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Cardinal Numbers

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General Rules

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In Cantonese, numbers can be interpreted as a series of digits. From tens to ten-thousands, each digit has a corresponding character. To read out the number, read the number of the value of the digit followed by the value of the digit. For example, the number four-hundred and seventy-nine (479) has three digits: four hundreds (四百, read as sei-baak), seven tens (七十, read as chāt-sahp) and nine (九, read as gáu). The number is written as 四百七十九 and is read as sei-baak-chāt-sahp-gáu. The word "and" in "four-hundred and seventy-nine" is omitted.

Any digit in zero followed by a digit which is not zero is replaced by the character 零 (read as lìhng). For example, the number one-thousand and one (1001) is read as yāt-chīn-lìhng-yāt.

The number eleven (11) is literally one-ten and one but the character "one" in "one ten" is usually omitted. The same case applies to twelve to nineteen.

The number two sometimes becomes 兩 (read as léuhng) rather than 二 (read as yih). Examples include:

  • 兩性 léuhng-sing the two sexes
  • 兩文三語 léuhng-man-sāam-yu two written languages and three spoken languages
  • 一國兩制 yāt-gwok-léuhng-zai one country two systems

Generally, two is 兩 when:

  • it is used for counting (e.g. two apples, two people, two houses)
  • it precedes units more than or equal to a thousand

two is 二 in:

  • certain set expressions (such as idioms)
  • numbers less than or equal to a thousand

One through Ten

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About this sound Listen to audio

  • 〇 (零) lìhng zero 0
  • 一 (壹) yāt one 1
  • 二 (貳) yih two 2
  • 三 (叁) sāam three 3
  • 四 (肆) sei four 4
  • 五 (伍) ńgh five 5
  • 六 (陸) luhk six 6
  • 七 (柒) chāt seven 7
  • 八 (捌) baat eight 8
  • 九 (玖) gáu nine 9
  • 十 (拾) sahp ten 10

Parenthesized entries are the complex forms, which are used mainly in notarized, official documents. An exception is zero wherein the complex form is more widely used.

Tens, Hundreds, Thousands, Etc.

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  • 十一 sahp-yāt eleven 11
  • 十二 sahp-yih twelve 12
  • 十三 sahp-sāam thirteen 13

等等 etc.

  • 二十一 yih-sahp-yāt twenty-one 21
  • 二十二 yih-sahp-yih twenty-two 22
  • 二十三 yih-sahp-sāam twenty-three 23

等等 etc.

  • 一百 yāt-baak one-hundred 100
  • 一百零八 yāt-baak-lìhng-baat one-hundred and eight 108
  • 一百六十六 yāt-baak-luhk-sahp-luhk one-hundred and sixty-six 166
  • 二百三十 yih-baak-sāam-sahp two-hundred and thirty

等等 etc.

  • 一千 yāt-chīn one-thousand 1,000
  • 七千二百一十三 chāt-chīn-yih-baak-yāt-sahp-sāam seven thousand two hundred and thirteen 7,213

等等 etc.

  • 一萬 yāt-maahn one myriad or ten-thousand 10,000
  • 四萬三千 sei-maahn-sāam-chīn forty-three thousand 43,000

等等 etc.

  • 十萬 sahp-maahn one-hundred thousand 100,000
  • 九十六萬八千二百七十四 gáu-sahp-luhk-maahn-baat-chīn-yih-baak-chāt-sahp-sei nine hundred and sixty-eight thousand two hundred and seventy-four 968,274

等等 etc.

  • 一百萬 yāt-baak-maahn one million 1,000,000
  • 六百七十八萬二千 luhk-baak-chāt-sahp-baat-maahn-yih-chīn six-million seven-hundred and eighty-two thousand 6,782,000

等等 etc.

Ordinal Numbers

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To show the position of something in a list of items, simply add the word 第 (read as daih) before the number.

  • 第一 daih-yāt the first
  • 第十一 daih-sahp-yāt the eleventh
  • 第四百八十九 daih-sei-baak-baat-sahp-gáu the 489th