Chapter 6:Chinese numbers (2)
In this section we present Chinese numbers include fractions, percentages, decimals, half, multiples, lucky and unlucky Chinese numbers, numbers used in phrases and expressions, and special usage of some Chinese numbers.
6. Fractions, percentages, decimals, half, and multiples
To indicate fractions, use the pattern: X分之Y fēn zhī
三分之一：sān fēn zhī yī one-third (1/3)
Note that the ‘whole’ is expressed ﬁrst and the ‘part of the whole’ is expressed second.
1/4 四分之一 sì fēn zhī yī
2/5 五分之二 wo fēn zhī èr
9/10 十分之九 shí fēn zhī jiǔ
7/9 九分之七 jiǔ fēn zhī qr
1/15 十五分之一 shíwǔ fēn zhī yī
Percentages are expressed as parts of 100. The expression used for percentages is the same as for fractions, but the ‘whole’ is always 百bǎi ‘100’:
百分之number， bǎi fēn zhī number
|10% ||百分之十 ||bǎi fēn zhī shí |
|25% ||百分之二十五 ||bǎi fēn zhī èrshíwǔ |
|37% ||百分之三十七 ||bǎi fēn zhī sānshíqī |
|66% ||百分之六十六 ||bǎi fēn zhī liùshíliù |
|99% ||百分之九十九 ||bǎi fēn zhījiǔshíjiǔ |
Decimals are recited as a series of single digits and zeros after a decimal point. The decimal point is read as 点 diǎn:
|1.1 ||一点一 ||yīdiǎn yī |
|2.5 ||二（两）点五 ||(èr or) liǎng diǎn wǔ |
|14.56 ||十四点五六 ||shísì diǎn wǔliù |
|30.808 ||三是点八零八 ||sānshí diǎn bālíng bā |
|8.06 ||八点零六 ||bā diǎn líng liù |
If there is no number before the decimal point, the fraction may optionally be recited as 零/ 〇(XXX) líng diǎn (XXX):
|.35 ||零点三五 ||líng diǎn sān wǔ |
|.27 ||零点二七 ||líng diǎn èr qī |
NOTE Chinese often omits the ﬁnal zero after a decimal point. For example, $8.60 may also be written as $8.6.
6.4 Indicating ‘half’
The word 半 bàn means ‘half.’
To indicate half of something, place bàn before the classiﬁer associated with the thing.
半碗饭 half a bowl of rice
半本书 half a book
半杯水 half a glass of water
To indicate one or more things and a half, place 半 bàn immediately after the classiﬁer sociated with the thing: number + classiﬁer +半bàn:
三碗半(饭) three and a half bowls (of rice)
三本半(书) three and a half volumes (of books)
三杯半（水） three and a half cups (of water)
6.5 Indicating multiples of a quantity with 倍 bèi
倍 bèi is a classiﬁer and is always preceded by a number:一倍 yī bèi,两倍 liǎng bèi，三倍 sān bèi, etc.
一倍yī bèi means ‘one fold,’ or ‘one time more than a given quantity.’
两倍liǒng bèi means ‘twofold,’
三倍 sān bèi means ‘threefold,’ etc.
倍 bèi often occurs with expressions that imply an increase:
价格都增加一倍了 Prices have all doubled (increased by one-fold).
今年这本书比去年贵了一倍 This year this book is twice as expensive as it was last year.
倍 bèi also occurs in equational sentences such as the following:
我的书是你的书的两倍 I have twice as many books as you. (lit. ‘My books are the equivalent of two times your books.’)
If bàn ‘half ’ occurs, it follows 倍 bèi:
今年学中文的学生是去年的一倍半 The number of students studying Chinese this year is 11/2 times greater than last year.
6.6 Discounts, sales, and percentage off the price
The expression for discount or sale is the verb phrase 打折 dǎ zhé.
Discounts are expressed as a percentage of the original or full price.
九折jiǔ zhé is 90% of the original price, or 10% off. 七点五折qīdiǎn wǔ zhé is 75% of the original price, or 25% off. Here are additional examples of discounts. Discounts are written with either Chinese or Arabic numerals.
|8折 bāzhé ||80% of original price ||20% off |
|5折 wǔzhé ||50% of original price ||50% off |
|半折 bàn zhé ||half of original price ||50% off |
|二折 èr zhé ||20% of original price ||80% off |
|一折 yīzhé ||10% of original price ||90% off |
To ﬁnd out if an item is discounted or on sale, you can ask:
打折吗？(Do you discount?) or打不打折？(Do you discount?) Or有折吗(Is there a discount?)
To ﬁnd out how much of a discount there is, you can ask:
打几折 How much discount is there?
7. Lucky and unlucky numbers
Some numbers have special signiﬁcance in Chinese based on their value in traditional Chinese numerology or because they are near-homophones with a word with positive or negative connotations. Here some numbers with special signiﬁcance.
７.１ Numbers with negative connotations – unlucky numbers
四sì (near homophone with 死 sǐ ‘to die’)
五 wǔ (near homophone with 无 wú ‘nothing’ and 苦 kǔ ‘hardship’)
７.２ Numbers with positive connotations – lucky numbers
六 liù (near homophone with 留 liú ‘remain, leftover/excess’)
八 bā(near homophone with 发 f ā ‘prosperity’)
九 jiǔ(near homophone with 久 jiǔ’longevity’）
７.3 The special signiﬁcance of odd and even numbers
•单号 dānhào ‘odd numbers.’ Odd numbered items are appropriate for funerals and other sad occasions.
•双号 shuānghào ‘even numbers.’ Even numbered items (except for the number 4) are appropriate for weddings and other happy occasions.
8. Numbers used in phrases and expressions
Numbers, especially sequential numbers, are often used in Chinese phrases.
1’s and 2’s
一清二楚 perfectly clearly
他说的一清二楚 He said it perfectly clearly.
3’s and 4’s
张三李四 John Doe and Mary Smith (ordinary people)
不三不四 neither here nor there, questionable, no good
7’s and 8’s
乱七八糟 a mess/disorganized
七上八下 to be in an unsettled state of mind
9. 一 yī as a marker of sequence
In addition to functioning as a number, the word 一 yī is also used to indicate sequence in the following structure:
yī+ verb as soon as verb occurs . . .
他一看见他孩子就很高兴 As soon as he sees (his) children he is happy.
10. Numbers that are used as words
Numbers that are homophonous or near homophones with words may be used as abreviations for words. This kind of substitution is particularly common on the internet and in written advertisements and signs. Examples include:
5 3 0 五三零 wǔ sān líng (wǒ xiǎng nǐ) I’m thinking of you – I miss you.
5 2 0 五二零 wǔ èr líng(wǒ ài nǐ) I love you
8 8 bā bā(bàibài) bye bye