How to Count to Ten in Mandarin

Spoken Chinese has many forms (or dialects, if you will, though it is debatable whether they are actually languages in their own right). One of the more popular ones, arguably the lingua franca in diverse Chinese communities (not only in China, but Taiwan and Singapore), is Mandarin. This article will teach you how to count to ten in Mandarin.


  1. Image titled Count to Ten in Mandarin Step 1
    Master the four different tones to be able to speak Mandarin properly. This four tones are denoted (in hanyupinyin format) by the symbols as: - / V \ . Basically, the tones follow the gradation of these symbols. For example, the first tone is represented by a horizontal dash (-), which means that there are no fluctuations of pitch; rather, the tone is held steady and high. The second tone (/) requires an upward rise in pitch, while the last tone (\) sounds as when you're extremely mad, it's the same tone as the word, "No!" when you're mad. The third tone (V) requires the tone to dip down and then rise again. This 4 tones can otherwise be written down as 1, 2, 3 or 4 respectively.
  2. Image titled Count to Ten in Mandarin Step 2
    Learn the pronunciations of the numbers. The following are the (simplified) Chinese characters from one to ten, followed by the hanyupinyin version, and then the pronunciation spelled out phonetically with the tone next to it.
    • 一 yī (yi) [eee]
    • 二 èr (er) [arr]
    • 三 sān (san) [sahn]
    • 四 sì (si) [ssuh] - like a snake with 'uh' (say the vowel in the back of your throat)
    • 五 wǔ (wu) [woo] (Not to be confused with wo [woaa] meaning I or me.)
    • 六 lìu (liu) [liou]
    • 七 qī (qi) [chi] (say it in the front of your mouth, with your teeth together and your lips pulled to the sides)
    • 八 bā (ba) [bah]
    • 九 jiǔ (jiu) [jeou]
    • 十 shí (shi) [sher] (This time, say the vowel in the front of your mouth, with your teeth together)
  3. Image titled Count to Ten in Mandarin Step 3
    Learn how to say two or more digit numbers. For numbers up to 99, just say the number in the tens place, then say "十" "shi", then the number in the one's place, for example. 46 is pronounced ”四十六“ "sì shí lìu (si shi liu)," and 82 is pronounced “八十二” "bā shí èr (ba shi er)."


  • The best way to learn the pronunciation is to listen to native and/or fluent speakers of the language.
  • To count 10-19, just say ten (Shi) and a number from 1-9. If you want to pronounce 14, say Shi-Si (10-4).
  • Note that counting on your fingers in Chinese is different from places such as the US for numbers six through ten. Use these symbols instead of what you may be used to. Fingers not mentioned, should be curled as when you are making a fist.
    • For six, extend both thumb and pinky, as you might to demonstrate talking on the phone.
    • For seven, touch both forefinger and middle finger to thumb.
    • For eight, extend both forefinger and thumb, as if making a gun.
    • For nine, curl your forefinger like you're making a pirate hook.
    • For ten, extend forefinger and middle finger and cross them, as if crossing your fingers for good luck. Or take your index finger on one hand and cross it with your index finger on your other hand, like you're making a + sign (which is how ten is written in Chinese).
  • Practice makes perfect!
  • Practice every night until you get it perfectly.
  • To count 20-99, just say the ten's place, then ten, then the one's place. So 20 would be Er-Shi (2-10, no one's place because it is zero), and 21 would be Er-Shi-Eee (2-10-1).


  • Pay extra attention to your tones. Simple mistakes can create new words. (For example, pronouncing the Chinese word for four with a third tone is actually the word for "death")

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Categories: Chinese