An easy beginner's guide on how to count in Chinese numbers

Counting in Chinese may sound like a daunting task, but it is truly one of the easiest and most rewarding parts of this language.

One of the first things that you’ll learn in your Mandarin Chinese classes is how to count to ten. Unsurprisingly, this will require some rote memorization, as each number has a different name. However, as you may have suspected, things get interesting after ten. Despite Mandarin being classed as more challenging for English speakers to learn, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that counting beyond ten and well into the trillions is really quite simple!

Indeed, you can go from absolute novice to near-accountant levels in a matter of hours, thanks to the Chinese counting system. Counting in Mandarin is so easy, in fact, that Chinese children regularly outperform their Western, English-speaking peers. There are two main reasons why learning to count in Mandarin is easier than you may think:

  • The first ten numbers are all monosyllabic. As you’ll see, each of the first ten numbers has a very short and easy-to-remember name.
  • Numbers beyond 10 do not have unique names. Starting from 11, numbers are just a multiplication and/or addition of the first ten numbers. Even if you’re not good at math, this is actually a lot easier than it sounds. Just keep reading, and you’ll see!

So, let’s get started!

Why learning numbers in Mandarin is useful

Count wine glasses in Chinese numbers around the dinner table, with smiling family.

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

The first thing you need to know about reading and writing numbers in Chinese is that there are two ways to represent numbers: with Arabic numerals and Chinese characters. Just as in English, you can use actual numbers or “spell out” the numbers by writing their names in characters.

For the most part, only single or perhaps double-digit numbers are ever written using characters. Years, addresses, phone numbers, and all other large numbers are written using Arabic numbers, just as in English. What a relief! No need to memorize hundreds of different characters just to learn how to write numbers.

But… that’s not the case. Even if years and phone numbers were written with characters, you still wouldn’t need to memorize more than just over 11 characters to write any number. The way the writing system is structured ensures that you won’t actually have to do a whole lot of memorizing. As long as you know some basic arithmetic (and we really mean basic!), you’ll be fine with just around a dozen characters.

Ready to get into it? Let’s start counting!

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 yīshih e
12十二shí èrshih ahr
13十三shí sānshih sahn
14十四shí sìshih sih
15十五shí wǔshih woo
16十六shí liùshih liow
17十七shí qīshih chee
18十八shí bāshih bah
19十九shí jiǔshih jeou
20二十èr shíahr shih
21二十一èr shí yīahr shih
22二十二èr shí èrahr shih ahr
23二十三èr shí sānahr shih sahn
24二十四èr shí sìahr shih sih
25二十五èr shí wǔahr shih woo
26二十六èr shí liùahr shih liow
27二十七èr shí qīahr shih chee
28二十八èr shí bāahr shih bah
29二十九èr shí jiǔahr shih jeou
30三十sān shísahn shih
31三十一sān shí yīsahn shih
32三十二sān shí èrsahn shih ahr
33三十三sān shí sānsahn shih sahn
34三十四sān shí sìsahn shih sih
35三十五sān shí wǔsahn shih woo
36三十六sān shí liùsahn shih liow
37三十七sān shí qīsahn shih chee
38三十八sān shí bāsahn shih bah
39三十九sān shí jiǔsahn shih jeou
40四十sì shísih shih
41四十一sì shí yīsih shih
42四十二sì shí èrsih shih ahr
43四十三sì shí sānsih shih sahn
44四十四sì shí sìsih shih sih
45四十五sì shí wǔsih shih woo
46四十六sì shí liùsih shih liow
47四十七sì shí qīsih shih chee
48四十八sì shí bāsih shih bah
49四十九sì shí jiǔsih shih jeou
50五十wǔ shíwoo shih
51五十一wǔ shí yīwoo shih
52五十二wǔ shí èrwoo shih ahr
53五十三wǔ shí sānwoo shih sahn
54五十四wǔ shí sìwoo shih sih
55五十五wǔ shí wǔwoo shih woo
56五十六wǔ shí liùwoo shih liow
57五十七wǔ shí qīwoo shih chee
58五十八wǔ shí bāwoo shih bah
59五十九wǔ shí jiǔwoo shih jeou
60六十liù shíliow shih
61六十一liù shí yīliow shih
62六十二liù shí èrliow shih ahr
63六十三liù shí sānliow shih sahn
64六十四liù shí sìliow shih sih
65六十五liù shí wǔliow shih woo
66六十六liù shí liùliow shih liow
67六十七liù shí qīliow shih chee
68六十八liù shí bāliow shih
69六十九liù shí jiǔliow shih jeou
70七十qī shíchee shih
71七十一qī shí yīchee shih
72七十二qī shí èrchee shih ahr
73七十三qī shí sānchee shih sahn
74七十四qī shí sìchee shih sih
75七十五qī shí wǔchee shih woo
76七十六qī shí liùchee shih liow
77七十七qī shí qīchee shih chee
78七十八qī shí bāchee shih bah
79七十九qī shí jiǔchee shih jeou
80八十bā shíbah shih
81八十一bā shí yībah shih
82八十二bā shí èrbah shih ahr
83八十三bā shí sānbah shih sahn
84八十四bā shí sìbah shih sih
85八十五bā shí wǔbah shih woo
86八十六bā shí liùbah shih liow
87八十七bā shí qībah shih chee
88八十八bā shí bābah shih bah
89八十九bā shí jiǔbah shih jeou
90九十jiǔ shíjeou shih
91九十一jiǔ shí yījeou shih
92九十二jiǔ shí èrjeou shih ahr
93九十三jiǔ shí sānjeou shih sahn
94九十四jiǔ shí sìjeou shih sih
95九十五jiǔ shí wǔjeou shih woo
96九十六jiǔ shí liùjeou shih liow
97九十七jiǔ shí qījeou shih chee
98九十八jiǔ shí bājeou shih bah
99九十九jiǔ shí jiǔjeou shih jeou

