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3.7.11: Structure of numbers

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    Chinese handles numbers in a very consistent and logical way. Once you've mastered just a few tricky parts, you will know how to read out any number in Chinese.

    One to One Hundred

    Structure for the First Ten

    You just have to memorize these ten; nothing tricky there.

    Numeral Character Pinyin
    2 èr
    3 sān
    6 liù
    9 jiǔ
    10 shí

    Phone Numbers

    Like in American English, Chinese phone numbers are given as a string of individual numbers, using the digits 0-9. The only trick is that the number 1 is often pronounced "yāo" instead of "yī" to avoid confusion with number 7, which is pronounced "qī."

    • 110Number for the police in the PRCyāo yāo líng
    • 120Number for an ambulance in the PRCyāo èr líng
    • 119Number to report a fire in the PRCyāo yāo jiǔ
    • 13501200120Cell phone numbers are 11 digits in the PRCyāo sān wǔ, líng yāo èr líng, líng yāo èr líng

    Structure for Teens

    十 + x

    Eleven, twelve and the teens are handled very logically. They're formed with 十 (shí) followed by a digit 一 (yī) to 九 (jiǔ). So eleven is 十一 (shíyī), twelve is 十二 (shí'èr), thirteen is 十三 (shísān), and so on up to nineteen, which is 十九 (shíjiǔ).

    Numeral Character Pinyin
    11 十一 shíyī
    12 十二 shí'èr
    13 十三 shísān
    14 十四 shísì
    15 十五 shíwǔ
    16 十六 shíliù
    17 十七 shíqī
    18 十八 shíbā
    19 十九 shíjiǔ

    Structure for Tens

    All the tens are also formed very logically. Twenty is 二十 (èrshí), thirty is 三十 (sānshí), and so on. Units in the tens are simply added on the end. So twenty one is 二十一 (èrshí-yī), thirty four is 三十四 (sānshí-sì), and ninety-nine is 九十九 (jiǔshí-jiǔ). All very logical and consistent.

    x + 十

    x + 十 + y


    Numeral Character Pinyin
    20 二十 èrshí
    23 二十三 èrshí-sān
    30 三十 sānshí
    39 三十九 sānshí-jiǔ
    40 四十 sìshí
    44 四十四 sìshí-sì
    50 五十 wǔshí
    73 七十三 qīshí-sān
    82 八十二 bāshí-èr
    97 九十七 jiǔshí-qī

    And one hundred is simply 一百 (yībǎi), as in English. So you now know how to count to one hundred in Chinese.

    After One Hundred

    Dealing with Zeroes

    Note: when there's a "0" in the middle of a number, you read it as 零 (líng), and don't put a unit (like "ten" or "hundred") after it. In the following examples, we'll show what happens when the "tens" place is a zero in a three-digit number.


    x + 百 + 零 + y


    Numeral Character Pinyin
    101 一百零一 yībǎi líng yī
    202 二百零二 èrbǎi líng èr
    206 二百零六 èrbǎi líng liù
    305 三百零五 sānbǎi líng wǔ
    407 四百零七 sìbǎi líng qī
    504 五百零四 wǔbǎi líng sì
    602 六百零二 liùbǎi líng èr
    701 七百零一 qībǎi líng yī
    803 八百零三 bābǎi líng sān
    909 九百零九 jiǔbǎi líng jiǔ

    For Numbers 110 and Greater

    For numbers greater than 100, if the number ends in zero (110, 230, 370, 450, etc.), a number like 150 can be read as 一百五十 (yībǎi wǔshí), but is often read as 一百五 (yībǎi wǔ). In fact, reading it as 一百五 (yībǎi wǔ) always means 150, never 105. As described above, 105 would be read as 一百零五 (yībǎi líng wǔ).

    For numbers greater than 100 that end in a number in the teens, it's normal to pronounce the ten as "yīshí" rather than just "shí" (see the examples below).

    Also, sometimes the number "200" is read as 二百 (èrbǎi), but often it is read as 两百 (liǎngbǎi). Both are OK. (This is an 二 (èr) vs. 两 (liǎng) issue which you may or may not have encountered before.)


    x + 百 + y + 十 + z


    Numeral Character Pinyin
    110 一百一十 yībǎi yīshí
    111 一百一十一 yībǎi yīshí-yī
    210 二百一十 èrbǎi yīshí
    350 三百五十 sānbǎi wǔshí
    480 四百八十 sìbǎi bāshí
    550 五百五十 wǔbǎi wǔshí
    635 六百三十五 liùbǎi sānshí-wǔ
    777 七百七十七 qībǎi qīshí-qī
    832 八百三十二 bābǎi sānshí-èr
    999 九百九十九 jiǔbǎi jiǔshí-jiǔ

    After One Thousand

    千 (qiān) means "thousand" in Chinese. Its rules of usage are similar to the rules for "hundred." Just note that no matter how many zeroes are in the middle of the number, you just say 零 (líng) once.


    Numeral Character Pinyin
    1001 一千零一 yīqiān líng yī
    1010 一千零一十 yīqiān líng yīshí
    1019 一千零一十九 yīqiān líng yīshí-jiǔ
    1020 一千零二十 yīqiān líng èrshí
    1100 一千一百 yīqiān yībǎi
    1101 一千一百零一 yīqiān yībǎi líng yī
    1234 一千二百三十四 yīqiān èrbǎi sānshí-sì
    2345 两千三百四十五 liǎngqiān sānbǎi sìshí-wǔ
    8765 八千七百六十五 bāqiān qībǎi liùshí-wǔ
    9999 九千九百九十九 jiǔqiān jiǔbǎi jiǔshí-jiǔ

    10,000 and beyond

    Things get a little trickier once you get to 10,000. If you're ready for it, you can move on to big numbers.

    This page titled 3.7.11: Structure of numbers is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by .

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