An easy beginner's guide on how to count in Chinese numbers
Counting in Mandarin Chinese might seem intimidating, but it's actually one of the simplest and most gratifying aspects of the language. In your initial Mandarin lessons, you'll learn how to count from one to ten, which requires memorizing the unique names for each number. However, counting beyond ten and even into the trillions is quite straightforward.
In just a few hours, you can progress from a complete beginner to near-expert levels, thanks to the Chinese counting system. Counting in Mandarin is so user-friendly that Chinese children often outperform their English-speaking counterparts. There are two primary reasons why counting in Mandarin is simpler than you might expect:
- The first ten numbers are monosyllabic, making them short and easy to remember.
- Numbers beyond ten don't have unique names. From 11 onwards, numbers are formed through multiplication and/or addition of the first ten numbers, which is much easier than it might seem.
Let's begin our exploration of counting in Mandarin Chinese!
Why learning numbers in Mandarin is useful
Spending just a few hours learning how to count in Chinese can have massive payoffs. For example, knowing how to count will help you:
- Ask for a definite number of things. When you go to the supermarket, you’ll be able to ask for the exact number of fruits and vegetables that you want to buy.
- Stay away from unlucky numbers. Luck is an important part of Chinese culture, so there are certain numbers that you’ll definitely want to avoid!
- Make plans! Knowing the numbers in Chinese will allow you to tell the time in Chinese and make plans on specific dates. You’ll be able to celebrate birthdays, make plans to grab a drink, and even book dinner reservations!
- Learn some slang. Yep! You read that right. Number slang is extremely common in China, so learning how to count will also help you learn some helpful Chinese slang!
At this point, you must be so ready to get started with Chinese. So, without further ado, let’s dive into how to actually read and write numbers in Chinese.
How to read and write numbers in Mandarin
When it comes to reading and writing numbers in Chinese, there are two methods: using Arabic numerals and Chinese characters. Similar to English, you can either use numeric symbols or write out the numbers using their character names.
Generally, only single or double-digit numbers are written using characters, while larger numbers like years, addresses, and phone numbers are written with Arabic numerals, just as in English. Thankfully, this means you won't need to memorize countless characters to write numbers.
In fact, even if large numbers were written using characters, you'd only need to know slightly more than 11 characters to write any number. The writing system's structure ensures minimal memorization is needed. As long as you understand basic arithmetic, you'll be able to manage with just about a dozen characters.
Now that you're ready, let's dive into counting in Chinese!
How to count in Chinese from 0 - 10
Counting to ten is the absolute hardest thing about counting in Chinese. Yes, we do mean that! Once you’ve mastered the first ten, everything else is all about stacking them in different orders. But we’ll get to that in a second! For now, let’s get started with the first ten numbers in Mandarin.
How to count in Chinese from 11 - 99
We promised you that learning the first ten numbers was the hardest part, and we’re not ones to break our promises! Here’s the great news: if you already know how to count to ten, then you already have what it takes to count to 100! Beyond 10, all you need to do is stack your numbers a certain way to get to a hundred. Here’s a quick formula:
- A × 十 (10) + B
Where A is multiplied by 10, and then B is added to the result. Let’s plug in some numbers into our formula:
- (2) × 十 (10) + 3 = 2 × 10 + 3 = 23 (two-ten-three)
- (5) × 十 (10) + 5 = 5 × 10 + 5 = 55 (five-ten-five)
- 8 × 十 (10) + 9 = 8 × 10 + 9 = 89 (eight-ten-nine)
And that’s it! That’s all the math you will need to know, and doing these calculations will become second nature as you start practicing. Truthfully, you don’t even need to make the operations in your head: just as long as you remember that the first digit comes first, followed by 十 (shí) and then the second digit, you’ll be fine.
Two things to keep in mind, and part of the reason the math formula above is important, is that you do not need to say one before the ten for 11-19. Since multiplying one by ten is redundant, you can omit the one completely and just say “ten-five” for 15.
The other thing to consider is when the second digit is a zero. Using our formula above, you would be adding a zero, which is redundant. So, instead of saying “three-ten-zero” for 30, you can just say “three-ten.”
Here’s a detailed table of the numbers from 11 to 99. Take a look at it, and we’re sure you’ll find the rhythm of counting in Chinese in no time.