How to count in Chinese from 100 - 1000

After learning how to count to 99, the natural next progression is to keep going. Counting beyond 100 works the same, except that you’d use 百 (bǎi) for 100 instead of 十 (shí) to go beyond a hundred.

Check out how easy it is to count from 100 to 1,000 in Chinese.

100一百yì bǎie buy
200二百èr bǎiahr buy
300三百sān bǎisahn buy
400四百sì bǎisih buy
500五百wǔ bǎiwoo buy
600六百liù bǎiliow buy
700七百qī bǎichee buy
800八百bā bǎibah buy
900九百jiǔ bǎijeou buy
1000一千yì qiāne chian

Counting beyond 1000 in Chinese

Surely, counting into the millions in Chinese must be extremely difficult. Right? Nope! Counting beyond 1,000 is just as easy as counting to 1,000. In fact, it may be even easier if you already have the basics down!

The only thing you need to keep in mind is that large numbers are separated by four digits instead of three. For example, in English, we count in thousands, millions, billions, trillions, and so on. In Chinese, we count in ten thousands, one hundred millions, trillions, and so on. Just keep in mind that commas still go every three digits when typing numbers in Arabic numerals, just as in English!

Here’s a chart on how to count up to one trillion in Chinese!

NumberMandarinPinyinPronunciationEnglish nameLiteral Translation
100一百yì bǎie byeOne hundredOne hundred
1000一千yì qiāne chianOne thousandOne thousand
10,000一万yí wàne wanTen thousandTen thousand
100,000十万shí wànshih wanOne-hundred thousandTen ten thousands
1,000,000一百万yì bǎi wàne bye wanOne millionOne-hundred ten thousands
10,000,000一千万yì qiān wàne chian wanTen millionOne thousand ten thousands
100,000,000一亿yí yìe yeeOne-hundred millionOne hundred million
1,000,000,000十亿shí yìshih yeeOne billionTen one hundred millions
10,000,000,000一百亿yì bǎi yìe bye yeeTen billionOne hundred one hundred millions
100,000,000,000一千亿yì qiān yìe chian yeeOne-hundred billionOne thousand one hundred millions
1,000,000,000,000一兆yí zhàoe jaoOne trillionOne trillion

How to put it all together

Now that you know the general structure of counting in Chinese, it’s time to put it all together. Here are some “difficult” numbers that — as you will see — aren’t all that difficult to put together after all!

387三百八十七sān bǎi bā shí qīsahn buy bah shih chee
756七百五十六qī bǎi wǔ shí liùchee buy woo shih liow
120一百二(十)yì bǎi èr (shí)e buy ahr shih
566五百六十六wǔ bǎi liù shí liùwoo buy liow shih liow
803八百零三bā bǎi líng sānbah buy leeng sahn
222二百二十二èr bǎi èr shí èrahr buy ahr shih ahr
678六百七十八liù bǎi qī shí bāliow buy chee shih bah

Chinese number songs

JunyTony Number Song

If musical learning is your thing, this catchy and exhaustive song will teach you how to count all the way to a hundred! Just listen to this catchy tune a handful of times, and you’ll learn to count in Chinese before you know it.

九九乘法 – Chinese multiplication song

If you want to take things to a whole different level, try memorizing the Chinese multiplication song 九九乘法 (jiǔ jiǔ chéng fǎ). Even if you’ve already learned your multiplication tables, this fun song can demonstrate just how easy it is to count and do math in Mandarin Chinese!

Ordinal numbers in Chinese

Now that you’ve learned the cardinal numbers in Chinese, figuring out how to say the ordinal numbers will take no time. All you need to learn is the ordinal word 第 (dì) and add it before the number. For example, to turn “one” into “first,” you just say 第一 (dì yī). The same for second, third, fourth, tenth, fiftieth, hundredth, and so on!

