Chinese Numbers and Counting: A Guide to Mastering Quantifiers and Numerals

The history of Chinese numerals is fascinating and extensive. Their system is rational in addition to being straightforward. This artical contains all the information you need to master Chinese counting and number pronunciation, as well as how to utilise quantifiers (Pinyin).

Basic Chinese Numbers (0-10)

Firstly, let’s start with the basic numbers from 0 to 10. These are fundamental to all further counting:

0 – 零 (líng)

1 – 一 (yī)

2 – 二 (èr)

3 – 三 (sān)

4 – 四 (sì)

5 – 五 (wǔ)

6 – 六 (liù)

7 – 七 (qī)

8 – 八 (bā)

9 – 九 (jiǔ)

10 – 十 (shí)

Compound Numbers

Knowing the digits 1 through 10 makes counting to 99 simple. Since Chinese numerals are based on the decimal system, compound numbers can be created by simply adding the whole numbers together.

11 – 十一 (shí yī)

12 – 十二 (shí èr)

20 – 二十 (èr shí)

21 – 二十一 (èr shí yī)

99 – 九十九 (jiǔ shí jiǔ)

Hundreds, Thousands, and Beyond

The procedure continues in a similar manner for numbers in the hundreds, thousands, and beyond:

100 – 一百 (yī bǎi)

101 – 一百零一 (yī bǎi líng yī)

110 – 一百一十 (yī bǎi yī shí)

300 – 三百 (sān bǎi)

1000 – 一千 (yī qiān)

10,000 – 一万 (yī wàn)

Note that 10,000 (一万 yī wàn) is a significant numeral in Chinese as it’s used as the primary unit for grouping larger numbers.

For example:

30,000 – 三万 (sān wàn)

100,000 – 十万 (shí wàn)

1,000,000 – 一百万 (yī bǎi wàn)

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Special Numerals

It’s worth noting two special cases in Chinese numerals:

  • When counting or giving ordinal numbers, “二” (èr) becomes “两” (liǎng). For example, “两个” (liǎng gè) means “two” in the context of “two apples”.
  • The number “一” (yī) changes tone to a second tone becoming “yí” when it precedes a fourth-tone syllable. This is due to a phonetic rule called tone sandhi.

Chinese Quantifiers

In contrast to English, where “a” or “an” is all used before nouns, Chinese uses particular measure words known as classifiers or quantifiers. There are no hard-and-fast rules regarding which measure word belongs with which noun, however the following are some frequent examples:

  • 个 (gè) – This is a universal measure word that can be used when you’re unsure of the correct one.
  • 只 (zhī) – Used for birds and some animals, hands, and feet.
  • 本 (běn) – Used for books.
  • 条 (tiáo) – Used for long, flexible objects like rivers, roads, pants, and fish.
  • 辆 (liàng) – Used for vehicles.

For example:

一个人 (yī gè rén) – one person

两只鸟 (liǎng zhī niǎo) – two birds

一本书 (yī běn shū) – one book

一条鱼 (yī tiáo yú) – one fish

一辆车 (yī liàng chē) – one car

Thanks to this instruction, you now have a general understanding of the structure of Chinese numerals and quantifiers. Recall that practice is essential. Start with these fundamentals, and you’ll be able to count and measure anything in Chinese in no time!

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