Chinese Numbers: Your Go-to Guide for Counting in Chinese from 0 to 100+
Are you ready to explore Chinese numbers 1-100 and beyond? Read this article, and you’ll have a solid knowledge of counting in Chinese.
Today, I’ll teach you all numbers in Chinese, from 1 to 10, 10 to 100, and I’ll also include thousands and millions.
And if you’re interested in a little bonus, I’ll talk a bit about words for measurements in Chinese, too.
Also, let’s not forget we need to learn how to say “Chinese numerals” first. So here it is: 中文数字 (zhōngwén shùzì) – “Chinese numerals” / ”Chinese numbers”.
(Note that, for the sake of clarity, I’ve written both a number and a word that represents it when translating in the text. For example: “forty-five” (45).)
Ok, so now, are you ready to start? Let’s run right into it!
Chinese Numbers 1-10
Chinese people use their characters even for numbers. But nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see Arabic numerals in China either.
Here, I’ll show you how to count from 1-10 in Chinese and I’ll also include both Chinese characters and pinyin to help you learn. (Pinyin is the English romanization of Chinese characters.)
Also, “zero” in Chinese is super easy.
It’s very common to see this Chinese character: 〇 (líng) for “zero (0)”, but you might still run into this one: 零 (líng) – “zero (0)” as well.
Note that 二 (èr, “two (2)”) is mostly used when counting or giving out a phone number.
When referring to a quantity of something, such as using measure words and saying “both” or “two of something” instead of just “two”, 两 (liǎng) is the one you want to use.
- 二十块钱 (èrshí kuài qián) – “twenty (20) renminbi”
- 两本书 (liǎng běn shū) – “two (2) books”
When you speak quickly, especially when sharing a phone number, use 幺 (yāo) – “one (1)” instead of 一 (yī) – “one (1)”.
In Chinese, 一 (yī, “one (1)”) sounds too similar to 七 (qī, “seven (7)”), so it can get easily confused when speaking fast.
You’ll also need to remember that the number “four (4)” – 四 (sì) – symbolizes bad luck in Chinese. That’s because it sounds similar to 死 (sǐ) – “death”.
Number 4 in Chinese is like number 13 in the Western world. Often, the 4th floor is left out in buildings and hotels, and Chinese people wouldn’t be happy if you gave them four of something, such as flowers or fruits.
Chinese Numbers 11-20 & Above
The Chinese numerals 11-20 are quite easy – all you need to know is how to count 1-10 and you’ll just combine these characters as you go further. Think of it like stacking the numbers together.
The same goes for numbers 30, 40, and so on.
Numbers 11-19 are just a combination of the number 10 + the following number.
So the pattern to say these numbers is: 10+1 for 11, 10+2 for 12, and so on.
Numerals 20, 30, and following, are the same way, but just the other way around: 20 is two tens, 30 is 3 tens, and so on.
For numbers in between, like 21, 22, 45, and others, the pattern of “two tens” continues. You’ll just add the last number at the end.
It goes like this:
- 二十五 (èrshíwǔ) – “twenty-five (25)”
- 三十三 (sānshísān) – “thirty-three (33)”
- 九十六 (jiǔshíliù) – “ninety-six (96)”
As long as you learn Mandarin numbers 1-10, you can master all the numbers. And when you get to 100, you’ll need to learn a new character, but it’s still quite easy.
Counting in Chinese is one thing that’s easy about learning Chinese!
Chinese Numbers 100-999
You can get away with the knowledge of just 1-10 until you get to 100, but even after that, it’s not that hard.
To say “One hundred (100)” in Chinese, you need a new word – 百 (bǎi) or 一百 (yìbǎi).
The difference is the same as it is in English: 百 (bǎi) means “a hundred” and 百 (yìbǎi) is “one hundred”. Both of them are correct, but when counting, it’s more common to use 百 (yìbǎi) – “one hundred”.
