Counting Money in Chinese


Money!



In part two of our numerological odyssey, we will hit all the rest of the really important ways to say how much of something there is  These are things that you’ll use every day, like counting money, approximating, and using the word for “half”.


元  塊  錢


ㄩㄢˊ  ㄎㄨㄞˋ  ㄑㄧㄢˊ


1. Counting money!

Now that we’ve learned to count, let’s count all our money!  Here are some common ways to say a dollar amount.


50 dollars
50元
50塊
50塊錢


The most common way to WRITE a dollar amount is with 元.  However, the most common way to SAY a dollar amount is with 塊, which is short for 塊錢.

Here are some currencies in Chinese:


人民幣 (ㄖㄣˊㄇㄧㄣˊㄅㄧˋ) ~ Chinese Renminbi (RMB)

台幣 (ㄊㄞˊㄅㄧˋ) ~ New Taiwan Dollar (NTD)

美金 (ㄇㄟˇㄐㄧㄣ) ~ U.S. Dollar (USD)

美元 (ㄇㄟˇㄩㄢˊ) ~ U.S. Dollar (USD)

英鎊 (ㄧㄥ ㄅㄤˋ) ~ British Pound (GPB)

歐元 (ㄡ ㄩㄢˊ) ~ Euro (EUR)


To say a dollar amount with the currency, first say the number, then 塊, then the currency.  Can you guess what kind of word 塊 is?  That’s right!  It’s a measure word!


五十 人民幣
fifty pieces the people’s currency

五十塊人民幣。

Fifty Chinese Yuan. / Fifty Renminbi. / ¥50.


美金 三十 台幣
one (counter) US Dollar is thirty (counter) Taiwan Dollar

一塊美金是三十塊台幣。

One US Dollar is thirty Taiwan Dollars. / $1 is 30元


Just as American dollars are divided into cents, one Chinese Yuan is divided into ten 角, which is divided again into ten 分.


(ㄐㄧㄠˇ) ~ jiao; 1/10 of one yuan/kuai

(ㄇㄠˊ) ~ mao; same as jiao (colloquial)

(ㄈㄣ) ~ fen; 1/10 of one jiao/mao


四十七
forty-seven kuai five mao two fen

四十七塊五毛兩分

¥47.52


Taiwan dollars are easier.  They have no smaller denomination.



多少


ㄉㄨㄛ ㄕㄠˇ


2. Asking how much

You already know how to ask how many of something there is, but just as in English, there is a different way to ask how much of something there is.


多少 (ㄉㄨㄛ ㄕㄠˇ) ~ How much?


To ask how much money something costs, just add 錢.  No measure word is necessary with 多少.


多少
how much? money

多少錢?

How much does this cost?


In English, there is a clear distinction between “how many” and “how much”.  One is for countable nouns, the other is for uncountable nouns.  For instance, “How much pizza?” vs. “How many slices of pizza?”  You have to pick the right one, otherwise it’s wrong.  (You can’t say “How much slices of pizza?”)

Chinese has 幾 (how many), and 多少 (how much).  幾 is simple.  Like “how many”, it’s always used for countable nouns, and virtually always requires a counter like 個.

多少 is a bit more complicated.  It can be used to ask “how much” OR “how many”.  Anywhere you can use 幾, you can also use 多少.


how many? (counter) person

幾個人?

How many people?


多少
how much? (counter) person

多少個人?

How many people?


多少
how much? person

多少人?

How many people?


As you can see, 多少 can always use the same counter as 幾, but unlike 幾, the counter in 多少 is optional, and usually left out.  Only experience will tell you when to keep the counter in.


多少
how much? piece (counter) ice

多少塊冰? / 多少冰? / 多少塊?

How many ice cubes?


In this case, all three sentences are okay, but “多少塊?” is the most common.



差不多  左右


ㄔㄚˋ ㄅㄨˋ ㄉㄨㄛ    ㄗㄨㄛˇ ㄧㄡˋ


3. Approximating

If you’re not sure exactly how many of something there is, you can approximate by saying 差不多 before the number.


