100 Most Common Chinese Characters

Posted on 07. Nov, 2013 by in Culture, history

As most of you may know, Chinese is a language of characters (汉字 – hàn zì). In total, there are tens of thousands of different characters. Don’t let that intimidate you, though – if you know a few thousand, you’ll be just fine. It’s important to remember, however, that most words in Chinese are made up of two characters. That being said, there are many characters that you see over and over again, and it’s a good idea to try and learn these right away. Here are the 100 most frequently used Chinese characters in a simple table, set up as follows: Chinese characters, pinyin transliteration, and English translation.

de
<grammatical particle marking genitive as well as simple and composed adjectives>
one, a little
shì
to be
not
le
verb particle marking a new situation or a completed action
rén
person
I, me, my
zài
at, located at
yǒu
have, there is
he, him, his
zhè
this
zhōng
middle, in
big
lái
come
shàng
above, on, over, top, (go) up, last, previous
guó
country, state, nation, <family name>
<general and non-specific classifier>
(ex. 个人 | gèrén | personal)
dào
to, towards, until, arrive, reach
shuō
explain, scold, refer to, (=说话 shuōhuà) speak, say
men
<pluralizing suffix for pronouns and nouns referring to persons>
(ex. 我们 | wǒmen | we)
wèi
for, for the sake of, in order to, in this connection
child, son
together, with
you, your
(Alternative feminine form: 妳 nǐ)
earth, ground, soil, place, position, distance
chū
go out, come out, in direction out from something, emit, issue, prouce
dào
way, path, channel, way, say, a streak (of light), doctrine, <classifier for rivers, topics, etc.>
also, as well
shí
period, season
nián
year
de
<adverbial particle: verb + 得 + descripion>
(ex. 走得快 | zǒude kuài | walk quickly)
jiù
just, simply, right away
就要 jiùyào about to (do something)
that
yào
want, will, shall, need, important, essential
xià
below, under, (go) down, next (as opposed to previous/last)
use, take, according to, because of, in order to
shēng
give birth, life
huì
can, able, meet, meeting, society, union, party
from, since
zhe
verb particle marking a continuing progress/state
go, leave, depart
zhī
subordinator similar to 的 de
guò
pass, cross, go by, exceed, <verb particle marking that someone has had the experience of doing something, that it has happened at least once>
jiā
home, house, family
xué
study, learn
duì
correct, answer, treat, agree, mutual, pair
~able, (=可以 kěyǐ) may, can
she, her
neighbourhood, half kilometer, <family name>
hòu
queen
xiǎo
small
me/mo
(interrogative suffix)
什么? | shénme? | What?
xīn
heart
duō
many, much, more
tiān
sky, heaven, god, day
ér
and, furthermore
néng
can, be able
hǎo
good, good to…, easy to…
dōu
all
rán
right, correct, so, like that
méi
(=没有 méiyǒu) haven’t, there isn’t
sun
in, at, for, to, from, by, than
rise, start
hái
still, yet
deliver, utter, express, shoot, emit, develop, expand
chéng
(=成为 chéngwéi, =变成 biànchéng) become,
<family name>;
成功 chénggōng succeed;
完成 wánchéng accomplish, complete, fulfill;
成语 chéngyǔ idiom
shì
matter, affair, thing, event, accident, job, responsibility
zhǐ
only, just, merely
zuò
do, make
dāng
serve as
xiǎng
think, feel, consider, want, remember
kàn
see, look at, read, think, consider
wén
language, literature
without, nothingness, have not
kāi
open
shǒu
hand, a person skilled in something
shí
ten
yòng
use
zhǔ
lord, master, host, god,
xíng
go, OK
fāng
side, square
yòu
again, both… and…
like, as, as if
qián
in front, previous, ago, former, first
suǒ
place
běn
basis, origin, edition
classifier for books, periodicals, files, etc.
jiàn
appear to be, meet with, call on
jīng
longitude (both geographic and in Chinese medecin), scripture, constant, regular, <family name>, deal with
tóu
head, top, first
miàn
face, surface, <classifier for mirrors, flags, etc.>
gōng
public, official
tóng
same, with
sān
three
stop, cease, end
lǎo
old, venerable, outdated
cóng
from, through, join, follower, secondary
dòng
move, change, arouse
liǎng
two (before classifier), 50 grams
cháng
long, lasting, length

Source: www.cram.com

You can find 100 flashcards for these characters here.

If you can master these 100 characters, you’ll be well on your way to becoming fluent in Chinese.

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Check out this nice YouTube video that introduces Chinese characters.

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About sasha

Hailing from the mean streets of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Sasha graduated from Michigan State University (Go Green!) in 2008 with a BA in Digital Media. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Beijing, where he still lives and works as an English teacher, Video Production teacher, and writer/video producer for Transparent Language.

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