Whether you want to make holiday plans, schedule a meeting, or set a date for activities with family and friends, knowing how to tell or ask the date in Mandarin Chinese will be very helpful.
Though talking about dates in Chinese is a little different to English, the concept is simple to understand and master.
Once you’ve locked it down, you’ll be able to talk about any date using Mandarin Chinese.
In this guide, we’ll explore how you can talk about dates, days, months, and years in Mandarin.
Chinese numbers and dates
If you’ve been digging through some Mandarin learning resources, you’ve probably picked up the basics of Chinese numbers already.
But if not, don’t worry.
I’ve written a complete guide to Chinese numbers for you already.
You’ll need to know how to say the numbers 0 to 31 to talk about dates.
We’ll begin this guide with a quick lesson on counting from 0 to 31 in Mandarin Chinese. Then, we’ll apply what we’ve learned to talk about dates.
Here’s a table of the numbers 0 to 10 in Chinese:
These first few numbers serve as building blocks as you continue up the number scale.
With numbers 11 to 19, you’ll just add a 十 (shí) to the digits 1 to 9.
- 11: 十一 (shíyī)
- 12: 十二 (shí’èr)
- 13: 十三 (shísān)
- 14: 十四 (shísì)
- 15: 十五 (shíwǔ)
- 16: 十六 (shíli ù)
- 17: 十七 (shíqī)
- 18: 十八 (shíbā)
- 19: 十九 (shíjiǔ)
It’s just a combination of the different basic digits 1 to 10.
The same concept applies to numbers 20 to 31.
The number 20 is 二十 (èrshí). It literally translates to ‘two tens.’
When counting from 21 to 29, you’ll just add 二十 to the digits 1 to 9.
Here are some examples:
- 21: 二十一 (èrshíyī)
- 22: 二十二 (èrshí’èr)
- 23: 二十三 (èrshísān)
- 24: 二十四 (èrshísì)
- 25: 二十五 (èrshíwǔ)
- 26: 二十六 (èrshíliù)
- 27: 二十七 (èrshíqī)
- 28: 二十八 (èrshíbā)
- 29: 二十九 (èrshíjiǔ)
- 30: 三十 (sānshí)
The number 30 can be likened to ‘three tens.” Applying the same concept as before:
- 31: 三十一 (sānshíyī)
You can easily count up to 99 just by learning the basic numbers 1 to 10.
Feel free to check out our complete guide on how to count up to a million in Mandarin Chinese.
How to talk about dates in Mandarin Chinese
A certain date can be broken down into three different sections - the date itself, the month, and the year.
You’ll learn a new Chinese word for each of these parts.
In English, you would say the 1st of January, 2022.
The date comes first, followed by the month, then the year. This is the opposite in Mandarin Chinese.
Essentially, the year comes first, then the month, and finally the date itself.
We’ll take a look at each of these three components in the sections below.
Years in Mandarin Chinese
Here’s another difference between English and Chinese.
In English, you’ll sometimes split the year when reading it out. For example, you’ll say 2020 as “twenty, twenty” or 1968 as “nineteen sixty-eight.”
Other times, you’ll read out the entire year as a whole, for instance, “two thousand and two.”
However, we do not do the same in Mandarin Chinese.
It’s much simpler.
In Mandarin, you’ll read out every single digit of the year. And at the very end, you’ll add the word 年 (nián), which means “year.”
Here are some examples:
- 2020: 二零二零年 (èr líng èr líng nián)
- 1968: 一九六八年 (yī jiǔ liù bā nián)
- 2003: 二零零三年 (èr líng líng sān nián)
- 2018: 二零一八年 (èr líng yī bā nián)
It all comes down to nailing the basic digits.
When stating dates in Mandarin Chinese, people won’t usually mention the year, especially if it’s well understood.
For instance, you won’t be scheduling a meeting two or three years ahead.😂
So in such circumstances, just the month and date will suffice.
You’ll also notice that native speakers commonly skip the year, just like we do in English.
Months in Mandarin Chinese
Talking about months in Mandarin is really simple.
By simple, I mean you’ll only need to learn one new word.
月 (yuè) translates to “month” in Chinese.
To talk about any month from January to December, you’ll just have to add a number before the word 月.
This number corresponds to the specific month.
So if you’d like to say January, which is the first month of the year, you’ll say 一月 (yī yuè).
February will be 二月 (èr yuè), which is the second month of the year.
So, all you’ll need to know to master the months of the year in Chinese are the digits 1 to 12 and the newly-introduced word, 月.
Here’s a table containing all the different months of the year.
Now you can see why mastering the basic numbers in Chinese is crucial.
Days of the month in Mandarin Chinese
If you’d like to talk about a specific date, it’s pretty straightforward as well.
Let’s first get acquainted with a new word, 号 (hào).
This word translates to “date.”
Now that you know how to count to 31, just place any digit before the word 号 to refer to a specific day of the month.
