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Teaching Chinese Numbers in the Classroom with Examples

written by: Sujanti Djuanda • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/5/2012

Usage of Chinese numbers 数目【shùmù】can be confusing while taking Chinese lessons. For those teaching Chinese, here is a step-by-step lesson for teaching Chinese numbers.

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    How to teach Chinese numbers to students involves explaining the meaning of numbers, and then the steps necessary to form different ranges of numbers. This lesson plan covers number formation in Chinese from 1 to 100,000,000.

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    Lesson Plan for Teaching Chinese Numbers

    • Explaining the meaning of Chinese numbers.
    • Chinese number format from 1 to 10 with examples.
    • Chinese number format from 11 to 99 with examples.
    • Chinese number format from 100 to 999 with examples
    • Chinese number format from 1,000 to 9,999 with examples
    • Chinese number format from 10,000 to 100,000,000 with examples
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    The Meaning of Chinese Numbers

    In Chinese, numbers are called 数目【shùmù】in which 数【shù= number】and 目【mù=eye】 so the literal meaning is number eye. Chinese numbers up to 9,999 use the same decimal format as English, but above 10,000 are different.

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    Number Format From 1 to 10 With Examples

    零 【líng=zero, 0】

    一 【yī = one,1] or 幺【yāo =one,1】.

    èr=two, 2 or 两【liǎng=two, 2:

    a.二【èr=two】 is often used to indicate order or number including decimal places.

    Example 1:

    1,2,3 …

    一 【yī=one】, 二【èr=two】, 三 【sān=three】……

    一, 二, 三……

    Example 2:

    0.2

    零【líng=zero】点【diǎn=point】二【èr=two】

    零点二

    Example 3:

    My number is 285.

    我的【wǒde=my】号码【hàomǎ=number】 是 【shì=is】 二【èr=two】 八【bā=eight】 五【wǔ=five】。

    我的 号码 是 二八五。

    Or you can also use the Arabic numeral system to write Chinese numbers but still use Chinese Pinyin in pronunciation.

    我的 【wǒde=my】号码【hàomǎ=number】 是 【shì=is】2【èr】8【bā】5【wǔ】。

    我的 号码 是285。

    Example 4:

    February

    二月【èryuè=February, second month of the year】

    二月

    b.两【liǎng=two】is often used with a measure word when representing a single digit.

    Example:

    Two months

    两【liǎng=two】个【gè=a measure word for months】月【yuè=months】

    两个月

    c.两【liǎng】is often used for telling the time and years when representing a single digit.

    Example 1:

    2 o’clock

    两 点【liǎng diǎn=2 o’clock】

    两点

    Example 2:

    Two years

    两【liǎng=two】年【nián=years】

    两年

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    Number Format From 11 to 99 With Examples

    Example:

    12

    十 【shí=ten】

    二 【èr=two】

    十二 【shí'èr= twelve, the literal meaning is ten two】

    Twelve is never said十两【shíliǎng】but十【shí=ten】

    两【liǎng=a unit of weight (50gram)】means 500 gram (the literal meaning is ten 50 gram).

    b. Multiples of 10

    Example 1:

    20

    二 【èr=two】

    十 【shí=ten】

    二十 【èrshí=twenty, the literal meaning is two ten】

    二十 【èrshí=twenty】is never said 两十【liǎngshí】because 两 【liǎng=two】is never used in the tens place.

    Twenty is often used as its shorthand character i.e. 廿【niàn=twenty】, especially in newspaper dates.

    Example 2:

    30

    三 【sān=three】

    十 【shí=ten】

    三十 【sānshí=thirty, the literal meaning is three ten】

    Thirty is often used as its shorthand character i.e. 卅【sà=thirty】, especially in newspaper dates.

    c. Numbers above 20 (not multiples of 10)

    Example:

    99

    九 【jiǔ=nine】

    十 【shí=ten】

    九 【jiǔ=nine】

    九十 九 【jiǔshí jiǔ=ninety-nine, the literal meaning is nine ten nine】

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    Number Format From 100 to 999 With Examples

    a. Multiples of 100

    Example:

    200

    两 【liǎng=two】

    百 【bǎi= hundred】

    两百 【liǎngbǎi=two hundred】

    Or

    二 【èr=two】

    百 【bǎi= hundred】

    二百 【èrbǎi=two hundred】

    两百 【liǎngbǎi=two hundred】 is more often used than二百 【èrbǎi=two hundred】 .

    b. If there is a zero in the number (except at the end), it's replaced by líng=zero.

    Example:

    101

    一 【yī =one】

    百 【bǎi= hundred】

    零 【líng=zero】

    一 【yī =one】

    一百 零 一 【yībǎi líng yī =one hundred and one, the literal meaning is one hundred zero one】

    c. If there is a zero in the number at the end

    Example:

    120

    一【yī=one】

    百【bǎi=hundred】

    二【èr=two】

    十【shí=ten】

    一百 二十【yībǎi èrshí =one hundred and twenty, the literal meaning is one hundred two ten】

    d. Numbers above 100 (not multiples of 100)

    Example:

    999

    九【jiǔ=nine】

    百【bǎi=hundred】

    九【jiǔ=nine】

    十【shí=ten】

    九【jiǔ=nine】

    九百 九十 九【jiǔbǎi jiǔshí jiǔ=nine hundred and ninety-nine, the literal meaning is nine hundred nine ten nine】

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    Number Format From 1,000 to 9,999 With Examples

    a. Multiples of 1000

    Example:

    2000

    两【liǎng=two】

    千【qiān=thousand】

    两千【liǎngqiān=two-thousand】

    Or

    二【èr=two】

    千【qiān=thousand】

    二千【èrqiān=two-thousand】

    两千【liǎngqiān=two-thousand】 is more often used than二千【èrqiān=two-thousand】

    b. If there are a two or more consecutive zeros in the number (except at the end), they are replaced by a single 零【líng.

    Example:

    1003

    一【yī=one】

    千【qiān=thousand】

    零【líng=zero】

    三【sān=three】

    一千 零 三【yīqiān líng sān =one thousand and three, the literal meaning is one thousand zero three】.

    c. From 1,011 to 1,019

    Example:

    1011

    一【yī=one】

    千【qiān=thousand】

    十【shí=ten】

    一【yī=one】

    一千 十一 【yīqiān shíyī= one thousand and eleven, the literal meaning is one thousand ten one】

    d. Numbers above 1000 (not multiples of 1000).

    Example:

    9999

    九【jiǔ=nine】

    千【qiān=thousand】

    九【jiǔ=nine】

    百【bǎi=hundred】

    九【jiǔ=nine】

    十【shí=ten】

    九【jiǔ=nine】

    九千 九百 九十 九【jiǔqiān jiǔbǎi jiǔshí jiǔ =nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine; the literal meaning is nine thousand, nine hundred, nine ten, nine】

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    Number Format From 10,000 to 100,000,000 With Examples

    Example 1:

    English decimal format: 10,000

    Chinese decimal format: 1,0000 (four decimal places)

    一【yī=one】

    万【wàn=ten thousand】

    一万【yīwàn=ten thousand, the literal meaning is one ten thousand】

    Example 2:

    English decimal format: 100,000,000

    Chinese decimal format: 1,0000,0000

    一【yī=one】

    亿【yì=hundred million】

    一亿【yīyì=one hundred million】

    Or

    万【wàn=ten thousand】

    万万 【wànwàn=one hundred million, the literal meaning is ten thousand ten thousand】.

References