The 100 Most Common Chinese Characters



Have you ever wondered what the most common Chinese characters are? In a language of approximately 20,000 words, mastering the most crucial characters will benefit you on your path to language greatness. Whether you’re a newbie ready to begin reading and writing in Chinese, or a seasoned student brushing up on your basics, learners of all levels benefit from reviewing the most essential Chinese characters. CLI has put together the following list of 100 need-to-know words in Mandarin.

   

The following list of 100 most common Chinese characters is based on data from classical and modern Chinese writings collected by linguist Jun Da.



The 100 Most Common Chinese characters:

No. Character pīnyīn Eng­lish
1 de (possessive particle), of / really and truly / aim, clear
2 yī / yì /yí one / single / a(n)
3 shì is, are, am, yes to be
4 (negative prefix) no, not
5 le/liǎo (modal particle intensifying preceding clause), (past tense marker) / to know, to understand, to know
6 rén man, person, people
7 I, me, myself
8 zài (located) at, in, exist
9 yǒu to have, there is, there are, to exist, to be
10 he, him
11 zhè this/ these
12 wéi / wèi act as, take…to be, to be, to do, to serve as, to become / because of, for, to
13 zhī him, her, it
14 big, huge, large, major, great, wide, deep, oldest, eldest / doctor
15 lái to come
16 to use, take, according to, because of, in order to
17 (a measure word), individual
18 zhōng within, among, in, middle, center, while (doing something), during
19 shàng above, on, over, top, (go) up, last, previous
20 men (plural marker for pronouns and a few animate nouns)

No. Character pīnyīn Eng­lish
21 dào to (a place), until (a time), up to, to go, to arrive
22 shuō to speak, to say
23 guó country, state, nation
24 hé / huò and, together, with, peace / harmony
25 de / dì -ly / earth, ground, field, place, land
26 too, also, as well
27 child, son
28 shí time, when, hour, period, season
29 dào direction, way, method, road, path, principle, truth, reason, skill, method, Tao (of Taoism), a measure word, to say, to speak, to talk
30 chū to go out, to come out, to occur, to produce, to go beyond, to rise, to put forth, to occur, to happen
31 ér and, as well as, but (not), yet (not), (shows causal relation), (shows change of state), (shows contrast)
32 yào / yāo vital, to want, to be going to, must / demand, ask, request
33 at, in, in regard to
34 jiù at once, then, right away, only, just
35 xià below, under, (go) down, next (as opposed to previous/last)
36 dé / de / děi obtain, get, gain, to have to, must, ought to, to need to
37 can, may, able to, certain(ly), (particle used for emphasis)
38 you
39 nián year
40 shēng to be born, to give birth, life, to grow

No. Character pīnyīn Eng­lish
41 from, self, oneself, since
42 huì can, able, meet, meeting, society, union, party
43 that,those
44 hòu back, behind, rear, afterwards, after, later
45 néng can, may, capable, energy, able
46 duì couple, pair, to be opposite, to oppose, to face, for, to, correct (answer), to answer, to reply, to direct (towards something), right
47 zhe/zhuó/zhāo/zháo verb particle marking a continuing progress/state
48 shì matter, thing, item, work, affair
49 his, her, its, theirs, that, such, it (refers to something preceding it)
50 within, inside
51 suǒ actually,place
52 to go, to leave, to depart
53 háng / xíng a row, profession, professional / all right, capable, competent, okay, to go, to do, to travel, temporary, to walk, to go, will do / behavior, conduct
54 guò (past tense marker), to cross, to go over, to pass (time), to live, to get along, (surname)
55 jiā home, family, a person engaged in a certain art or profession
56 shí ten
57 yòng to use
58 fā/fà to send out, to show (one‘s feeling), to issue, to develop / hair
59 tiān day, sky, heaven
60 as (if), such as

No. Character pīnyīn Eng­lish
61 rán correct, right, so, thus, like this, -ly
62 zuò to regard as, to take (somebody) for, to do, to make
63 fāng square, quadrilateral, direction, just
64 chéng finish, complete, accomplish, become, turn into, win, succeed
65 zhě -ist, -er (person), person (who does something)
66 duō many, much, a lot of, numerous, multi-
67 day, sun, date, day of the month
68 dōu all, both (if two things are involved), entirely (due to)each, even, already
69 sān three
70 xiǎo small, tiny, few, young
71 jūn army, military, arms
72 èr two
73 -less, not to have, no, none, not, to lack, un-
74 tóng like, same, similar, together, alike, with
75 me (interrog. suff.)
76 jīng classics, sacred book, pass through, to undergo, scripture
77 law, method, way, Buddhist teaching
78 dāng / dàng to be, to act as, manage, withstand, when, during, ought, should, match equally, equal, same, obstruct, just at (a time or place), on the spot, right, just at / at or in the very same…, to pawn, suitable, adequate, fitting, proper, replace, represent
79 qǐ:to rise, to raise, to get up
80 yú / yǔ / yù (interrog. part.) / and, to give, together with / take part in

