Numerals are used to indicate the amount and order of persons or things. Within the sentence they are often preceded by the noun's measure word to emphasise how many persons or objects you are referring to. In this lesson we learn how to form numerals in Chinese.
The cardinal numbers 0 to 9
Examples for cardinal numbers from 10 to 9999
Examples for cardinal numbers from 10,000 to 1,000,000,000
Both English and Chinese count in categories of tens, hundreds and thousands. From 9,999 onwards, however, Chinese is unlike English. Chinese continues with the category of ten-thousand (萬) and hundred million (億) whereas English has the categories thousand, one million and one billion. In Chinese, numbers between ten-thousand and one-hundred million are read in steps of ten thousands.
Telephone numbers, bus lines etc.
For telephone numbers, numbers of bus lines, room numbers and also for the years all numbers are pronounced individually and not as a whole unless the number only consists of two digits.
Estimated numbers and approximations
In Chinese you use 大概 (dàgài), 左右 (zuǒyòu) or 上下 (shàngxià) in situations where the quantity is more or less the number you are referring to.
If you want to indicate that the quantity is almost the amount you are referring to, you should use 差不多 (chàbùduō).
以內 (yǐnèi) is used to indicate that the time you are referring to lies within a specified distance or period of time.
Indicating "more than"
If you want to indicate that the actual number is higher than the number you are referring to, use 多 (duō).
If you want to give an approximation, then you use two numbers in a sequence.
For indicating "half", you place "半" (bàn) before the noun or the noun's measure word.
For indicating fractions, the pattern 分之 (fēn zhī) is used. Unlike English, the denominator is mentioned before the numerator, e.g. 1/4 is "one-fourth" in English but "four + fēn zhī + one" in Chinese.
For indicating percentages, we also use the pattern 分之 (fēn zhī) preceded by 百 (bái).
Decimals are pronounced as numbers before the decimal point and as single digits after the decimal point. The decimal point itself is 點 (diǎn). Decimals in Chinese are often written in Arabic numerals, e.g. 2.5 (liǎng diǎn wǔ).