Bite 12 - Composing Numbers

December 08, 2020


We have talked about 0-9 and large numbers. Let’s put them together.

As with every major culture on Earth, we pronounce digits on the left first.

We will show examples starting with 十 (tens), 百 (hundreds)… and up to 兆 (trillions)!

十    一
sap6 yat1


Same goes for all the first tens - 十二, 十三…

After these, we add 2-9 before 十 to indicate how many tens there are.

二  十    一
yi6 sap6 jat1


For 百 / 千 / 萬 / 億 / 兆, we always write the multiplier. Unlike the first tens (十一, 十二, 十三, etc)

一    百    二  十    一
yat1 baak6 yi2 sap6 jat1

One hundred and twenty one

四    百    七   十
sei3 baak3 cat1 sap6

Four Hundred Seventy

Nothing special here :)

九    千   五  百     八    十   六
gau2 cin1 ng5 baak3 baat6 sap6 luk6

Nine Thousand Five Hundred and Eighty Six

萬 / 億 / 兆

We can multiply 萬 / 億 / 兆 with 十 / 百 / 千 / 萬 like we how we multiply thousand / million / billion / trillion with tens / hundreds / thousands:

十   萬     零    五  千
sap6 maan6 ling4 ng5 cin1

Hundred thousand and Five Thousand 

十    三    億
sap6 saam3 yik1

1.3 Billion

六    百    二   十   四   兆
luk6 baak3 yi6 sap6 sei3 siu6

Six Million and Two Hundred Fourty Trillion

七    千   萬
cat1 cin1 maan6

Seventy Million

Special cases

There are only 2, calm down :)

Special case 1: Zeros in-between

Yes, we need special attention to zeros in-between other digits.

What does it mean to have zeros in between? Any one or more consecutive zeros that does not continue to the last digit has to be pronounced. Example:

三    百     零    一
saam1 baak6 ling4 jat1

Three hundred and one

We only pronounce one 零 for every series of consecutive zeros though:

十   萬     零    一    百    零    一
sap6 maan6 ling4 jat1 baak6 ling4 jat1


九   百     萬
gau2 baak3 maan6

9 million

Consecutive zeros that continue to the last digit is not pronounced.

Special case 2: 一十 “One Ten”

When preceded by more digits, 10 is pronounced as “一十” and 11-19 is pronounced as “一十X” instead of just “十X”:

一   百     一   十
yat1 baak3 yat1 sap6

One Hundred and Ten (110)

一   萬     零    一    十   八
yat1 maan6 ling4 yat1 sap6 baat3

Ten thousand and Eighteen

Wrap-up: Basics about Cantonese Numbers

  • Pronouncing numbers in Cantonese = concatenating digits from the most signficant to the least.

  • From 萬 onwards, every step is 10000 times larger. 萬 x 10000 = 億 x 10000 = 兆. We can multiply 萬 / 億 / 兆 with 十 / 百 / 千.

Two special cases:

  • We say one “零” (zero) for every series of zero(s) in between other digits (一 to 九).

  • We say “一十” / “一十X” instead of just “十” / “十X” if other digits precede that.

Finally, here is a very large number that includes all features and digits:

九    兆   八    千   七    百    六    十   五  億    四   千   三     百    零    一    十   萬     零    一   十   二
gau2 siu6 baat3 cin1 cat1 baak3 luk6 sap6 ng5 yik1 sei3 cin1 saam1 baak3 ling4 yat1 sap6 maan6 ling4 yat1 sap6 yi6



Coming next week! Up till then you can contact me on Discord for practice :)

Written by hulloanson#2533, HongKonger
Recorded by horse_mama#3788, HongKonger
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