Mandarin Mondays: The First 100 Characters Every Beginner Needs to Memorize

Just months before arriving in Beijing, I asked my Chinese friend to give me a Chinese name. She said it was easy since “Andy” can be transliterated to just 安迪 (ān, safe; , guide). When I did some background research of places to visit in Beijing, Tian’anmen 天安门 (Tiān’ānmén or Gate of Heavenly Peace) was one of the recommended spots. The word Tian’anmen got me really interested in learning more characters because it had the same ān as in my name. Then I started using Pleco to decipher subway station names (especially when it’s overcrowded or when I’m on a long train journey).

I remember my Chinese teacher telling me that I would have to memorize not only the phrases but also the pinyin and the characters if I wanted to learn Chinese. It’s hard I must say, but just knowing basic characters will give you enough background to get around, especially when you’re traveling, dining out, or going to malls.

I found several resources listing the first 100 Chinese characters beginners to the language might memorize. The first 50 are almost the same, but the lists differ when it comes to the 60 to 100 character tier. Regardless, this list from Learning Chinese Everyday certainly helps, especially for knowing about 80 characters that can help beginners to the language compose simple sentences.

If you find pronouncing the characters difficult, we have a starter guide which provides an easy way to speak the four Chinese tones. In the list below, you’ll find the pronunciation guide along with a number, its grammatical function, and lexical meaning. The number indicates the character’s usage in most Chinese conversations.

The website also says that “to understand 90 percent of the content in Chinese publications, students have to learn only about 900 Chinese characters and 11,000 phrases/words.”