For instance, if you’d like to refer to the 21st of a month, you’d say 二十一号 (èrshíyī hào).
Here are some other examples:
- The 7th: 七号 (qī hào)
- The 15th: 十五号 (shíwǔ hào)
- The 28th: 二十八号 (èrshíbā hào)
It’s pretty simple once you have the Chinese numbers locked down.
The complete form of dates in Mandarin Chinese
So, we’ve covered all three elements—the year, month, and date.
Now, it’s time to put the pieces together.
The formula to follow is the year, month, then date.
For example, if you’d like to refer to the 21st of August 2022, you’ll say 二零二二年八月二十一号 (èr líng èr’èr nián bā yuè èrshíyī hào).
Let’s break it down so you can see how the complete form comes together.
二零二二年 (èr líng èr’èr nián) refers to “2022,” 八月(bā yuè) means “August,” and 二十一号 translates to “the 21st.”
Here are a few more examples to help you get the hang of it.
Keep in mind that we’ll always mention the year first when mentioning a date.
But if it’s well-understood which year you’re referring to, you can leave it out.
There is another way you can say “date” in Mandarin.
To do so, you’ll use 日 (rì). This translates directly to “day,” but when you use it to replace 号 (hào), it refers to a particular day of the month.
People tend to use 日 in more formal situations, while 号 is more commonly used in day-to-day conversations.
Here are some examples of how you can use 日 to mention a specific date.
It’s as simple as replacing the 号 with 日.
Other useful terms to talk about days, weeks, months, and years
You’ll notice that native Chinese speakers don’t only use dates in their daily conversations.
Sometimes, using adverbs of time such as “last week” or “yesterday” instead of the exact date will sound much more natural.
To do so, there are a couple of words you’ll need to learn. Let’s go through them:
- Day: 天 (tiān)
- Week: 星期 (xīngqí) / 周 (zhōu)
- Month: 月 (yuè)
- Year: 年 (nián)
月 (yuè) and 年 (nián) should look familiar, as we’ve covered them above.
You’ll add certain word(s) before 天, 星期, 月, and 年 to talk about specific points in time, such as last week, today, next year, and more.
To help you out, here’s a table of other commonly-used terms you can utilize to do so.
|The day before yesterday||前天||qiántiān|
|The day after tomorrow||后天||hòutiān|
|This weekend||这周末||zhè zhōumò|
|This week||本星期 / 这周 / 这个星期||běn xīngqí / zhè zhōu / zhège xīngqí|
|Last week||上周 / 上个星期||shàng zhōu / shàng gè xīngqí|
|Next week||下周 / 下个星期||xià zhōu / xià gè xīngqí|
|This month||这个月||zhège yuè|
|Last month||上个月||shàng gè yuè|
|Next month||下个月||xià gè yuè|
|This year||今年||jīn nián|
|Last year||去年||qù nián|
|Next year||明年||míng nián|
These terms will come in useful in various situations.
For instance, instead of saying, “I went to the market on the 13th of July 2022,” you can just say, “I went to the market last week.” This automatically sounds more casual and natural.
We’ll explore some common use cases of these terms.
The following are some examples to get you started.
Practical applications of Chinese dates
Let’s take a look at how we can apply what we’ve covered so far in our daily conversations.
How to say “What’s the date today?”
The most common way to ask for today’s date in Mandarin Chinese is by saying 今天几号? (jīntiān jǐ hào).
As we’ve learned earlier, 今天 (jīntiān) means “today” while 几号 translates to “what date” in this context.
Take note of the sentence order in Mandarin Chinese.
Instead of “What date is it today?”, 今天几号 (jīntiān jǐ hào) literally translates to “Today what date.”
Another way to say, “What’s today’s date,” in Mandarin Chinese is 今天是几月几号? (jīntiān shì jǐ yuè jǐ hào).
This is a little more long-winded, so it’s not as commonly used in casual conversations.
Using Chinese dates in a sentence
Let’s start off with how to respond to 今天几号? (jīntiān jǐ hào).
Native speakers usually just leave out the month since it’s simpler and shorter.
However, if you’re specifically asked 今天是几月几号?, the proper response would be to include the month and date in your answer.
Ensure you mention the month before the day of the month.
In other words, it’s 今天是八月九号 (jīntiān shì bā yuè jiǔ hào) and not 今天是九号八月 (jīntiān shì jiǔ hào bā yuè).
Here are some other examples of how you can use dates in Mandarin:
Learning the dates in Mandarin Chinese isn’t difficult
As a quick recap, start with the basic Chinese numbers - at least from 0 until you hit 31.
We also learned three new important terms, 年 (nián), 月 (yuè), and 号 (hào).
You’ll insert the respective digits before each of these terms to form a complete Chinese date.
The year, 年 (nián), is always mentioned first, while the day of the month, 号 (hào), comes last.
Talking about dates in Mandarin is as simple as that.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!