When you count from 101-109, there’s a slight difference compared to English. While in English you’d say “one hundred and one”, in Chinese, you would say “one hundred zero and one”. If you omit the “zero”, the number changes to a different one.
Take a look:
- 一百零一 or 一百〇一 (yìbǎi líng yī) – “one hundred and one (101)”
- 一百零二 or 一百〇二 (yìbǎi líng èr) – “one hundred and two (102)”
From 110, there are two different ways you can say a number.
The pattern stays the same:
- 一百一(十) (yìbǎi yī (shí)) – “one hundred and ten (110)”
- 一百三(十) (yìbǎi sān (shí)) – “one hundred and thirty (130)”
You’ll notice that in both cases, 十 (shí, “ten (10)”) is in brackets. That’s because you can leave it out completely.
That’s the reason why 101-109 always need to be said with a zero – otherwise they’d sound the same as 120-190.
This only applies as long as the number ends with a zero. Otherwise, you can’t leave 十 (shí) – “ten (10)” out.
Here’s an example of that:
一百三十五 (yìbǎi sānshíwǔ) – “one hundred thirty-five (135)”
Now, let’s have a look at examples of how to combine the numbers that we already know into bigger, more complicated ones. Try to test yourself with this table:
With hundreds, the concept is similar to tens. You’re counting as if you’re adding:
- 二百 (èrbǎi) or 两百 (liǎngbǎi) – “two hundred (200)” (both are right)
- 三百 (sānbǎi) – “three hundred (300)”
- 四百 (sìbǎi) – “four hundred (400)”
- 五百 (wǔbǎi) – “five hundred (500)”
- 六百 (liùbǎi) – “six hundred (600)”
- 七百 (qībǎi) – “seven hundred (700)”
- 八百 (bābǎi) – “eight hundred (800)”
- 九百 (jiǔbǎi) – “nine hundred (900)”
There is one thing you should remember connected to number 250. Be careful when using this number, especially interacting with a Chinese person.
In China, being called “250” is an insult – basically, you’re calling the person you’re speaking to an idiot.
You don’t even need to refer to a person as “250”; it’s enough to just mention the number when talking about price or bargaining and yes, you’ve just insulted someone.
Let’s pause for a second to catch our breath. You might be wondering right now why on Earth you decided to start learning Chinese. Don’t despair, it’s easier than it seems. In fact, don’t just take my word for it, take John Fotheringham’s.
He has extensive experience in learning Chinese, and I interviewed him on an episode of the Language Hacking Podcast:
Chinese Numbers 1,000 & Above – the Big Numbers
Even the “big” Mandarin numbers aren’t as scary as you might think.
You’ll notice that in Chinese, these numbers get their own character, so instead of saying “ten thousand” or “a million”, you’ll need to remember these particular names and how many zeros they mean.
The rest is easier – just like with the numbers I’ve already shown you.
These are all the Chinese numbers with three or more zeros:
You can see the difference between forming the big numbers in English and in Chinese.
Instead of “ten thousand (10,000)”, Chinese have 万 (wàn) and instead of “a million (1,000,000)”, Chinese have 一百万 (yìbǎi wàn), which literally means “one hundred of ten thousand”.
It’s a bit math-heavy, but you can see that it does add up to a million.
Here are some examples of numbers I’m sure you’ll be able to say in Chinese after reading this guide:
- 两万三百零九 (liǎng wàn sānbǎi líng jiǔ) – “twenty thousand three hundred and nine (20,309)”
- 一百万三十万二十五 (yìbǎi wàn sānshí wàn èrshíwǔ) – “one million three hundred thousand and twenty-five (1,300,025)”
Enjoying learning about Chinese numbers? Don’t worry, we’re not done yet. I still have a bonus ready for you!
Before we get to our Chinese measure words, have a look at this brief guide to Chinese ordinal numbers, days of the week and months of the year:
First, Second, and Once… Chinese Ordinal Numbers
If you’re still waiting for a catch and can’t believe how easy Chinese numbers are… Well, this isn’t it!
