Mandarin Monday, 第二课

by Sue

Mandarin Monday was started to help me remember the Chinese I was regretfully slowly forgetting.  By informing others and writing about vocabulary, phrases, and grammar along with tidbits about Chinese culture, I hope to not only relearn the language but also help others learn as well.  I welcome questions and criticisms if you find that my grammar is incorrect;  contact me in comments or my e-mail: sue[@]madeinkowloon[.]com.  Thank you!

dà jiā hǎo! hěn jiǔ bù jiàn.

big family good very long time no see = Hello everyone! Long time no see.

Actually, it’s not that long; it’s only been a week.  Last Monday, I left off with introductory greetings.  The next few lessons I will go into more basics, such as places and numbers so you are able to keep those appointments you scheduled throughout your week!  Today’s lesson: Numbers and Dates.

零        一        二        三        四        五        六        七        八        九        十
líng         yī            èr            sān           sì             wǔ          liù             qī            bā           jiǔ           shí
zero       one        two         three       four        five        six            seven     eight     nine        ten

十一    十二    十三。。。
shí yī      shí èr       shí sān…
eleven    twelve    thirteen
(10+1)   (10+2)    (10+3)

Fourteen through nineteen follow the same pattern as you see above.  This is how you would say the following higher numbers:

二十          二十一 。。。
èr shí              èr shí yī
twenty           twenty-one
(2×10)           ([2×10]+1)

sān shí       sì shí           wǔ shí        liù shí
thirty         forty           fifty            sixty

So if we are following the above pattern, 73 would be: 七十三 (qī shí sān) ([7×10]+3)

yī bǎi
one hundred

We do not use the above in casual writing; we use the alpha-numeric system that most people are familiar with (0-9).  However, we also are familiar with the rule that in formal writing, you have to actually write out the number (“zero” instead of “0”) unless writing the number requires you to use more than two words.  Same applies to Chinese in formal writing, except for the latter rule.  Other than understanding formalities, Chinese numbers appear when writing out dates.

Days of the Week(星期 xīng qí)

星期一           星期二          星期三          星期四        星期五
xīng qí yī             xīng qí èr            xīng qí sān         xīng qí sì           xīng qí wǔ
Monday              Tuesday              Wednesday        Thursday         Friday

星期六          星期日/ 星期天
xīng qí liù           xīng qí rì/ xīng qí tiān
Saturday            Sunday

As you’ve noticed, Sunday is the day that doesn’t follow the numeric pattern.  I have a theory that it changed because (rì) is also how you write the word “sun.”  Get it?  Sun Day?  In spoken Chinese, especially in Hong Kong (where the primary dialect is Cantonese), a person will/ could use 礼拜 (lǐ bài) in place of 星期 (xīng qí).   It means the same thing and is interchangeable, but in written Chinese, you would use the formal 星期 (xīng qí).

To simply say “the weekend,” it is represented, in writing and spoken, by “周末” (zhōu mò).  In mainland China, they could also interchange 星期 (xīng qí) with (zhōu).  For example, Thursday is also 周四 (zhōu sì).

In summation, there are 3 ways in which you can write and say the days of the week: 星期, 礼拜, and .  The first is the most common and can be used to represent formal and casual speech and writing.  The second is mostly used in spoken Chinese in the southern region, and the last is perhaps the most formal of all and is rarely used, except when representing “weekend.”

Months ()

一月          二月          三月        四月       五月          六月
yī yuè           èr yuè             sān yuè       sì yuè         wǔ yuè            liù yuè
January      February       March         April           May                June

七月       八月            九月        十月       十一月      十二月
qī yuè        bā yuè               jiǔ yuè         shí yuè       shí yī yuè       shí èr yuē
July           August             September October     November     December

This is pretty straight forward.  There are no other ways to say or write the months of the year.

Days of the Month ( “hào” vs. “rì”)

In spoken Chinese, (hào, “number”) is used to refer to the days of the month, but in written Chinese, (rì, “day/ sun”) is always used.  For example, October 24th is said in the following manner:

十月二十四号 (shí yuè èr shí sì hào), and it is written in this manner:

十月二十四日 (shí yuè èr shí sì rì).

Year ( “nián”)

” is always used when said in conjunction with the actual year.  Unlike English where we say and write it as 2009, in Chinese it is written and spoken this way:

二零零九年 èr líng líng jiǔ nián      (2009)

一九八七年 yī jiǔ bā qī nián            (1987)

Also unlike English, where the years are read as “two thousand nine” and “nineteen eighty-seven” respectively, you’ll notice from the pinyin that it is read one digit at a time.

So in a few days prepare to learn how to tell time.  You want to be punctual for your date, don’t you?