No. Character pīnyīn Eng­lish
81 hǎo / hào good, well / be fond of
82 kān / kàn to look after, to take care of, to watch, to guard / it depends, think, to see, to look at
83 xué learn, study, science, -ology
84 jìn advance, enter, to come in
85 zhǒng / zhòng kind, type, race (of people), seed, type / to grow, to plant
86 jiāng / jiàng (will, shall, future tense), ready, prepared, to get, to use / a general
87 hái / huán also, in addition, more, still, else, still, yet, (not) yet / (surname), pay back, return
88 fēn / fèn to divide, minute, (a measure word), (a unit of length = 0.33centimeter) / part
89 this, these
90 xīn heart, mind
91 qián before, in front, ago, former, previous, earlier, front
92 miàn face, side, surface, aspect, top, face, flour, noodles
93 yòu (once) again, also, both… and…, again
94 dìng to set, to fix, to determine, to decide, to order
95 jiàn / xiàn to see, to meet, to appear (to be something), to interview / appear
96 zhī/zhǐ only, just, but, measure word for one of a pair
97 zhǔ to own, to host, master, lord, primary
98 méi/mò (negative prefix for verbs), have not, not / sink, disappear
99 gōng just, honorable (designation), public, common
100 cóng from, since,obey, observe, follow

Additional Chinese Learning Resources:

How well do you know the Chinese radicals? Review the 40 most common Chinese radicals. Learn more about the Anatomy of Chinese Characters.

What is Skitter?

Skritter is a fresh, inventive way to master Chinese characters. If you’re not a current user, take the following steps to get hooked up immediately – trust us, your Chinese skills will thank you. Because each platform offers its own study mode, the first move is to decide if you want to use the tool online or via your mobile device. Skritter for iPhone and iPad strongly emphasizes character writing and stroke order, which is perfect for those looking to solidify their handwriting techniques. The app’s largest advantage is that it provides extremely thorough feedback to help you improve quickly, all the while giving you a feeling like you’re playing an iPhone game.



Want to study from a laptop or desktop computer? Head to www.skritter.com and sign up for a free week-long trial. Once you’re in, hit ‘Browse Lists’ to scroll through user contributed or textbook-based vocabulary decks, then add one to your queue. Select a chapter or set to review, look over the new words in a convenient list-form, and then hit ‘study now’ to begin your session. You’ll see a Chinese character accompanied by its pinyin, an example sentence, an audio option and even the choice to see a mnemonic hint pop up on the screen. Click the character once you’ve got it, and the definition will be revealed, followed by options for you to rate the word between 1 (forgot) to 4 (too easy). A few cards later, you’ll be asked to input the pinyin for the same character.





One of our favorite things about Skritter is the ‘info’ button next to each word which provides a decomposition of the character and a useful list of related words. We’re also huge fans of its user-oriented model, which maximizes your ability to access and retain new information. There are even more benefits, like its clean, appealing interface and a built-in feature which consults all online Mandarin dictionaries at your command. Skritter has truly changed the way that we study and write Chinese characters. Don’t take our word for it – go check out Skritter for yourself!



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Improve Your Chinese Pronunciation with Tongue Twisters



Learning Chinese tongue twisters (绕口令 ràokǒulìng) makes for great language practice; Learning Chinese tongue twisters with native speakers in real life situations makes it even better. In our new series, CLI’s own ZiCong 老师 ventures through the scenic park pathways and lively downtown sidewalks of Guilin city to interview passersby on some of Mandarin’s trickiest word games. Read on for the Chinese characters, pīnyīn, and English translations of each tongue twister as featured in our video series.

“三山撑四水”

Chinese Characters:

三山撑四水, 四水绕三山, 三山四水春常在, 四水三山四时春。

pīnyīn:

sān shān chēng sì shuǐ, sì shuǐ rào sān shān, sān shān sì shuǐ chūn cháng zài, sì shuǐ sān shān sì shí chūn.

Literal Meaning:

Three mountains support four rivers, Four rivers twine ‘round three mountains, Three mountains and four rivers are found in spring, Four rivers and three mountains are found in spring.




“蓝布棉门帘”

Chinese Characters:

出前门,往正南, 有个面铺面冲南, 门口挂着蓝布棉门帘。 摘了它的蓝布棉门帘, 面铺面冲南, 给他挂上蓝布棉门帘, 面铺还是面冲南。

pīnyīn:

chū qián mén, wǎng zhèng nán, yǒu ge miàn pù miàn chòng nán, mén kǒu guà zhe lán bù mián mén lián。 zhāi le tā de lán bù mián mén lián, miàn pù miàn chòng nán, gěi tā guà shàng lán bù mián mén lián, miàn pù hái shì miàn chòng nán.

Literal Meaning:

Out the front door, to the south, A store face faces south On the door hangs a blue cloth curtain. Plucked its blue cloth curtain, Store face faces south Give him a blue cloth curtain to hang, Store face or face south.




“船和床”

Chinese Characters:

那边划来一艘船, 这边漂去一张床, 船床河中互相撞, 不知船撞床, 还是床撞船。

pīnyīn:

nà biān huá lái yì sōu chuán, zhè biān piāo qù yì zhāng chuáng, chuán chuáng hé zhōng hù xiāng zhuàng, bù zhī chuán zhuàng chuáng, hái shì chuáng zhuàng chuán.

Literal Meaning:

Over there rows a boat, Over here drifts a bed, The boat and bed collide with each other, I don’t know if the boat hit the bed, Or the bed hit the boat.


We hope that you enjoyed these tongue twisters as much as we enjoyed sharing them with you! Subscribe to the CLI YouTube channel for fresh new videos on Chinese language, culture, and lifestyle.







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