I just wondered what are the rules of saying numbers...

For example:

10 = 十
19 = 十九
100 = 一百
1,000 = 一千
10,000 = 一萬


119 = 一百一十九


110 = 一百一
1,100 = 一千一
11,000 = 一萬一

and then

10,110 = 一萬零一百一十

Is there any rule of thumb??

1 Answer 1


For reading numbers aloud, the wikipedia page has a section "Reading and transcribing numbers" that you might find useful.

Since I think you know the basics and your problem seems to affect the reading of "zero", let me quote this passage:

"Interior zeroes before the unit position (as in 1002) must be spelt explicitly. The reason for this is that trailing zeroes (as in 1200) are often omitted as shorthand, so ambiguity occurs. One zero is sufficient to resolve the ambiguity. Where the zero is before a digit other than the units digit, the explicit zero is not ambiguous and is therefore optional, but preferred."

Note: I know you didn't ask for the writing part, but if you don't mind, I'd like to keep it. If you think it's misleading, I can delete it.

For writing numbers, I found a nice page, Chinese numbers intro, that summarizes the rules for writing numbers. I summarized it below. If you find mistakes or if I forgot something, please post a comment:

  1. "Tens" are expressed by writing "numeral + ten".

    70 = 七十

  2. when adding a single numeral, just add it after those two.

    75 = 七十五

  3. with hundreds, you add the hundred and then the rest.

    275 = 二百七十五

  4. with thousands, you do the same.

    1275 = 一千二百七十五

  5. same with ten thousands.

    31275 = 三万一千二百七十五

  6. if there's a ZERO, you include it.

    31075 = 三万一千零七十五

  7. the character 点 is used for "dot"

    16.98 = 十六点九八 (10-6-decimal-9-8)

You can find more on the wikipedia page for numbers.

I also found a nice number converter that you can use for self-study, I think. You can output Traditional, Simplified Chinese and also Pinyin.

  • If you want, I can add the table here in a more simple manner, to make it easier to read it.
    – Alenanno
    Dec 14, 2011 at 11:52
  • Thanks, Alenanno. These are quite useful for writing but my question is for saying/reading out numbers. Say, if I bought something that costs 110 dollars in a market, the vendor usually says 一百一, rather than 一百一十. But then when it comes to 10,110, the reading becomes 一萬零一百一十?
    – Georgeee
    Dec 14, 2011 at 12:14
  • @Georgeee Oh sorry! I didn't see it! :! I'll edit my answer. Let me know if it answers your question. According to what that page says, you don't need to spell it since it doesn't occur before the unit position, i.e. from 1 to 9, the number occurring last.
    – Alenanno
    Dec 14, 2011 at 12:23
  • Another tip: you'll choose the version for different context. For example, My brother is reaching 120cm now, 我弟弟長到一米二了, My new novel has been sold out for 120 copies, 我的新小說賣到一百二十本了. Never heard of 一百二本書
    – George
    Aug 20, 2013 at 11:08

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