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Counting in Chinese

The very first thing you would learn in a foreign language no matter what language that is or whether you are actually learning or not, is to learn to count. In some languages it might be difficult to learn counting up to a hundred or thousand but in Chinese its easy! When you are done reading this article, you will be able to count up to ten and continue counting up to one hundred.

Here we go!

We will start with the numbers up to ten and the rest will be easy. The pronounciations of the words are given in parentheses.

(pronounced as e): one

r (like are): two

sān (like the sun): three

s (as ts as in double zs in pizza): four

(like wood but without d at the end): five

li (like leo): six

( like chi): seven

(like bar without the r): eight

jiŭ (like geo): nine

sh ( like the first part of should): ten

Now you can count up to ten. Isnt it easy? Lets continue to count up to 100. Remember, counting in Chinese is based on the abacus system.

First, lets count from 11 to 20.

In the abacus, you have one bead in the tens and one bead in the ones for 11. So, for eleven, you say sh yī. Its like you are adding ten and one and thats actually how you count. Just like doing mathematics! Lets continue;

11 (10 + 1) : sh yī

12 ( 10 + 2) : sh r

13 (10 + 3) : sh sān

14 ( 10 + 4) : sh s

How are you doing? Its not too difficult, is it? Now, continue to count up to 20. When you get to 20, stop there because there will be a slight change. Lets do the same trick for 20. You have two beans in the tens, meaning you have two tens. And this is actually how you say it in Chinese.

20 (10 + 10) : r sh

Once you have the two tens (r sh), thats your word for twenty and you continue to count the same way you do when you count to ten.

20 : r sh

21 (20 + 1) : r sh yī

22 (20 + 2) : r sh r

23 (20 + 3) : r sh sān

24 (20 + 4) : r sh s

How are you doing now? Continue counting to 30.
When you get to thirty, this time you say? Can you guess? Yes, thats right! 30 is sān sh!

The same way you do in the twenties applies here, too. You can do this up to 99.
30 - sān sh, 40 s sh, 50 wŭ sh and so on..until you get to jiŭ sh jiŭ.

When you get to 100, you would probably think that you can say sh sh but unfortunately you cant. There is another character for hundred which is 百 băi and its pronounced just like bye.

Now, congratulate yourself for being able to counting to 100 in Chinese and you can brag about it to your friends!

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