Chinese Language Blog

Decimals, Fractions and Percentages Posted by on Nov 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

As you begin to use your Chinese in stores, restaurants and shopping centers, you’ll need to know where to spot a sale, how much to tip (or not tip) your waiters, and most importantly, how much interest your credit card is charging you each month (but I NEED an IPad2!).

Figuring out how to divide parts of a whole is important in everyday life. So here’s a little breakdown of breaking down non-integers (parts of a whole). Lets begin first with the basics of fractions, then get into percentages and decimals.


When stating decimals, fractions and percentages in Chinese, the basic rule of thumb is to measure parts vs. the whole. However, it is slightly different from the way we do it as English speakers.

In English, divisional fractions and percentages are stated as “XX parts of YY,” with YY being the whole. An example of this in English is: two parts of three or more commonly referred to as “two thirds”.

However in Chinese, the construction of part to whole is reversed. In Chinese parts of a whole are stated as  “YY 分之 XX” with YY still being the whole and XX the part . Note that the number representing the whole comes at the beginning for the phrase two thirds: 三分之二 (sān fēn zhī èr).

Here are two examples:

3/4= 四分之三 (sì fēn zhī sān)

11/16= 十六分之十一 (shí liù fēn zhī shí yī)

1/2 Exception

Instead of saying 二分之一 (èr fēn zhī yī) or “one part of two” you can simply use 一半 (yī bàn) for “half”. Just remember for other fractions you need to place the denominator before the numerator (whole + 分之 + part).

Percentages (百分之):

The same basic “part of whole” construction is used for percentages, however this time the whole is 100 or 百 and the part is the actual percentage (as represented by an integer. The formula is the following:

百分之 XX = %  where XX parts of one hundred (XX%)

Here are some examples:

20%=百分之二十 (bǎi fēn zhī èr shí)

5%= 百分之 (bǎi fēn zhī wǔ)

We are the 99% (political socioeconomic movement gaining traction in the United States)= 我门是百分之九十九的人。

Decimals (点):

Fractions can also be stated as decimals quite easily in Chinese. This is because each digit of the decimal fraction is stated individually. So instead of remembering tens/hundredths/thousands etc… you just numerically list the numbers following a decimal point.

The decimal point in Mandarin decimal fractions is stated as 点 (diǎn). If the number begins with the decimal point, it can optionally be prefaced with zero or 令 (líng).

Here are two examples:

1.3= 一点三 (yī diǎn sān)

0.5674= 零点五六七四 (ling diǎn wǔ liù qī sì)

Follow Steve on twitter: @seeitbelieveit

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Keep learning Chinese with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Stephen

Writer and blogger for all things China related. Follow me on twitter: @seeitbelieveit -- My Background: Fluent Mandarin speaker with 3+ years working, living, studying and teaching throughout the mainland. Student of Kung Fu and avid photographer and documentarian.


  1. Tristan:

    你太好了!我学中文学了三年了, 所以我的中文不好但是你的帮助肯定会把我的中文提高!:D

  2. Doug:

    xie xie Steven for a very clear explanation

Leave a comment: