The first letter of a sentence in Pinyin is to be capitalized. Does this remain true if the sentence starts with an arabic numeral? For instance, Google Translate turns "23万人" into "23 Wàn rén" instead of "23 wàn rén", as one may expect from European languages.

  • 3
    I suspect that if you can answer an equivalent question for English, then you get the same answer for Pinyin. Is it 30 Dogs suddenly ran out of the pound or 30 dogs suddenly ran out of the pound? The latter makes more sense.
    – dROOOze
    Sep 10, 2019 at 12:17
  • @drooze: Yes, that is what would have expected. But with Google Translate handling this case differently, I wonder whether Google has a reason for doing so. The rules that I am able to find don't seem to handle this case.
    – user22495
    Sep 10, 2019 at 12:54
  • If something in Google Translate appears weird when it comes to Chinese, it's almost certainly Google that's got it wrong, not some unique special case that merits investigation. Is there any reason why you would capitalise the w in your example? I mean, the number is obviously part of the sentence, so like @dROOOze says, it doesn't make more sense to capitalise the w in Chinese than it would in English.
    – Olle Linge
    Feb 8, 2020 at 10:44

3 Answers 3


This may be hard to answer definitively. (It might be documented in the ISO 7098:2015, but it's behind a paywall.)

In any case, it would be natural to transliterate a sentence beginning:



25 wàn rén...

We certainly know sentences start with capital letters:

6.3.1 句子开头的字母大写。例如:
- Chūntiān láile.(春天来了。)
- Wǒ ài wǒ de jiāxiāng.(我爱我的家乡。)

(Basic Rules of the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet Orthography, 2012. Source.)

In the given example, the sentence starts with 2 (not 万).

It also seems reasonable to believe that pinyin follows English capitalization, like it does for other forms of capitalization (start of a sentence, people's names, etc.).

Some related observations...

It is possible to use Arabic numerals in pinyin, the above document contains this example:

635 fēnjī(635分机)
(extension 635)

along with examples where the pinyin corresponds to what is pronounced:

èr fēn zhī yī(二分之一)
èr líng líng bā nián(二〇〇八年)

I didn't find a definitive example where a numeral in Chinese was transliterated to its pronunciation in pinyin.

And there's also examples of place names where Chinese characters are converted to numbers in pinyin:

二马路 (2 Mǎlù)
三环路 (3 Huánlù)
(China Place Name Hanyu Pinyin Letter Spelling Rules (Hanyu Place Name Part), 1984. Source.)

  • 1
    Thanks for pointing out ISO 7098:2015. I wasn't aware of it before! However, having read it now, I have to state that it mostly covers linguistic terminology and the transcription of names.
    – user22495
    Feb 13, 2020 at 22:35

The truth is no one really cares about pinyin punctuation that much. You’ll never see Chinese speakers write what they are saying in pinyin, much less scruitinise whether the first word’s pinyin is capitalized.


Wouldn't the number be written out in Pinyin? i.e.:

Èr shí sān wàn rén

  • Very often it is not. Instead of Arabic numbers they also could use Chinese numbers 二十三万人, but is is quite often a mixture.
    – metters
    Sep 10, 2019 at 10:53

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