Mandarin Grammar

Basic Numbers

Learning Objectives

We are going to teach you how to speak and write basic numbers in Mandarin Chinese.

In our daily life, we often need to use numbers. For examples, we use numbers to tell the time with the big and little hands, to measure the body weight, to put the phone numbers on an application form and so on. So, knowing how to speak and write numbers is fundamental and essential in learning Mandarin Chinese.

At the end, we listen together a piece of poem about numbers, which helps our students to practice pronouncing difficult sounds in learning numbers.

Learning Video

Listening Practice

Listen to a piece of poem about numbers, which helps practice pronouncing difficult sounds in learning numbers.


yī piàn yī piàn yòu  yī piān

One flake, one flake, yet another flake


liǎng piān sān piān sì wǔ piān

Two flakes, three flakes, four and five flakes


liù piān qī piān bā jiǔ piān

Six flakes, seven flakes, eight and nine flakes  


fēi rù lú huā dū bù jiàn

Flying among the rushes and vanishing


00:00 / 00:14

Additional Notes

Let remind you when pronouncing the numbers “one” and “two”. Their pronunciations are different when they are used in different situations

(1) Number One

  • The number one “1” is often pronounced as “yāo”, instead of “yī” when talking about numbering of a phone number.

  • Practically, the reason for the change in the pronunciation of the number one is to avoid confusion with the number seven "qī", their pronunciations are easily mixed up when speaking about phone number.

(2) Number Two

With Measure Words 

  • When number two "2" is used as a measure word, its pronunciation is  "liǎng", instead of "èr".

  • Examples of measure words such as "Number of Person, 个 gè", "Number of Book, 本 běn", "Number of room, 间 jiān", etc.

  • For example, if we have two apples, you could say 两个苹果 liǎng gè píng guǒ (instead of 二个苹果 èr gè píng guǒ)

Counting Numbers

  • "Two, 二 èr" is used when counting without measure words.

  • For examples, "one, 一 yī", "two, 二 èr", "three, 三 sān", ..., "eleven, 十一 shí yī", "twelve, 十二 shí èr", ...