Chinese ordinal numbers are simply a combination of the word 第 (dì) and a number just the way you learnt it.
It goes like this:
- 第一 (dì yī) – “first (1st)”
- 第二 (dì èr) – “second (2nd)”
- 第五十四 (dì wǔshísì) – “fifty-fourth (54th)”
And if you want to say something happened once, twice or three times, you simply add 次 (cì) – “times” after the number:
- 一次 (yīcì) – “once”
- 两次 (liǎng cì) – “twice”
- 三次 (sāncì) – “three times”
Chinese Days of the Week and Months of the Year
天 (tiān) means “day” in Chinese, 星期 (xīngqí) is “week” and 月 (yuè) means “month”.
Can you guess why I told you these?
If you learn at least the last two out of these three words and remember the numbers from this article, you’re all set to name all the days and months in the calendar.
Let me show you the pattern of Chinese days:
- 星期一 (xīngqíyī) – “Monday” (literally: “day of the week one”)
- 星期二 (xīngqí’èr) – “Tuesday” (literally: “day of the week two”)
- 星期六 (xīngqíliù) – “Saturday” (literally: “day of the week six”)
The only day that is not combined with the word “week” and a number is Sunday, and that is because 七 (qī) – “seven (7)”, as in the 7th day of the week, sounds too similar to 期 (qī), which is the component of 星期 (xīngqí) – “week”.
So “Sunday” would be 星期日 (xīngqírì) or 星期天 (xīngqítiān). Both are correct.
When it comes to months, their names are straightforward, too:
- 一月 (yī yuè) – “January” (literally: “month one”)
- 四月 (sì yuè) – “April” (literally: “month four”)
- 十二月 (shí’èr yuè) – “December” (literally: “month twelve”)
As you can see, the number of each month comes first, followed by the word 月 (yuè) – “month”.
And now, let’s finally have a look at the bonus I promised you at the beginning of this guide:
Chinese Measure Words
In Mandarin Chinese, you can’t combine a number and a noun without a measure word in between them.
Although even in English we are familiar with some sort of “measure words”, such as “a cup of tea” or “ten groups of people”, we can almost always leave them out.
In Chinese, these words cannot be omitted, and they are not interchangeable.
Every noun, or group of nouns, has its own measure word that can be used with it.
Some are logical, but some just need to be memorized.
Here’s a list of 10 common measure words with examples:
|个||gè||people, general objects||三个人 (*sān gè rén*) – “three people”|
|把||bǎ||objects that can be grasped/a bunch||两把刀 (*liǎng bǎ dāo*) – “two knives”|
|只||zhǐ||animals and body parts in pairs||九只猫 (*jiǔ zhǐ māo*) – “nine cats”|
|本||běn||books and paper products||十五本书 (*shíwǔ běn shū*) – “fifteen books”|
|双||shuāng||a pair||一双筷子 (*yī shuāng kuàizi*) – “a pair of chopsticks”|
|张||zhāng||flat objects||七张电车票 (*qī zhāng diàn chēpiào* – “seven tram tickets”|
|家||jiā||gatherings of people, establishments||这家饭店 (*zhè jiā fàndiàn*) – “this restaurant”|
|支||zhī||thin, long objects||一支铅笔 (*yī zhī qiānbǐ*) – “a pencil”|
|间||jiān||rooms||两间卧室 (*liǎng jiān wòshì*) – “two bedrooms”|
|杯||bēi||glass||两杯葡萄酒 (*liǎng bēi pútáojiǔ*) – “two glasses of wine”|
Chinese Numbers Made Easy!
Mandarin Chinese is a specific and difficult language to learn.
But the good news is, its numbers are quite easy!
Remember, learn numbers 1-10, then 100, 1,000 and 10,000 and by combining these together, you can literally count to infinity and beyond.