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.

Number Mandarin Pinyin Pronunciation
0 líng leeng
1 e
2 èr ahr
3 sān sahn
4 sih
5 woo
6 liù liow
7 chee
8 bah
9 jiǔ jeou
10 shí shih

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.

Number Mandarin Pinyin Pronunciation
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

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.

Number Mandarin Pinyin Pronunciation
100 一百 yì bǎi e buy
200 二百 èr bǎi ahr buy
300 三百 sān bǎi sahn buy
400 四百 sì bǎi sih buy
500 五百 wǔ bǎi woo buy
600 六百 liù bǎi liow buy
700 七百 qī bǎi chee buy
800 八百 bā bǎi bah buy
900 九百 jiǔ bǎi jeou buy
1000 一千 yì qiān e 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!

Number Mandarin Pinyin Pronunciation English name Literal Translation
0 líng leeng Zero Zero
10 shí shih Ten Ten
100 一百 yì bǎi e bye One hundred One hundred
1000 一千 yì qiān e chian One thousand One thousand
10,000 一万 yí wàn e wan Ten thousand Ten thousand
100,000 十万 shí wàn shih wan One-hundred thousand Ten ten thousands
1,000,000 一百万 yì bǎi wàn e bye wan One million One-hundred ten thousands
10,000,000 一千万 yì qiān wàn e chian wan Ten million One thousand ten thousands
100,000,000 一亿 yí yì e yee One-hundred million One hundred million
1,000,000,000 十亿 shí yì shih yee One billion Ten one hundred millions
10,000,000,000 一百亿 yì bǎi yì e bye yee Ten billion One hundred one hundred millions
100,000,000,000 一千亿 yì qiān yì e chian yee One-hundred billion One thousand one hundred millions
1,000,000,000,000 一兆 yí zhào e jao One trillion One 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!

Number Mandarin Pinyin Pronunciation
387 三百八十七 sān bǎi bā shí qī sahn buy bah shih chee
756 七百五十六 qī bǎi wǔ shí liù chee 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 liù woo buy liow shih liow
803 八百零三 bā bǎi líng sān bah buy leeng sahn
222 二百二十二 èr bǎi èr shí èr ahr buy ahr shih ahr
678 六百七十八 liù bǎi qī shí bā liow 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 () 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:

Chinese Mandarin Pinyin Pronunciation
这是我第一次坐飞机 This is the first time I take a flight zhè shì wǒ dì yī cì zuò fēi jī zhuh shih woh dee e tzi tzuo fay-gee
第三课 The third lesson dì sān kè dee sahn kuh
第十六个人 The sixteenth person dì shí liù gè rén dee shih liow guh rehn
第五十句话 The fiftieth sentence dì wǔ shí jù huà dee 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!

Number Meaning Reason Characters
886 Goodbye It sounds like 拜拜了 (bái bái le), which is a common way to say goodbye in Chinese. 八八六
520 I love you Sounds like 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ), which means “I love you” 五二零
555 Crying Sounds like crying. 五五五
666 Awesome! Six is one of the luckiest numbers in Chinese, and using it repeatedly means “cool” or “awesome!” 六六六
484 Yes or no? Sounds like 是不是 (shì bú shì), which means yes or no. 四八四
1314 Forever Sounds like 一生一世 (yì shēng yī shì), which means “in all one's life” 一三一四
233 Laughter Represents 哈哈哈 (hā hā hā) which means to laugh. 二三三
996 The 996 working schedule Common 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 () sounds like 死 (), 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 (), as it is associated with wealth and success. It sounds similar to 发 () 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:

Year Mandarin Pinyin Pronunciation
2023 2023年 èr líng èr sān nián ahr leeng ahr sahn niehn
1997 1997年 yī jiǔ jiǔ qī nián e jiow jiow chee niehn
1830 1830年 yī bā sān líng nián e bah sahn leeng niehn
2000 2000年 èr líng líng líng nián ahr 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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