Rational Numbers in Chinese

How to Talk About Decimals, Fractions, and Percents in Chinese

Three school children doing math equations on the blackboard
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Know that you know your whole numbers in Chinese, you can talk about rational numbers in decimals, fractions, and percents with the addition of few more vocabulary words.

Of course, you can read and write numbers—like 4/3 or 3.75 or 15%—using the universal numerical system in Chinese-speaking regions. However, when it comes to reading those numbers out loud, you'll need to know these new Mandarin Chinese terms.

Parts of a Whole

Fractions can be expressed either as parts of a whole (half, quarter, etc.) or as decimal fractions.

In English, parts of a whole are stated as “XX parts of YY,” with XX being the parts of the whole and YY being the whole. An example of this is saying "two parts of three," which also means two-thirds. 

However, the phrase construction is the opposite in Chinese. Parts of a whole are stated as "YY 分之 XX." The pinyin of 分之 is "fēn zhī," and is written the same in both traditional and simplified Chinese. Note that the number representing the whole comes at the beginning of the phrase. 

One-half can be stated as either 一半 (yī bàn) or using the phrase construction mentioned above:  二分之一 (èr fēn zhī yī). There is no Chinese equivalent to the term one-quarter besides 四分之一 (s ì fēn zhī yī).

Examples of Parts of a Whole

three-quarters
sì fēn zhī sān
四分之三

eleven-sixteenths
shí liù fēn zhī shí yī
十六分之十一

Decimals

Fractions can also be stated as decimals. The word for "decimal point" in Mandarin Chinese is written as 點 in traditional form and 点 in simplified form. The character is pronounced as "diǎn." 

If a number begins with the decimal point, it can optionally be prefaced with 零 (líng), which means "zero." Each digit of the decimal fraction is stated individually just like a whole number.

Examples of Decimal Fractions

1.3
yī diǎn sān
一點三 (trad)
一点三 (simp)

0.5674
ling diǎn wǔ liù qī sì
零點五六七四 (trad)
零点五六七四 (simp)

Percents

The same phrase construction used in expressing parts of a whole is also used when talking about percentages. Except for when talking about percents in Chinese, the whole is always 100. Thus, XX% will follow this template: 百分之 (bǎi fēn zhī) XX. 

Examples of Percents

20%
bǎi fēn zhī èr shí
百分之二十

5%
bǎi fēn zhī wǔ
百分之五
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Your Citation
Su, Qiu Gui. "Rational Numbers in Chinese." ThoughtCo, Aug. 20, 2017, thoughtco.com/mandarin-fractions-2279408. Su, Qiu Gui. (2017, August 20). Rational Numbers in Chinese. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/mandarin-fractions-2279408 Su, Qiu Gui. "Rational Numbers in Chinese." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/mandarin-fractions-2279408 (accessed January 18, 2018).