Chinese Way to Count on Their Fingers


In many countries and languages, it takes two hands with five fingers each to count from 1 to 10.  The Chinese just use one hand, watch and practice your numbers with the little girl below.  Go ahead, stretch your abilities:

If you are new in China with limited language abilities, giving people these fingers will take you a lot farther than the one typically used with the taxi drivers that almost run you down.

Mandarin for Buying Chinese Writing Brushes at a Stationary Store

Mandarin for Buying Chinese Writing Brushes at a Stationary Shop

Mrs. Chen                 (Pointing) Gěi wǒ kàn neìzhī máobǐ.

(Give me see that MW sumi brush.)

Clerk                           Hǎo. Zheìzhī yǐjing yǒu shuǐ zài lǐmìan.

(Okay. This MW already has ink inside.)

                                    Bú yǒng lìngwài mǎi muòshuǐ.

(No need to additionally buy grinding ink.)

Mrs. Chen                   Kěshì, huìbúhuì hěn kuàide jiù gān?

(But will IT quickly dry up?)

Clerk                            Huì.


Mrs. Chen                   Duōshāo qián yīzhī?

(How much money for one MW.)

Clerk                            Yīzhī sānkuài qián. Nǐ yào mǎi jǐzhī?

(One MW*  three dollars money. You want to buy how many?)

Mrs. Chen                    Hěn piányi. Gěi wǒ sānzhī.

(Very cheap. Give me three MW).

Clerk                            Yīzhī, liǎngzhī, sānzhī.  Jiǔkuài qián.

(One MW, two MW, three MW. Nine dollars money.)

Mrs. Chen                    Hǎo, Shíkuài qián. (Hands him a ten dollar bill.)

(Okay. Ten dollars.)

Clerk                            Sānzhī bǐ. Yíkuài qián. Fāpiào. Yáo dàizi ma?

(Three writing utensils. One dollar money. Invoice. Want a bag?

Mrs.  Chen                   Bú yòng. Xièxie.

(No need. Thanks.)

Clerk                            Xièxie xièxie.

(Thanks. Thanks.)

MW = measure word, like head of lettuce, piece of toast, etc.


1. What is ‘zhī’?

2. What is the difference ‘neì’ and ‘Zheì’?

3.  What is the difference is ‘jǐ’ and ‘Duōshāo’?

4.  What does ‘bú yòng’ mean?

5. How do you say ‘cheap’ in Chinese?

6.  How do you say ‘invoice’ in Chinese?

7.  How do you say ‘one, two, three’ in Chinese?

Answers:  1.  measure word for pen. 2. That, this. 3. how many, how much.  4. no need, not necessary.  5. piányi. 6. fāpiào.  7. yī, liǎng/er, sān.


Ask a Chinese person to explain how to use ‘liang’ and ‘er’ in Chinese.

For a similar but easier lesson, go here.

Here is a related video with some other measure words.


Buying drinks to go in Mandarin–Chinese Qwiki

How to order three glasses of lemonade.

Ms. Di            Níngméngshuǐ.        (Lemonade.)
Bartender    Jǐbēi?                        (How many glasses?)
Ms. Di           Sānbēi, xièxie.          (Three, thanks.)

For the full lesson and intensive practice click here.