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Mandarin Learning Tips Blog

Angela Fang

Angela Fang is a contributing writer at TutorABC Chinese. Born in New Jersey, she decided to go to University of California, Berkeley, to get her degrees in Economics and Math. In her free time, she enjoys napping, surfing the Internet, and playing the violin. Corgis are her spirit animal.

Recent Posts

Formal Written Chinese Numbers

Angela Fang | December 03, 2015

Although the Arabic numerals are used worldwide, every country also expresses numbers in their own ways. In English, asides from using Arabic numerals, we may express our numbers in written form or in Roman numerals. In Mandarin, it is common to see numbers in character form, represented by the commonly seen “一, 二, 三,” and so on and so forth. Yet there’s also another version of numbers used in Mandarin that we usually don’t see in everyday writing, and that version is called 大写 (dà xiě.)

SIGNIFICANCE OF Capitalization, "大写 (dà xiě)"

There are two ways to write Chinese numerals: the one that is used in everyday life and the one that is used primarily for financial for commercial purposes, known as 大写. 大写, or “capital letters,” is used because the other set of characters for writing numbers are too simplistic, which is a risk factor for financial transactions. Just like how we spell out numbers when writing checks in English, people who use Mandarin rely on the more complicated 大写 to prevent forgeries.

Here is a side by side comparison of Chinese numerals for everyday use and 大写:





















If the simple numerical characters were used, 三十 (30) can easily be changed to 五千 (5000) by just adding three strokes. The complex formal characters prevents that possibility. The difference between叁拾 (30) and 伍仟 (5000) represented by financial numerals is that much more than that of normal characters.

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Chinese Vocabulary Words for Shopping You Must Know

Angela Fang | November 24, 2015

With Thanksgiving just around the corner and Christmas a month away, shopping for gifts is slowly making its way up the list of priorities. However, despite living in busy times we can still find opportunities to learn Mandarin. In this lesson, we’ll learn about some useful Mandarin vocabulary about shopping, as well as situations where these words can be applied.


礼物 (lǐ wù) = “Gift” 
衣服 (yī fú) = “Clothes” 
买 (mǎi) = “Buy”
卖 (mài) = "Sell."

These two words are very similar, but they are are pronounced with different tones. You can learn more about tones here

收银台 (Shōu yín tái) = “Cash register”
•“收” means “accept” and “collect” 
•“银” means “silver”= “台” means “station”
Putting it all together gives, literally, “a station that collects silver.” More practically, “a cash register.” 

玩具 (wán jù) = “Toy”
•“玩” means “play”
•“具” means “an instrument or tool”
Put it all together: “an instrument to be played it,” or more simply a “toy”

购物中心 (gòu wù zhòng xīn) = “Mall”

“购物” means “shopping”
"中心” means “center”
Put it all together: “Shopping center” 

多少钱? (Duōshǎo qián?) = “What is the cost?”

“多少” means “how much”
Separately, “多” means “many/much” and “少” means “little/less.”
“钱” means “money”
Put it all together: “How much money is ___,” or “What is the cost of___.” To ask about a specific object, place the noun before “多少钱.” For example, to ask “How much does this cost?” = “这一个多少钱?”

打折 (dǎ zhé) = “Discount”

Sometimes stores would indicate how the item is discounted by using “打__折”, where the blank would have a numerical value. In English we often see signs like “10% off” or “25% off.” In Mandarin, the discount value written on the sign signals what percentage the current price is compared to the original price. 打九折 (or 打9折) means the current price is 90% of the original price, not off the original price. As another example, 打七折 (or 打7折) means the current price is 70% of the original price.

号 (hào) = “Size”

号 in general is not used by itself. Usually before this comes an adjective that describes what “size” it is. The common sizes are: “小”号 = “small” size, “中”号 = “medium” size, “大”号 = “large” size, and “特”大号 = “extra-large” size. Shoe sizes also are defined with 号. For example, a pair of size 7 shoes would be labeled as 七号 and a pair of size eight and a half would be labeled as 八号半.

QUICK GRAMMAR QUIZ (fill in the blanks):
1. English Translation: I am at the shopping center buying clothes
Chinese: 我__购物中心买衣服 

a) 在
b) 再

Answer: A

Since the sentence is about what location the speaker is at, 在 is the correct use of this homophone pair. The other character, 再, predominantly refers to a repetition of action.

Related: How To Use: 在 vs. 再 

2. English Translation:
Do you want to buy clothes or buy toys?
Chinese: 你想买衣服__买玩具? 

a) 和
b) 或

Answer: B

The question asks for a selection between two items. Option A, 和, means “and,” which is not what the question asks for. 或, the correct answer, means “or.”

We hope that your holidays are joyous and shopping successful!

To celebrate the season of giving, TutorABC Chinese is giving away 10 free classes to anyone who signs up for a course package.

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How To Use: 坐 vs. 座 In Chinese

Angela Fang | October 31, 2015

There are also other Chinese characters that share the pronunciation “zuò.” The other two most commonly used characters are 坐 and 座, which are sometimes misused as well. However, differentiating between these two is a lot simpler.

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7 Hilarious And Cringe-Worthy Chinese Tattoo Fails

Angela Fang | October 14, 2015
Having a tattoo in a Chinese can be pretty cool. It can make you seem exotic or cultured. “ Can,” being the key word here. Frequent requests for tattoos include “Love,” or “Fate,” or “Happiness.” For some people, single characters like those are perfect, but there are others who want something a little more unique. Usually, that’s where the mistranslations hit. It’s not their fault for desiring a deep, unique, and meaningful tattoo. But when getting a tattoo in a language you don’t quite understand, always make sure to run it by someone who does. Sketchy English-to-Chinese guides in tattoo parlors aren’t your friend. Google Translate isn’t your friend either. We've gathered up a list of funny and cringe-worthy Chinese tattoo fails. Take a look below!
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How To Use: 做 vs. 作 in Chinese

Angela Fang | October 06, 2015

Last time, we discussed the basic differences between 在 (zài) vs. 再 (zài.) In case you need a reminder, those are Chinese homophones, or characters that are pronounced the same but written differently. Asides from 在 and 再, some other common homophones are 他, 她, 它 (tā) and 的, 地, 得 (de.)

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How To Use: 在 vs. 再 In Chinese

Angela Fang | October 01, 2015


A homophone is a word that sounds exactly like another, except it’s spelled differently. English has some of those: “To,” “too,” and “two.” “Your” and “you’re.” The notorious “their,” “there,” and “they’re” trio. Incorrect usage of homophones happens all the time, resulting in headache-inducing typos like, “your always like that” or “their finally here.” (There are also some English words that sound exactly the same in Chinese. Check out our post here.)

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