Mandarin Skills Lesson 3
Numbers
and Counting

ling2

0

 

shi2

10

yi1

1

bai3

100

er4

2

qian1

1000

san1

3

wan4

10000

si4

4

 

wu3

5

liang3

a couple

liu4

6

ge

[mw]

qi1

7

di4

[ordinal]

ba1

8

dian3

decimal

jiu3

9

ban4

decimal


Whole Numbers

The Chinese number system and the Western number system are very similar, but differ early on.  While the English number words from 11-100 undergo sound changes, the Chinese numbers remain predictable.

In Chinese, whole numbers follow the format:

  • number + place (ten thousands, thousands, hundreds, tens, ones)

  • If there are one or more places in a row with a zero between non-zero digits, a single ling2 fills the places.  Try 101, 1001, 1010, 10001, 10101 below.

  • Numbers ending in zeros omit the final zero place holders.  Try 100, 1000, etc.

  • 11-19 are exceptions in that they omit the initial "yi1", instead of "yi1 shi2 yi1" it is just "shi2 yi1"

万  千  百  十  (ones)=

Ordinalizing numbers is accomplished by simply adding di4 to the front of a number.  To make "one" become "the first", "yi1" becomes "di4 yi1"

Decimal Numbers

Decimal numbers are read with the whole number read first, the word dian3 (to denote the decimal point), and then each each decimal place read.  Zeros are treated the same as other digits.  If the whole number is zero the initial zero can be read or omitted.

Examples:

1.5

 yi1 dian3 wu3   1.0  yi1 dian3 ling2

0.02

 ling2 dian3 ling2 er4 1.00  yi1 dian3 ling2 ling2

1.10001

 yi1 dian3 yi1 ling2 ling2 ling2 yi1 1.01  yi1 dian3 ling2 yi1

0.0010

 ling2 dian3 ling2 ling2 yi1 ling2 0.5  ling2 dian3 wu3

10.30

 shi2 dian3 san1 ling2 300.03  san1 bai3 dian3 ling2 san1

Counting

Counting in Chinese is somewhat different than in English.  Chinese requires the use of a special class of words called "measure words."  These serve to give units for counting and classifying nouns.  Some words in English perform similar functions, but the difference is that in Mandarin all words require a measure word when being counted.

This section will only explain what is needed to know in order to count.  There will be a grammar lesson dedicated to using measure words.

  • When counting objects, Chinese uses the following formula:
    Number + Measure Word + (Object)

  • The most common measure word is "ge"- which is used to count many different things or when the classification is unknown.

  • When counting fractions of a thing, Chinese uses the following formula:
    Whole Number + Measure Word + Fractional Number + (Object)

  • When the number of objects is 2 or 2 and a fraction, it is always counted as "a couple of objects" liang3 instead of "two objects" er4.

Examples:

1 person

一個人

 yi1 ge ren3

Notice how in the first examples "ren3" is italicized to show that it can be omitted. 

2 people

兩 個 人

 liang3 ge ren3

22 people

二十二個 人

 er4 shi2 er4 ge ren3

1 and a half

一個 半

 ge ban4

2 and a half

兩 個 半

 liang3 ge ban4

3 and a half

三個 半

 san1 ge ban4


Lesson 1 | Lesson 2 | Lesson 3 | Lesson 4 | Lesson 5 | Lesson 6 | Lesson 7

Up | About the Site | Chinese Lessons | Mandarin Lessons | Cantonese | Downloads

Home        Friends Service          Bookstore
copyright 2002-2006
all rights reserved

Google