Numbers are useful in any language. If you want to know how much something costs, how long something takes or what time it is, you need to know how to say numbers in the language you’re speaking. So here we go. Let’s start easy with the numbers from 1 to 10.
Until the number 100, these are the only numbers you need to know. After 10 you will just put these numbers together to make a new number. For example, if you want to say 11 you put 10 and 1 together so it would be 十一 (shí yī). You can see it as 10 + 1. So 15 would be 10 + 5 making it 十五 (shí wǔ). As you might have noticed, it’s pretty straight forward.
What if you want to say 20? Well the thought process is the same, 2 x 10 equals 20. So in Chinese you would say 二十 (èr shí). Following the rule above discussed and what we just learnt, if you want to say 23 in Chinese it’s 2 x 10 + 3, meaning, 二十三 (èr shí sān). Now let’s go until 100.
Seems easy so far, right? Well, time to complicate it slightly. Imagine you go shopping and the total of your bill is 346 RMB. How would the staff say this number? Well let’s break it down. You have the number 300 which is 三百 (sān bǎi) and then you have the number 46 which we know is 四十六 (sì shí liù), so all together it would be 三百四十六 (sān bǎi sì shí liù). It seems like a very long number doesn’t it? You might need to get real familiar with the Chinese numbers before you can immediately identify the number they’re saying. So don’t worry if you need to take a step back to figure out the number someone is saying to you or the number you want to say. We know you will get there with time.
Like in any language there are exceptions to the rule. So here are some exceptions to make your life harder. If you want to say your phone number in Chinese you say each number separately.
For example: 18970456234. To say this phone number here is something you need to remember: yī becomes yao. So you would say: yao bā jiǔ qī líng sí wǔ liù èr sān sí.
You think this is the only exception? Well, think again. Here we go with the number 2. Above we learnt that 2 in Chinese is èr. However, this is not always the case. In some situations ér becomes liǎng (两). So when does this happen?
- When counting people or things. 两个人 (liǎng gé rén – 2 people).
- When saying the first digit in two hundred and two thousand. Keep in mind that it’s only the first digit. 两百二十三 (liǎng bǎi ér shí sān – 223).
There you go! We hope this will help you to better understand how to say numbers in Chinese. Keep practicing and saying them out loud to be able to grasp them faster and not make any mistakes when speaking in Chinese!
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