Here are some example sentences for using ordinal numbers in Chinese:

这是我第一次坐飞机This is the first time I take a flightzhè shì wǒ dì yī cì zuò fēi jīzhuh shih woh dee e tzi tzuo fay-gee
第三课The third lessondì sān kèdee sahn kuh
第十六个人The sixteenth persondì shí liù gè réndee shih liow guh rehn
第五十句话The fiftieth sentencedì wǔ shí jù huàdee woo shih joo hua

Chinese number slang

If you’re already learning Mandarin online with us, you know we love to include real-life applications of the language whenever possible. After all, your goal isn’t to learn how to read textbooks and communicate with people!

So, we would be remiss to teach you how to count in Chinese without mentioning some helpful Chinese slang numbers as well. These are very common in text messages, so you’ll definitely want to take a close look at these if you follow our tips to learn Chinese characters and get a Chinese language partner!

886GoodbyeIt sounds like 拜拜了 (bái bái le), which is a common way to say goodbye in Chinese.八八六
520I love youSounds like 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ), which means “I love you”五二零
555CryingSounds like crying.五五五
666Awesome!Six is one of the luckiest numbers in Chinese, and using it repeatedly means “cool” or “awesome!”六六六
484Yes or no?Sounds like 是不是 (shì bú shì), which means yes or no.四八四
1314ForeverSounds like 一生一世 (yì shēng yī shì), which means “in all one's life”一三一四
233LaughterRepresents 哈哈哈 (hā hā hā) which means to laugh.二三三
996The 996 working scheduleCommon work schedule in Chinese tech companies that includes work from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. 6 days a week.九九六

FAQs for the numbers in Chinese

Which number is unlucky in China?

If you’re in the United States, you know not to walk under a ladder, to beware of broken mirrors, and to avoid the number 666 at all costs. But do you know what to avoid when you visit China?

The most unlucky number in China is the number 4. This is because four 四 (sì) sounds like 死 (sǐ), which means death. Therefore, the number four is to be avoided at all costs in Chinese. This causes most people to avoid the number four altogether in their phone numbers or residential address!

What are Chinese lucky numbers?

The luckiest number in Chinese is the number 8 八 (bā), as it is associated with wealth and success. It sounds similar to 发 (fā) as in 发财 (fā cái), which means “to get rich.” So, if it’s riches and fortunes you’re after, try incorporating more eights into your life!

Other lucky numbers are 2, 6, and 9. The number two is lucky because it is considered that all good things come in pairs. The number 6 is considered lucky because of the Chinese Idiom 六六大顺, which means everything going smoothly. ! And finally, 9 is considered lucky in Chinese because 九 (jiǔ) sounds like 久 (jiǔ), which means “long time” or “everlasting.”

How do you count in Chinese with one hand?

You probably already know how to count to 5 using one hand, but what about 6-10? Would you get your other hand involved, then? Well, in Chinese, there’s a way to count all the way up to 10 with a single hand! You’ll definitely want to learn this before you visit China, as this is a very popular way to count to ten in everyday interactions.

Check out this short video for a quick demonstration of how to count to ten in Chinese with one hand.

What is the difference between 二 and 两?

You may have noticed that there are two ways to say two in Chinese: 二 (èr) and 两 (liǎng). The main difference is that 二 (èr) is generally used when counting or doing any kind of math, while 两 (liǎng) is used when expressing “two of” something. Saying 两 (liǎng) in Chinese is similar to saying “a couple of” in English, except that using 两 (liǎng) isn’t optional. You should use 两 (liǎng) whenever talking about two of anything, including:

  • 两个月 (liǎng gè yuè) - two months
  • 我要两个 (wǒ yào liǎng gè) - I want two
  • 两天 (liǎng tiān) - two days

How do you read years in Chinese?

You already know that there are special rules for reading years in English (happy twenty-twenty-three!), so what about Chinese? Do you have to read the whole number when mentioning a specific year? No! Luckily, reading years in Chinese is extremely easy: all you have to do is read each individual digit! No need to add anything up or read things together.

All you need to do is add the word for “year” at the end of the number: 年 (nián). Here are some examples:

20232023年èr líng èr sān niánahr leeng ahr sahn niehn
19971997年yī jiǔ jiǔ qī niáne jiow jiow chee niehn
18301830年yī bā sān líng niáne bah sahn leeng niehn
20002000年èr líng líng líng niánahr leeng leeng leeng niahn

Time to say 88!

And just like that, you now know how to count all the way to 100 and beyond in Mandarin Chinese! Learning to count is undoubtedly a major milestone in every language learner’s journey, and you should pat yourself on the back for reaching it!

Why not complement this lesson with a few more of our helpful Chinese articles, like our full guide to Chinese radicals and our quick intro to saying hello in Mandarin? Keep the momentum going!

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