差不多 (ㄔㄚˋ ㄅㄨˋ ㄉㄨㄛ) ~ approximately (lit. “difference not much”)



明天 會議 需要 一個 小時
tomorrow ’s meeting require approximately one/an hour

明天的會議需要差不多一個小時。

Tomorrow’s meeting will last about an hour.


賓客 兩點
guests approximately two o’clock arrive

賓客差不多兩點到。

The guests will arrive around two o’clock.


Another way is to put 左右 after the number (and counter/noun).  左右 literally means “left-right”, so it’s a bit like saying “X number, or to the left or right of it.”  Think of it as the Chinese version of “more or less”.


左右 (ㄗㄨㄛˇ ㄧㄡˋ) ~ approximately, more or less (lit. “left-right”)



明天 會議 需要 一個 小時 左右
tomorrow ’s meeting require one/an hour approximately

明天的會議需要一個小時左右。

Tomorrow’s meeting will last about an hour.


賓客 兩點 左右
guests two o’clock approximately arrive

賓客到兩點左右。

The guests will arrive around two o’clock.



4. Approximating with Successive Numbers

You can also approximate by saying two successive numbers.


I eat -ed four five (strips counter) hot dog

我吃了四,五條熱狗。

I ate four or five hot dogs.


If using bigger numbers, you might want to pause between them for more clarity. In writing, a comma can make it clearer.


美金 三十 三十一 台幣
one (counter) US Dollar is thirty thirty-one (counter) US Dollar

一塊美金是三十,三十一塊台幣。

One US Dollar is thirty or thirty-one Taiwan Dollars. / $1 is 30-31元


When both numbers have the same amount of ending zeros, you can shorten how you say them.


美金 三十二 台幣
one (counter) US Dollar is thirty-two three (counter) Taiwan Dollar

一塊美金是三十二,三塊台幣。

One US Dollar is thirty-two or thirty-three Taiwan Dollars. / $1 is 32-33元


烤肉
Barbecue have two three hundred (counter) person

烤肉有兩,三百個人。

The Barbecue will have two or three hundred people.



從  到


ㄘㄨㄥˊ    ㄉㄠˋ


5. From X to Y

To give a specific range of numbers, like 217-453, use 從 and 到.


從 x 到 y


我的 學生 十二
my student(s) from four to twelve years of age

我的學生從四到十二歲。

My students are from 4 to 12 years old.


新的 球鞋 六十 一百八
new sneakers are from 60 to 180 dollars

新的球鞋是從六十到一百八塊。

New sneakers cost between $60 and $180.


This “from x to y” grammar pattern can also be used with times, places, and many other things; but let’s leave that all for another day!




ㄅㄢˋ


6. (ㄅㄢˋ) ~ half

There are two ways to use 半 to say there is half of something.  If the amount is exactly one half, just put the 半 in the same place you would put the number, followed with the appropriate counter, and the noun if necessary.


半 (counter) (noun)


I eat -ed half (counter) egg

我吃了半個蛋。

I ate half an egg.


這裡 機場 小時
from here to airport is half hour

從這裡到機場是半小時。

The airport is half an hour from here.


When the number is “x and a half,” you put the number in the usual place, with the 半 going after the counter.


(number) (counter) 半 (noun)


公斤
fish has half kilogram weight

魚有半公斤重。

The fish weighs half a kilogram.


電影 小時
movie is one hour half

電影是一小時半。

The movie is an hour and a half long.


Nouns which are their own counters, like 年 and 歲, will appear in the “counter” position.


日本
I live at/in Japan three year half

我住在日本三年半。

I lived in Japan for three and a half years.



我的 弟弟
my little brother two years of age half

我的弟弟兩歲半。

My little brother is two and a half years old.



Great work!  We’re almost halfway through Numberland!  Next lesson, we’ll look at years, months, dates, and days of the week.



Next: Days & Dates