This has always stumped me as all other base 10 numbers (>10) in Chinese you declare 1 through 9 for the quantity [1] of these units but you only have to declare 2 through 9 for 十 as 1 is implied [2]

So is there reason behind this or just a quirk in the numerical system?








As @congusbongus has pointed out this is only applicable when talking about 十 through 十九

  • @congusbongus I've noted it in my question now, should have put it in originally just forgot to -_-
    – 50-3
    Nov 12 '13 at 1:41
  • Saying 一十, 一十一, 一十二, ..., or 一十九 isn't wrong, though 一 is often omitted for them.
    – Stan
    Nov 12 '13 at 1:47
  • @stan Which brings me to the question why can't we omit it from all of them then? 百, 千, 万 Rather then 一百,一千,一万
    – 50-3
    Nov 12 '13 at 1:50
  • 3
    Though I haven't done any rigorous research work for this issue, I believe that's because it sounds better in modern Chinese. In ancient Chinese works, you can often find the short form 百/千/万, e.g. in 鶡冠子: "泰上成鳩之道,一族用之 萬八千 歲". This short form keeps in modern Japanese, they say 101 as 百一(ひゃくいち), 120 as 百二十(ひゃくにじゅう). I guess in the modern times, Chinese people feel it too archaic so spell it to the modern form.
    – Stan
    Nov 12 '13 at 2:11
  • some old man still say 一十, but in school they don't teach it like this Nov 12 '13 at 2:43

It's just conventional. Even common Chinese don't know why.

You do can say 16, for example, 一十六 or 十六. When we emphasizing something, we say 一十六. While in common usage, we say 十六, because it's tired to add a prefix 一. It's redundant.


Chinese is not alone in this. Think about English. We say "one thousand", "one hundred", but we don't really say "one ten". And all numbers between 20 and 100 are represented as "(root for higher digit)-ty + (lower digit)", if you follow this rule, then 13 should be "onety three", but no, it is "thirteen".

I guess the reason is that people tend to make the numbers frequently used as short as possible. As mentioned before, 一十六 is not wrong, but the shorter version 十六 is much more preferred.

  • We don't say one ten in English because ten is a unique word for the value alone. If it wasn't we would say two ten, three ten, ect...
    – 50-3
    Dec 4 '13 at 22:11
  • @50-3 Then apparently, 'thousands' and 'hundreds' are not 'unique words for the values alone'. So English, just like Chinese, has a different usage of large numerical units from smaller ones. Thank you for corroborating my observation. Dec 4 '13 at 22:29
  • 十is not a unique identifiers a unique identifier like ten. 十 = x0.0 ten = 10.0 it cannot equal anything else. 十declares the second vales from the left of the decimal place like hundred declares the third. In English we have to declare from 1-9 for all these non unique identifiers similar to Chinese but in Chinese you don't do it for 十like you do for 百 千 ect...
    – 50-3
    Dec 5 '13 at 0:07
  • 十 for me is just the number 10.0, although you can pile it up on top of each other. 二十 is literally 'two tens' (kind of similar to 'tens of' in English). Of course you may see it your way, which works just as well. Anyway, I was simply trying to compare the APPARENT similarity between English and Chinese, the actual reason behind this similarity is really beyond my ability to explain. Dec 6 '13 at 7:57
  • @50-3, historically, that is exactly what English does. ‘-ty’ and ‘-teen’ are both worn-down forms of the word ‘ten’. Just like in Chinese, ‘ten’ is a pure numeral, while ‘hundred’ and ‘thousand’ are closer to being nouns than numerals. In Chinese, 百 and 千 (and 万, 京, 兆, etc.) function as classifiers (i.e., nouns) in some respects, but as numerals in others. Dec 8 '13 at 15:58

I don’t think there are deep reasons of this, this is the way we count numbers, actually for each number times 10 (from 1), we give them a unit, like : 一 十 百 千 万 十万 百万 千万 亿


As @Stan mention in the comment, we often omit the '一' when the number is in between 10 to 20.

So we usually say 十, 十一, 十二, 十三, 十四, 十五, 十六, 十七, 十八, 十九

But if you got to bank to write down the number you'd like to transfer or deposit, it comes to the more disambiguous way such as the case bellow:

11111 壹萬壹千壹百壹拾壹元

For me I think if you only need to write the characters, it doesn't matter.

Only when you talk to normal people, that sounds a bit weird.


From google translate or other translate,十 or 一十 both translated into ten。Which will you select as ten?I choose 十,but as others said that "一十" is not wrong.Maybe it happen to our daily life,we also say "千二" as 1200,"百二" as 120,"十二" as 12;Also we write 十二,but we won't write 千二。You know Oral and written will have a big differnt.

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