10-Minute Exercise for Fluency in Chinese Numbers


If you’re working in business or even if you just need to tell address and phone numbers to people, it’s important to have a solid grasp of Chinese numbers. (Confusing yìbǎiwàn with yìqiānwàn could be a very expensive mistake!) So to improve your Chinese numerical proficiency, let’s start with a quick overview:


0   líng     
1   yī      
2   èr     
3   sān    
4   sì     
5   wǔ    
6   liù     
7   qī     
8   bā      
9   jiǔ      
10   shí   
20   èrshí   二十
100   yìbǎi   一百
200   liǎngbǎi   两百
1,000   yìqiān   一千
2,000   liǎngqiān   两千
10,000   yíwàn   一万
100,000   shíwàn   十万
1,000,000   bǎiwàn   一百万
10,000,000   qiānwàn   一千万
100,000,000   yíyì   一亿
1,000,000,000   shíyì   十亿
10,000,000,000   bǎiyì   百亿
100,000,000,000   qiānyì   千亿
1,000,000,000,000   wànyì   万亿


Most people don’t have much difficulty understanding and learning the numbers from 0 – 10,000, but then it gets slightly more confusing. Recognize that in Chinese, large numbers are counted in groups of 10,000 instead of 1,000 like the Arabic numeral system used in the west. These days Arabic numerals are commonly used in China for phone numbers, addresses, dates and financial transactions, though often you will still see the characters for Chinese numbers when reading texts.


Leaving aside mathematical formulas for now, let’s go over some simple exercises to improve your spoken fluency with Chinese numbers. These cover how to read phone numbers, addresses, and large numbers.


Phone Numbers

Phone numbers are read as a string of individual digits and when pronouncing individual digits, you should pronounce the number ‘1’ as yāo instead of . To practice, here are 12 random cell phone numbers. (Chinese cell phone numbers have 11 digits and fixed numbers have 8 digits plus the area code. China’s country code is +86.) Take 5 minutes to read through these at your own pace and then try them again a bit faster. Try your own phone number as well.


138 3489 2746                    158 9302 5748                    151 0012 1249                    131 3486 2158

138 2389 4191                    136 0108 9798                    151 0214 6262                    159 2394 1415

158 9360 6482                    189 2284 6523                    189 8234 0238                    188 8666 8888 (very lucky)



Chinese addresses are ordered from the largest category to the smallest, similar to dates (year, month day, am/pm, time). So an address should begin with the country and end with the room number. Similar to phone numbers, when reading the numbers in an address each digit should be spoken individually. So the address 1368号 is yāo sān liù bā hào (not yìqiān sānbǎi liùshí bā hào).


Large Numbers

Translating large numbers between Chinese and English is difficult for Chinese people, too, so don’t worry if you’ve been studying for a couple years and you’re still not 100% comfortable with it. In order to quickly figure out the denomination you are looking for, just memorize that 1,000,000 is yìbǎiwàn and  then move up or down. This is faster than always starting from 一万yíwàn and then working up. Also, remember that if a zero or a string of zeroes is between two numbers, the zeroes are replaced by a single 零líng. For example, 10,010,001 is read: yīqiān líng yīwàn líng yī and 101 is yìbǎi líng yī.


To become more comfortable, take 5 minutes and read through these numbers in Chinese a few times:


90,600,000                           90,060,060                           906,000                          90,006  

100,500,000                        1,050,000,000                     10,000,500,000              8,008,008,008,008 (bāwànyì…)


Hopefully these explanations and exercises have given you a better understanding and more confidence with Chinese numbers. To reinforce what you’ve learned today, copy the URL for this page and email it to yourself as a reminder to review these exercises in a couple days. Go through these exercises 2 or 3 times and you will be set for digital domination!


Want to learn more about using numbers and doing business in China? Check out our Business Chinese course or contact us for more information.

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