How to Count Chinese Numbers 1-1000 and Beyond
If you recently started learning Chinese, odds are learning to count is one of your first goals.
This is a great goal, because you can discuss a lot of topics once you know your Chinese 数字 (shù zì) — numbers.
Chinese numbers are used for slang, days of the week, listing quantities, talking about money, months of the year, telling time 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!), how to count in Chinese and how to use numbers in everyday sentences.
- Chinese Numbers 0-10
- Chinese Numbers 11-20
- Chinese Numbers 21-99
- Chinese Numbers 100-999
- Chinese Numbers 1,000 and Beyond
- 10 Must-know Chinese Measure Words
- Ordinal Numbers in Chinese
- Approximate Numbers in Chinese
- Resources to Learn More About Chinese Numbers
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.
Why are there two ways to say the number two?
When counting, use 二. When listing quantities, use 两.
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.
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.
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.
To form the number, just think of it as a multiplication problem.
For example, the number 50 is 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.
|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|
Notice the pattern? The equation is simple:
The number 2-9 + 十 + the number 1-9
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:
Pretty simple, right? The formula is as follows: the number one through nine plus 百 (bǎi) — hundred.
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 百, then a number zero through nine plus 十 and then a final number zero through nine.
However, keep in mind that to count from numbers 101 to 109, you must add a 零. 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 1-9 + 百 + 一 + 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 “thousand” again.
Let’s take a look.
|hundred thousand||十万||shí wàn|
In Chinese, 1,000 to 9,000 is 一千 (yī 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 1-9 + 万
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.
10 Must-know Chinese 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.”
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.
|只||zhī||counting animals||两只小狗 (liǎng zhī xiǎo gǒu) — two puppies|
|间||jiān||counting rooms||三间房 (sān jiān fáng) — three rooms|
|棵||kē||counting plants and trees||八棵树 (bā kē shù) — eight trees|
|张||zhāng||counting anything flat||一张纸 (yì zhāng zhǐ) — one piece of paper|
|双||shuāng||counting pairs||一双袜子 (yì shuāng wà zi) — one pair of socks|
|辆||liàng||counting vehicles||三辆车 (sān liàng chē) — three cars|
|本||běn||counting books||两本书 (liǎng běn shū) — two books|
|家||jiā||counting buildings, gatherings and establishments||一家公司 (yì jiā gōng sī) — one company|
|位||wèi||counting people||三位老师 (sān wèi lǎo shī) — three teachers|
And lastly, there’s 个 (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 个 (ge/gè).
两个苹果 (liǎng ge píng guǒ) — two apples
Ordinal Numbers in Chinese
Chinese ordinal numbers show placement, rank or sequences of nouns.
For example, ordinal numbers in English are words like “first,” “second,” “third,” “fourth” and so on.
In Chinese, this is really simple. Instead of tacking a few extra letters to the end of the number like in English, just add 第 (dì) before the number.
第一次 (dì yī cì) — 1st time
第二季 (dì èr jì) — 2nd season (of a TV show)
第三个问题 (dì sān gè wèn tí) — 3rd question
Approximate Numbers in Chinese
When we aren’t sure of an exact number, we use words like “a few,” “about,” “around” and “[number]-ish” in English.
In Chinese, you can use these expressions:
几个 (jǐ ge) — a few, several (for numbers between 1-9)
[number ≥10] 多 (duō) — more than [number ≥10]
十几 (shí jǐ) — more than 10, 10 and some odd… (i.e. “10 and some odd hours”)
几十 (jǐ shí) — a number between 20 and 99
三五个 (sān wǔ gè) — a colloquial way of saying “a few” (literally “three five”)
[number] 左右 / 差不多 (zuǒ yòu / chà bù duō) — about/around [number]
Resources to Learn More About Chinese Numbers
Numbers are used to talk about lots of topics in Chinese!
You can continue expanding your Chinese numbers knowledge with these resources:
Following a few strategic tips and recognizing number patterns will make the process of learning Chinese numbers a whole lot easier.