 (de / 95.9) – particle used after an attribute
 (yī / 94.3) – noun one
 (shì / 93.0) – verb to be; adjective correct, right
 (bù / 91.8) – adverb no
 (le / 90.7) – particle used after an action that has taken place or changed
 (zài / 89.7) – preposition in, on, at; adverb indicating an ongoing action
 (rén / 88.7) – noun human, people, person soul
(yǒu / 87.8) – verb have, possess, get, there is
 (wǒ / 86.9) – pronoun I; 我的 wǒde my; 我们 wǒmen we, us
10  (tā / 86.1) – pronoun he, him; 他的 tāde his
11 
 (zhè / 85.3) – pronoun this, these
12  (gè / 84.7) – general measure word for nouns without specific measure words; adjectiveindividual
13  (men / 84.1) – pronoun used to form a plural pronoun
14  (zhōng / 83.5) – noun center, middle, in the midst of; abbrev. China
15  (82.9 / lái) – verb arrive, come; indicate an intended action; particle indicate time period from past to present
16  (shàng / 82.4) – preposition on, above, upper; verb go up, go to, leave for; adjective last, most recent
17  (dà / 81.8) – adjective great, large, big; age; eldest
18  (wèi / 81.3) – preposition for, in the sake of
19  (hé / 80.8) – conjunction and; preposition in connection to, with; adjective gentle; noun total, sum
20  (guó / 80.3) – noun country, state; adjective national
21 
 (dì / 79.8) – noun the ground; land, soil; place, area
22  (dào / 79.3) – verb arrive, reach, go to; preposition up until, to
23  (yǐ / 78.8) – preposition by, for; conjunction and, as well as
24  (shuō / 78.4) – verb to say, speak, talk; to explain; to scold
25  (shí / 77.9) – noun period of time; time of day, hour
26  (yào / 77.5) – verb to want, ask for, wish; must, should; shall, will; take, need; adjectiveimportant, essential
27  (jiù / 77.1) – adverb at once, right away; already; precisely
28  (chū / 76.7) – verb to go out, go beyond; exceed; to issue, produce; to happen
29  (huì / 76.3) – verb can, be able to; would, might; to assemble; to meet; noun meeting, party; association
30  (kě / 76.0) – verb can, may; conjunction but, yet, however
31 
 (yě / 75.6) – adverb too, as well, also; used for emphasis
32  (nǐ / 75.2) – pronoun you, yourself; your (used with  de)
33  (duì / 74.9) – adjective right, correct; opposite; verb to answer, reply; preposition with regard to
34  (shēng / 74.5) – verb to bear, to give birth to; noun student; adjective alive, living; unripe, raw
35  (néng / 74.2) – verb can, could, be able to; noun ability, skill; energy; adjective capable, able
36  (ér / 73.8) – conjunction and, as well as, to
37  (zǐ / 73.5) – noun son, child; person; copper; adjective young, tender, small; affiliated
38  (nà / 73.2) – pronoun that, then
39  (dé / 72.8) – verb to get, obtain; be satisfied; be suitable; (of calculation) result in, equal
40  (yú / 72.5) – preposition in, on, at; from; by
41 
 (zhe / 72.2) – particle added to a verb or an adjective to indicate a continued action
42  (xià / 71.9) – preposition below, under; verb to go down; to come; adverb down; noun next (in order)
43  (zì / 71.6) – pronoun self; preposition from, since; adverb of course, certainly
44  (zhī / 71.2)  – particle used between an attribute and the word it modifies
45  (nián / 70.9) – noun year; age; adjective annually, yearly
46  (guò / 70.6) – verb to cross, pass; to exceed; to spend (time); adverb too
47  (fā / 70.3) – verb to give, issue, emit; to start; to feel; to shoot; measure word for bullets and shells
48  (hòu / 70.0) – noun behind, back, rear; after; later; last
49  (zuò / 69.8) – verb to write, compose; regard as; noun writings; work
50  (lǐ / 69.5) – preposition in, inside; noun inner; hometown; neighborhood; measure word unit of length
51 
 (yòng / 69.2) – verb to use, apply; to consume, drink, eat; noun expenses; adjective utility, use
52  (dào / 68.9) – noun road, way; method; Taoism; verb to say, speak; measure word for long, narrow objects; doors, walls; questions, orders; courses in a meal
53  (xíng / 68.7) – verb to go; to travel; to cover; to do; to perform; to publish; noun conduct
54  (suǒ 68.4) – noun place; office; measure word for houses, schools, hospitals
55  (rán / 68.1) – adjective right, correct; adverb so, like that
56  (jiā / 67.9) – noun family; house; household, home; an expert
57  (zhòng / 67.6) – verb to grow, plant; to cultivate; to sow
58  (shì / 67.3) – noun matter, affair, business; work, job; trouble, accident; involvement, responsibility
59  (chéng / 67.1) – verb to accomplish, succeed; to turn into, become; noun result, achievement
60  (fāng / 66.8) – noun square; direction; place, locality; side; party
61 
 (duō / 66.6) – adjective a lot of, many, more; verb to have more; adverb to what extent
62  (jīng / 66.3) – verb to manage, deal with; to pass through, undergo, experience; bear; adjectiveregular, constant; preposition after
63  (me / 66.1) – suffix for certain characters (pronoun 什么 shenme / what; 那么 nàme / then, like that)
64  (qù / 65.8) – verb to go; to go to a place; to remove;
65 法 (fǎ / 65.5) – noun law; method; way; standard; model
66  (xué / 65.4) – verb to study, to learn; to imitate, mimic; noun school, college
67 如 (rú / 65.1) – verb like, as, if; for instance; conjunction if
68  (dōu / 64.9) – adverb all, both; even; already
69  (tóng / 64.7) – verb be the same as; adverb together, in common; preposition used for comparison
70  (xiàn / 64.4) – verb to show, to appear, to become visible; adjective present, current; nouncash, money
71 
 (dāng / 64.2) – verb should; act as; accept; deserve; preposition just at
72  (méi / 64.0) – verb to be without; not have; adverb not
73  (dòng / 63.8) – verb to move; to use; to touch; to arouse
74  (miàn / 63.6) – noun noodle; face; surface; measure word for flat things
75  (qǐ / 63.3) – verb to rise, to get up; to grow, to begin; adjective upward, up
76  (kàn / 63.1) – verb to see, to look at, to watch over; to look after, tend
77  (dìng / 62.9) – verb to decide, fix, set; to subscribe; adjective calm, stable; adverb surely, definitely
78  (tiān / 62.7) – noun sky, heaven; weather; time of day
79  (fēn / 62.5) – verb to divide, part, separate; to allot, distribute, assign; measure word for minute, cent, fraction, point, mark
80  (hái / 62.3) – adverb still, yet; even more; also, too; even
81 
 (jìn / 62.0) – verb to advance, move forward; to enter, get into
82  (hǎo / 61.8) – adjective good, fine, well; done
83  (xiǎo / 61.6) – adjective small, little, minor; young, youngest; a bit
84  (bù / 61.4) – noun part, section; headquarters, department; measure word for machines, vehicles; films
85  (qí / 61.2) – pronoun his, her, its, their; he, she, it, they; that, such
86  (xiē / 61.0) – measure word some, few; a little more
87  (zhǔ / 60.8) – noun host; master; owner; adjective main; verb to manage, to take charge
88  (yàng / 60.6) – noun appearance, shape; sample, pattern; type
89  (lǐ / 60.4) – noun reason, logic, truth; verb to manage, run; to put in order
90  (xīn / 60.2) – noun heart; core, center; feeling; mind; intention
91 
她 (tā / 60.0) – pronoun she, her, hers
92  (běn / 59.8) – noun book, script; adjective current; adverb at first, originally measure word for books
93  (qián /59.6) – noun front; forward; ahead; ago; before
94  (kāi / 59.4) – verb to open, open up; to begin, start; to operate; to hold (a meeting)
95  (dàn / 59.2) – conjunction but, still, yet; adverb only
96  (yīn / 59.0) – preposition because of noun cause, reason
97  (zhǐ / 58.8) – adverb only, merely, just, but
98  (cóng / 58.6) – preposition from, through, past; verb to follow; to comply, obey
99  (xiǎng / 58.4) – verb to think, to ponder; to miss; to want (doing something)
100  (shí / 58.2) – adjective solid; real, true; factual; noun reality, fact; fruit; seed

There’s an alternative list of the first 100 characters in order of frequency (link in .pdf), and another with 300 characters and their definitions. This can be a great way to kill time while on the subway or during long travels!

