Mandarin Numbers: How To Count In Chinese?

Published on 29 May 2021
Author: Chinese Online Courses

 

 

 

How to count in Chinese ? It’s tricky. Some people say, yup, it is another part where it's easy to get confused while learning Chinese. But of course, just like Chinese character stroke orders, it can be very easy when you get the logic of counting numbers in Chinese. So, let's look at: 

Counting:

- 1 to 10
- 11 to 100
- 100 to 1000
- 10,000 to 99,999,999
- Chinese Hand Signs for Numbers
- Traditional Chinese numbers 


And some other questions:

● What does 4 mean in Chinese?
● How to write your Birthday date in Chinese?
● How long does it take to learn basic Mandarin?

From 1 to 10 in Chinese 

The first 10 numbers in Chinese are the most important to learn since, as you will soon see, they are the building blocks for all larger numbers.

 


Counting from 11 to 100 in Mandarin

The Chinese counting system is very logical. Once you learn the first ten numbers, it will take you no time at all to learn to count to 100!  Numbers above 10 are very simple to remember, you just say :
"10" (十 or shí in pinyin) "2" (二 or èr in pinyin) for 12 (十二 shí èr)
"10" (十 or shí in pinyin) "7" (七 or qī in pinyin) for 17 (十七  shí qī)
"10" (十 or shí in pinyin) "9" (九 or jiǔ in pinyin) for 19 (十 九 shí jiǔ)
 
For higher Numbers,you say:
"2" (二 or èr in pinyin) "10" (十 or shí in pinyin ) for 20 (二十 or èr shí)

"5" (五 or wǔ in pinyin) "10" (十 or shí in pinyin) for 50 ( 五十 or wǔ shí) 
"9" (九 or jiǔ in pinyin) "10" (十 or shí in pinyin) for  90 (九十 or jiǔ shí)

Using the same logic, you say:
"20" (二十 or èr shí in pinyin) "3" (三 or sān in pinyin) for 23 (二十三 or èr shí sān)
"40" (四十 or sì shí in pinyin) "5" (五 or wǔ in pinyin) for 45 (四十五 or sì shí wǔ)

 

"Hundred" is 百 or bǎi in pinyin,so "100" would be :

"1"(一  or yì in pinyin) plus "百 or bǎi" = 一百 or yì bǎi


See here:

 

   

Counting from 100 to 1000 in Mandarin

From 一百 or yì bǎi for 100, you may discovered that the logic of counting from 100 to 999 is also relatively straightforward. Simply follow the formula below: (but 200 it’s a little different, you can say "liǎng bǎi" or "èr bǎi")

 

 

Here are some example

 

 

Chinese method of counting from 10,000 to 99,999,999

An important aspect to note when considering larger numbers in Chinese is that commas are placed after every 4 digits in Chinese rather than after every 3 digits as they are in English. So Chinese consider 10,000 as a counting unit. You can learn the place value names for numbers up to 1 trillion below:

 

 

The logic for creating larger numbers is the same as creating smaller numbers. The number above would be written in Chinese as: 五兆三千零三十九亿,五千二百四十六万,三千一百八十七 (wǔ zhào sān qiān líng sān shí jiǔ yì, wǔ qiān èr bǎi sì shí liù wàn, sān qiān yī bǎi bā shí qī)。


Chinese Hand Signs for Numbers

The Chinese hand signs for numbers were developed in an attempt to avoid misunderstandings brought about by the many languages and dialects spoken throughout China. The numbers four (四,sì) and 10 (十, shí), for example, sound very similar in some dialects.

The numeric hand signs used today vary slightly from region-to-region, as shown. You will want to make sure you master them before traveling or moving to China as they are still used on a daily basis when shopping, bargaining, or conducting business transactions.

 

 

Traditional Chinese numbers 

The traditional or formal Chinese characters for numbers are different from the usual simplified Chinese characters in everyday use and are known as “banker's anti-fraud numerals'' (大写, dàxiě) and referred to as complex characters. They are typically only used for formal financial related documents, such as written checks or official documents requiring notarisation, with the exception of the character for 0 where the complex form is used more often in everyday use. The complex forms of these characters are very important for written financial documents since the simple forms can easily be changed. For example, a one (一) could easily be changed to a three (三), and a three could easily be changed to a five (五).

 

 


FAQ

What does 4 mean in Chinese?

4 is an unlucky number in Chinese culture, similar to how 13 is an unlucky number in many western cultures. The reason 4 (四,sì) is considered unlucky is because it sounds very similar to the word for "death" (死,sǐ). You’ll notice that many buildings in China, especially older buildings and hospitals will not have "fourth" floors.

How To Write Your Birthday In Chinese?

Rather than starting with the day, as most English speaking countries do, dates in Chinese are written from
the largest value (year) to the smallest value (day).
For example, if you were born on April 28 1995, you would write 1995/04/28 or 95/04/28. Note that any single digits are written with a ‘0’ in front.

How long does it take to learn basic Mandarin?

It’s difficult to estimate how long it will take someone to learn Mandarin since it varies widely from person-to-person. Based on the former HSK exam (administered prior to July 2021), we know that many people are able to pass HSK Level 3 in about 3-4 months. These results require commitment though and many people who achieve this level within 3-4 months take classes regularly and study outside of class with native speakers. It is also possible to pass HSK Level 4 within 6 months of starting to learn Chinese if you have a diligent study routine.
HSK Level 5 is different for everyone. It is a relatively high threshold and can take anywhere from an additional 3 months after passing HSK Level 4 to several years. The time required to master HSK Level 5 also varies largely based on learning and speaking opportunities as well as the language environment.
Similarly, HSK Level 6, which was formerly the highest level of the HSK exam, covers many advanced topics and can take students three years or longer to pass, while others are never able to.

 

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