|11||十一||shí yī||shih e|
|12||十二||shí èr||shih ahr|
|13||十三||shí sān||shih sahn|
|14||十四||shí sì||shih sih|
|15||十五||shí wǔ||shih woo|
|16||十六||shí liù||shih liow|
|17||十七||shí qī||shih chee|
|18||十八||shí bā||shih bah|
|19||十九||shí jiǔ||shih jeou|
|20||二十||èr shí||ahr shih|
|21||二十一||èr shí yī||ahr shih|
|22||二十二||èr shí èr||ahr shih ahr|
|23||二十三||èr shí sān||ahr shih sahn|
|24||二十四||èr shí sì||ahr shih sih|
|25||二十五||èr shí wǔ||ahr shih woo|
|26||二十六||èr shí liù||ahr shih liow|
|27||二十七||èr shí qī||ahr shih chee|
|28||二十八||èr shí bā||ahr shih bah|
|29||二十九||èr shí jiǔ||ahr shih jeou|
|30||三十||sān shí||sahn shih|
|31||三十一||sān shí yī||sahn shih|
|32||三十二||sān shí èr||sahn shih ahr|
|33||三十三||sān shí sān||sahn shih sahn|
|34||三十四||sān shí sì||sahn shih sih|
|35||三十五||sān shí wǔ||sahn shih woo|
|36||三十六||sān shí liù||sahn shih liow|
|37||三十七||sān shí qī||sahn shih chee|
|38||三十八||sān shí bā||sahn shih bah|
|39||三十九||sān shí jiǔ||sahn shih jeou|
|40||四十||sì shí||sih shih|
|41||四十一||sì shí yī||sih shih|
|42||四十二||sì shí èr||sih shih ahr|
|43||四十三||sì shí sān||sih shih sahn|
|44||四十四||sì shí sì||sih shih sih|
|45||四十五||sì shí wǔ||sih shih woo|
|46||四十六||sì shí liù||sih shih liow|
|47||四十七||sì shí qī||sih shih chee|
|48||四十八||sì shí bā||sih shih bah|
|49||四十九||sì shí jiǔ||sih shih jeou|
|50||五十||wǔ shí||woo shih|
|51||五十一||wǔ shí yī||woo shih|
|52||五十二||wǔ shí èr||woo shih ahr|
|53||五十三||wǔ shí sān||woo shih sahn|
|54||五十四||wǔ shí sì||woo shih sih|
|55||五十五||wǔ shí wǔ||woo shih woo|
|56||五十六||wǔ shí liù||woo shih liow|
|57||五十七||wǔ shí qī||woo shih chee|
|58||五十八||wǔ shí bā||woo shih bah|
|59||五十九||wǔ shí jiǔ||woo shih jeou|
|60||六十||liù shí||liow shih|
|61||六十一||liù shí yī||liow shih|
|62||六十二||liù shí èr||liow shih ahr|
|63||六十三||liù shí sān||liow shih sahn|
|64||六十四||liù shí sì||liow shih sih|
|65||六十五||liù shí wǔ||liow shih woo|
|66||六十六||liù shí liù||liow shih liow|
|67||六十七||liù shí qī||liow shih chee|
|68||六十八||liù shí bā||liow shih|
|69||六十九||liù shí jiǔ||liow shih jeou|
|70||七十||qī shí||chee shih|
|71||七十一||qī shí yī||chee shih|
|72||七十二||qī shí èr||chee shih ahr|
|73||七十三||qī shí sān||chee shih sahn|
|74||七十四||qī shí sì||chee shih sih|
|75||七十五||qī shí wǔ||chee shih woo|
|76||七十六||qī shí liù||chee shih liow|
|77||七十七||qī shí qī||chee shih chee|
|78||七十八||qī shí bā||chee shih bah|
|79||七十九||qī shí jiǔ||chee shih jeou|
|80||八十||bā shí||bah shih|
|81||八十一||bā shí yī||bah shih|
|82||八十二||bā shí èr||bah shih ahr|
|83||八十三||bā shí sān||bah shih sahn|
|84||八十四||bā shí sì||bah shih sih|
|85||八十五||bā shí wǔ||bah shih woo|
|86||八十六||bā shí liù||bah shih liow|
|87||八十七||bā shí qī||bah shih chee|
|88||八十八||bā shí bā||bah shih bah|
|89||八十九||bā shí jiǔ||bah shih jeou|
|90||九十||jiǔ shí||jeou shih|
|91||九十一||jiǔ shí yī||jeou shih|
|92||九十二||jiǔ shí èr||jeou shih ahr|
|93||九十三||jiǔ shí sān||jeou shih sahn|
|94||九十四||jiǔ shí sì||jeou shih sih|
|95||九十五||jiǔ shí wǔ||jeou shih woo|
|96||九十六||jiǔ shí liù||jeou shih liow|
|97||九十七||jiǔ shí qī||jeou shih chee|
|98||九十八||jiǔ shí bā||jeou shih bah|
|99||九十九||jiǔ shí jiǔ||jeou shih jeou|
Time to say 88!
Congratulations, you've now learned how to count up to 100 and beyond in Mandarin Chinese! Mastering counting is a significant achievement in any language learner's journey, and you deserve a pat on the back for accomplishing it!
To further enhance your Mandarin learning experience, consider exploring some of our other helpful Chinese articles, such as our comprehensive guide to Chinese radicals or our quick introduction to greeting people in Mandarin. Keep up the great momentum!