This article first appeared on our sister website beijingkids.

Image: sensiblechinese.com

Comments

Slowly Chinese language will start to rule the world culturally. If you know nothing about Chinese, you are out!

曲径通幽处 禅房花木深 山光悦鸟性 潭影空人心

Do watch out. Some of the characters here have more than one pin yin, aka 多音字 Such as the word 好, 还, 中, 没 etc

Lim Kim Yong wrote:

Do watch out. Some of the characters here have more than one pin yin, aka 多音字 Such as the word 好, 还, 中, 没  etc

Good point! That's probably lesson 2 Smile

the Beijinger

This article has become incredibly popular on Chinese sites like Sina and Xindongfang where it has mostly been republished without credit to its author or the Beijinger. With that in mind, please enjoy the Chinese language-version of this article as seen on those sites, titled: "The Top 100 Characters a Laowai Must Learn When First Learning Chinese."

老外学中文入门必背100字

去北京的前几个月,我让我的中国朋友给我起个中国名字。她说因为我的名字Andy可以直接音译为汉字“安迪”,给我起名字简直是小菜一碟。

我在查询北京的游览攻略时,热门游览地中有个叫“天安门”的。“天安门”这个词引起了我想要认识更多汉字的欲望,因为它和我的名字当中都有一个“安”字。之后我便开始用汉语字典查询地铁站的名字。(尤其是在拥挤时或是长途旅行中)

记得我的中文老师告诉我,想要学习汉语,不仅要记词组,还要记拼音和汉字、我必须承认这很难,但是只要了解了基础汉字就足以让你在北京四处逛逛了,尤其是旅行,吃饭,购物。

我找到了一些资料,上面列着汉语初学者需要记忆的100个汉字。前50个字几乎相同,但从第60个开始就有些不同了。尽管如此,“ Learning Chinese Everyday”上的这个列表确实有用,尤其是当你学会前80个字,你就可以造一些简单的句子了。

如果你觉得发音很难,我们有“初学者指南”,它提供了一个简单的方法来发汉语的四声。在下面这个列表中,每一个发音后都标着一个数字,表示这个字的语法及词汇功能。数字代表这个字在汉语会话中的用途。

除此之外,网站上还有“流利中文100词”以及“300个汉字及释义”。它是你在地铁或长途途旅行中消磨时间的绝佳方法。

It's a thing.

charlesliu wrote:

This article has become incredibly popular on Chinese sites like Sina and Xindongfang where it has mostly been republished without credit to its author or the Beijinger. With that in mind, please enjoy the Chinese language-version of this article as seen on those sites, titled: "The Top 100 Characters a Laowai Must Learn When First Learning Chinese."

老外学中文入门必背100字

去北京的前几个月,我让我的中国朋友给我起个中国名字。她说因为我的名字Andy可以直接音译为汉字“安迪”,给我起名字简直是小菜一碟。

我在查询北京的游览攻略时,热门游览地中有个叫“天安门”的。“天安门”这个词引起了我想要认识更多汉字的欲望,因为它和我的名字当中都有一个“安”字。之后我便开始用汉语字典查询地铁站的名字。(尤其是在拥挤时或是长途旅行中)

记得我的中文老师告诉我,想要学习汉语,不仅要记词组,还要记拼音和汉字、我必须承认这很难,但是只要了解了基础汉字就足以让你在北京四处逛逛了,尤其是旅行,吃饭,购物。

我找到了一些资料,上面列着汉语初学者需要记忆的100个汉字。前50个字几乎相同,但从第60个开始就有些不同了。尽管如此,“ Learning Chinese Everyday”上的这个列表确实有用,尤其是当你学会前80个字,你就可以造一些简单的句子了。

如果你觉得发音很难,我们有“初学者指南”,它提供了一个简单的方法来发汉语的四声。在下面这个列表中,每一个发音后都标着一个数字,表示这个字的语法及词汇功能。数字代表这个字在汉语会话中的用途。

除此之外,网站上还有“流利中文100词”以及“300个汉字及释义”。它是你在地铁或长途途旅行中消磨时间的绝佳方法。

Credit must be given where its due. And TBJ should sue them for not taking prior permission..

~~“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” ~~.Woody Allen

Please note the bottom of the article, thanks:
This article first appeared on our sister website beijingkids.

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