With our free tips and tricks guide on how to count numbers in Chinese 1-10 and beyond you should be picking up Chinese in no time!
Travelling mainland China is much easier when you can grasp a few basics to get by on. Learning numbers in Chinese will make your trip a lot easier and with our tips and tricks in remembering them, you'll have it all in your head ready for that trip!
1. How to count numbers in Chinese 1-10 (Pinyin, Characters & Pronunciation)
Firstly, let me just say something about tones. Since taking Chinese lessons where the tones were drilled into you, I found short cuts to better learning. We had specific lessons where we would go through the different tones and the way in which to pronounce them properly and the placement / movements of your tongue which is used more in tonal languages like Chinese compared to English. However, I found it very hard and tried finding a system that I would better understand (and remember) and then use to pronounce each tone correctly on the word I was trying to say. After then listening to locals use of the tones in conversation, I found just copying their specific pronunciations was all I needed to do, and I could put the idea of different tones at the back of my mind. I guess what I am trying to say is tones are just pronunciation and the best way to remember a word and which tone it needs, is to just remember the way it sounded when you originally heard it from a local / teacher.
My way of learning how to pronounce the various tones without hearing it first from a local is the first one mā is high pitched without any changes, the second tone má sounds to me like your asking a question, so think of it that way in pronouncing it. The third tone mǎ is a weird down and up pronunciation and sometimes I found it easier thinking of a word such as Wu spelt this way WOoO as an English speaker you will find that more natural! The 4th tone is mà, which I think of as the way you would speak if you had a small child that did something wrong and made you feel disappointed. Anyway that is my method of speaking correctly, sometimes it helps to relate the learning methods to a way that suits you!
Below is a table of numbers in Chinese 1-10 with an alternative non-standard way of pronouncing them. More or less this works and people understand me fine which says something when you're in China! Of course it won't help when you go to places that don't speak Mandarin or are used to their local dialects.
|Number||Pinyin||Chinese Character||How to say it (the darryl version)|
|2||èr||二||er (like a pirate)|
|4||sì||四||ser (s is spoken a little longer than english S words)|
|5||wǔ||五||wu (this tone goes up and down in middle, so like WOoO)|
|7||qī||七||tchi (like that german coffee shop Tchibo)|
|8||bā||八||baa (like a sheep)|
|9||jiǔ||九||Geo (again funny tone so more like GeO)|
|10||shí||十||Sher? (question mark as this tone makes words sound like a question)|
There you have it, first part done and you have learnt how to count numbers in chinese 1-10.
2. Learn Chinese Pinyin numbers between 11 – 99
In some ways Chinese is a lot clearer and simpler than English is. It was really because of our trading strength in the past, that English became the well known and understood, global language it is today. The reason I say Chinese is ‘simpler' is the way numbers are made up in Chinese, in English some 10 multipliers are spelt, read and sound completely different than where they are from. For example Twenty is 2 x 10's and sounds nothing like 2 or 10. In Chinese, 20 is simply èr shí (2+10 put together), the only thing that bothers me is the way 11-19 is done a different way around to 20-99!
So to say a number between 11-19 you simply say shí + end number. Its like in English saying 10 9 to say 19.
To say a number between 20 – 99 is a little more tricky and in a new format! If you want to say a number you do this formula (first number) + (shí) + end number (if any). So in English it would be like saying for 22, 2 10 2 or how I like to work out as 2×10+2. For 48, it would be said sì shí bā or 4×10+2.
Once you learn this structure after learning numbers in chinese 1-10, it is quickly picked up and you will be able to work it out in your head as quickly as in English. In fact since being in China I count and say most numbers in Chinese as it comes as quick to me as English.
Some examples if you are a little confused, you'll soon see the method in the madness!
|Number||Pinyin||How to say it|
|20||èr shí||er sher?|
|21||èr shí yī||er sher? ye|
|22||èr shí èr||er sher? er|
|40||sì shí||ser sher?|
|41||sì shí yī||ser sher? ye|
|42||sì shí èr||ser sher? er|
3. Learn 100's and 1000's the bǎi and the qiān
Learning to say numbers in their 100's and 1000's is fairly straight forward as you progress what you have learnt already and simply add more words (but in a straight forward structure).
So let's start with 100. It's simply yī bǎi (one hundred) and 200? Well that's simply again èr bǎi and it progresses from here. Ok well that was straight forward, but what about when we want to get complicated with those two 0's and add different numbers? Take 342 for example, you simply say ‘sān bǎi' which is three hundred. Then add 42, which we have already dealt with, so this becomes ‘sān bǎi sì shí èr'. You could make this seem easier in your head in how it's constructed by looking at it this way ‘three hundred, forty two'. So even though Chinese language has a different structure and form to English, the numbers are pretty simple in that it goes from big to small (like ours) which actually follows and stays true throughout Chinese such as dates and time which is the opposite of American and British English.
Ok so now the last bit is 1,000 and this again follows the same pattern. So working from top to bottom, if we were to say 1,000, it would be ‘yī qiān' and 2,000 would be?… Yes, you've guessed it ‘èr qiān'. When we create a more complex number such as 3,142, it would be ‘sān qiān yī bǎi sì shí èr'. Or better translated in English three thousand, one hundred, forty two.
Well there you have it! You've learnt how to do Chinese by numbers! Remember that when saying a price, simply add kuài to the end of it all and voila! Sometimes if you see a price written as ¥110.5 then that means you just need to say the first number 110, then add kuài and then the last number. That is because when talking in monetary value, a ‘jiǎo' comes after ‘kuài'. But you can learn more about the money side of China in our other blog post about ‘Chinese Currency: Renminibi‘.
Some useful links if you feel like learning more than numbers in chinese 1-10!
- Wikipedia Article – Chinese Language
- BBC Learn Chinese Language Studies
- Amazon – Buy Chinese Language Books