīng qī sānWednesday
星期四xīng qī sìThursday
星期五xīng qī wǔFriday
星期六xīng qī liùSaturday
星期天xīng qī tiānSunday
星期日xīng qī rìSunday

Months in Chinese

Got a grip on days of the week? You’ll be happy to hear that the months in Chinese follow a very similar pattern.

Instead of attaching a number to the end of the word “month”—which is (yuè)—the number comes at the beginning.

For instance, January is literally “one month,” February is “two month” and November is “eleven month.”

ChinesePinyinEnglish
一月yī yuèJanuary
二月èr yuèFebruary
三月sān yuèMarch
四月sì yuèApril
五月wǔ yuèMay
六月liù yuèJune
七月qī yuèJuly
八月bā yuèAugust
九月jiǔ yuèSeptember
十月shí yuèOctober
十一月shí yī yuèNovember
十二月shí èr yuèDecember

Years in Chinese

We’ve covered days and months, so now it’s time to move on to years! But before we get into how to form years in Chinese, here are a few time terms you’ll need to know first:

  • (nián) — year
  • 今年 (jīn nián) — this year
  • 去年 (qù nián) — last year
  • 明年 (míng nián) — next year

Now, to the fun stuff.

When talking about a specific year in Chinese, all you do is read out each digit and attach the word 年 to the end of it. For example:

  • 二零零一年 (èr líng líng yī nián) — 2001
  • 二零二一年 (èr líng èr yī nián) — 2021
  • 一九七三年 (yī jiǔ qī sān nián) — 1973

Unlike in English though, you can’t split up the year in two parts. So while we say 2020 as “twenty twenty,” in Chinese, it’s always 二零二零年 (èr líng èr líng nián).

But if that’s too much of a mouthful, don’t worry—there is one way you can shorten it, so long as the year is recent. For example, instead of saying 1973 (一九七三年), you can just say ’73 (七三年).

Here’s a tricky one: try saying the year 2000 in Chinese.

What’d you get?

Well, there are two answers:

二零零零年 (èr líng líng líng nián)

两千年 (liǎng qiān nián)

The second option is shorter but it also means “2,000 years,” not just “the year 2000.” So be sure the context is clear before using it.

Dates in Chinese

Days, weeks, months, years—you’ve collected all the pieces to the puzzle, but how do you actually assemble them?

Forming specific dates in Chinese is just as simple as learning the months and weeks. Let’s check out the formula now:

Year Number 年 + Month Number 月 + Date Number 号 (hào)

For example:

  • 2001年 8月 11号 (èr líng líng yī nián bā yuè shí yī hào) — August 11, 2001
  • 1801年 2月 16号 (yī bā líng yī nián èr yuè shí liù hào) — February 16, 1801
  • 1989年 6月 9号 (yī jiǔ bā jiǔ nián liù yuè jiǔ hào) — June 9, 1989

Say something happened on a specific date in the current year. In English, you’d simply leave out the year and say it happened on X month, X date (i.e. April 20). In Chinese, it’s the same!

Let’s say I got married on September 15, 2021, but the year is still 2021. When my friend asks, “When did you get married?”, I’d simply say, “September 15.”

In Chinese, that would be 九月十五号 (jiǔ yuè shí wǔ hào).

Before moving on, you might’ve noticed that you only pronounce individual digits in the year, not the days.

We already learned that to say 2016, you can’t say 二十十六年 (èr shí shí liù nián). Instead, you have to say 二零一六年 (èr líng yī liù nián).

But when it comes to days of the month, you certainly can (and should) say the whole number. For example: August 16 is 八月十六(bā yuè shí liù hào).

How to Talk About Money in Chinesechinese numbers

You know how to count, but how do you ask for the price of something? What’s the Chinese currency? How do you discuss cents, change and dollars?

Here are a few essential money vocab words you’ll need:

  • 多少钱? (duō shǎo qián?) — How much is it?
  • (yuán) — Yuan (Chinese currency)
  • 人民币 (rén mín bì) — Renminbi/RMB (the official currency of China)
  • (kuài) — Kuai (colloquial version of Yuan)
  • (jiǎo) — Jiao (10 cents)
  • (máo) — informal version of 角 (10 cents)
  • (fēn) — 1 cent

If this sounds complicated, just think of 元 and 块 like “dollars” and 毛 like “dimes,” since that’s exactly how they’re used.

While Renminbi and Yuan are mostly the same, you’ll often find that people tend to use Renminbi in their conversations about money instead of Yuan.

By the way, the currency sign of Yuan is ¥. Even better, it’s the same for Renminbi!

The structure for giving a price in Chinese is very similar to English:

Number + 块 + Number + 毛 + Number + 分

For example:

  • 三块六毛 (sān kuài liù máo) — ¥3.60
  • 五十块三毛五分 (wǔ shí kuài sān máo wǔ fēn) — ¥50.35
  • 八块 (bā kuài) — ¥8
  • 一毛 (yī máo) — ¥0.10 (a dime)

As you can see, the only thing you’ll need to remember is that 毛 represents 10 cents and 分 one cent. So instead of saying 63 cents, you need to specify “6 dimes, 3 cents.”

 

Following a few strategic tips and recognizing number patterns will make the process of learning Chinese numbers a whole lot easier.

Happy counting!

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