Last Updated on October 27, 2015
In some ways, Chinese is more systematic and logical than English. Both languages of course have exceptions in grammar etc, but in some cases, Chinese is actually easier than English. This post will discuss some of the ways in which Chinese can be easier and more logical than English.
Names of Months In Chinese
In English, and many other European languages, each month has a unique name, sometimes named after famous people like July for Julius Caesar and August for Augustus Caesar, or named in various other ways. There is no particular logic to how months are named in English. In Chinese, however, we simply name a month by its month number. The 12 month calendar system which we use today, also known as the Gregorian Calendar, was created by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorian_calendar). China adopted the Gregorian Calendar after Europeans came to China during the past 2 centuries. So, January, which is the first month in the Gregorian Calendar, is literally called 1 month or 一月. February is literally 2 month, or 二月. March is 3 month or 三月 and so on up to December which is 12 month or 十二月.
Animals In Chinese
Animal names in English aren’t always easy. When we talk about baby animals or male and female animals in English, often one just needs to memorize the names for the male and female animals and baby animals unfortunately.
Male and Female Animals In Chinese
To talk about a male animal, one simply adds the word 公 (gong1) before the name of the animal. To talk about a female animal, one simply adds the word 母 (mu3) (also meaning mother) before the name of the animal.
Hen 母雞 (literally mother chicken)
Bull is 公牛
Mother dog 母狗
Male dog 公狗
Male lion 公獅
Baby Animals In Chinese
To talk about baby animals in English, we often have a random name for the baby animal, and sometimes the word has no obvious connection to the main animal name. For example, the name for a baby dog is puppy. For a baby cat, the name is kitten. For a baby horse, the name is colt or pony.
In general, to talk about any baby animal, one adds 小 (xiao3) + the animal name.
Puppy is 小狗 (literally small dog)
kitten is 小貓 (literally small cat)
(bear) cubs 小熊
colt or pony 小馬
gosling 小鹅 (literally small goose)
duckling 小鸭 (literally small duck)
Numbers up to 9,999 and Ordinal Numbers In Chinese
In order to count from 0 to 100 in Chinese, one only needs to know how to say the numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 100.
The numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 100 all have their own characters.
Beyond 100, the character for 0 is used, but rarely. From 1 to 100, you never use the character for 0.
0 = 零 (ling2)
1 = 一 (yi1)
2 = 二 (er4)
3. = 三 (san1)
4 = 四 (si4)
5 = 五 (wu3)
6 = 六 (liu4)
7 = 七 (qi1)
8 = 八 (ba1)
9 = 九 (jiu3)
10 = 十 (shi2)
100 = 百 (bai3)
1000 = 千 (qian1)
10000 = 萬 (wan4)
From 0 to 10, you literally just say the word for the character. Beyond that, you simply group numbers according to tens and then ones like you probably learned in basic mathematics. There are no special “teen” numbers like in English which are their own special words, like eleven, twelve, thirteen, and so on in Chinese.
11 is 十一 (literally 10 1)
12 is 十二 (literally 10 2)
20 is 二十 (literally 2 ten). You can think of it as 2 tens when thinking of grouping numbers.
30 is 三十 (literally 3 ten).
31 is 三十一 literally three ten one. You can think of it as 3 tens and a 1.
45 is 四十五 （literally 4 ten five). You can think of it as 4 tens and a 5.
99 is 九十九 (literally 9 ten 9)
100 is 一百
Beyond 100, an important exception is for the numbers between 101 to 109. You must specify a zero when you speak.
So 101 is literally 1 hundred zero 1 一百零一
102 is literally 1 hundred zero 2 一百零二
109 is literally 1 hundred zero 9 一百零九
This is very important because if you leave the zero out, people might assume that after the hundred you are talking about tens places.
110 = 一百一 = one hundred ten (informal)
150 = 一百五 (informal)
This is vital to know if shopping in a market in China, and I made this mistake before. For example, one time I negotiated down the price for an item, and I thought I was saying 105 一百零五, but in fact I said 一百五 and so the seller thought I meant 150.
Also, beyond that, between 110 and 119, it follows this pattern pattern:
You can probably should emphasize the number of tens, even if it is just 1 tens place, to avoid confusion.
110 is usually 一百一十 (formal) or 一百一 (informal)
111 is 一百一十一 (formal)
112 is一百一十二 (formal)
118 is 一百一十八 (formal)
120 is 一百二十(formal) or 一百二(informal)
beyond 120, it is very easy, similar to the numbering from 20 to 99
125 is 一百二十五
155 is 一百五十五
199 is 一百九十九
the exceptions for 101 to 109 apply to 201 to 209, 301 to 309, and so on up to 901 to 909.
And likewise for 210 to 219 and other hundreds like X10 to X19 (X any integer inclusively between 2 and 9) you should emphasize that there is 1 tens place. Now, you can easily figure out how to say the numbers up to 999 in Chinese.
212 = 二百一十二
255 = 二百五十五
288 = 二百八十八
290 = 二百九十
333 = 三百三十三
568 = 五百六十八
670 = 六百七十
from 1000 to 9,999, we need to use the character for 1000, which is 千 qian1.
Similar rules like the ones for 100 to 999 apply to 1,000 up to 9,999
1000 = 一千
1005 = 一千零五
1050 = 一千零五十
1500 = 一千五百 (formal)
1555 = 一千五百五十五
1678 = 一千六百七十八
1999 = 一千九百九十九
2874 = 二千八百七十四
8730 = 八千七百三十
Beyond 10,000 it gets a little confusing
In Chinese, there is actually a word for 10,000 called 萬 wan4.
So, for example, 100,000 is 10 ten thousands or 十萬 or 一十萬 to really emphasize you have only 1 group of ten ten thousands.
1 million is 10 ten thousands or 一百萬
We use the character for 10,000 up to 99,999,999
There is actually a character for 100 million which is 億 (yi4)
If you would like to practice numbers by converting them into Chinese Characters, you can use this tool we made.
Ordinal Numbers In Chinese
In English, we have special words for ordinal numbers. For example, first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, twenty-first, and so on.
In Chinese, it is much easier. If you want any number’s ordinal form, just add the character 第 (di4) in front of the cardinal number’s form.
1st is 第一
and so on for all numbers
What did you think of this post? Do know of some other things easier in Chinese than in English? Let’s continue this conversation below.