Dates in Chinese (Years, Months, Days): A Comprehensive Guide

dates in Chinese

Whether you want to organize meetings, make holiday reservations, or plan social activities, you most likely won’t be able to accomplish that without knowing how to say dates in Chinese.

Dates in Mandarin Chinese work quite differently than in English. To start with, they follow a different word order. But don’t worry, Chinese can be easier since there’s only one way to say the date – not multiple ways as there are in English. And there’s a simple formula to follow. Once you get the pattern down, you’ll be able to say the date in Chinese in no time.

This guide will give you a complete insight into all the different elements of the date in Chinese – year, month, day. You’ll learn how to say the date in the complete form and shortened form, and write the date in Chinese like a local.

Let’s have a look!

How to Say Dates in Mandarin Chinese – An Overview

To say the date in Chinese, you have to not only know your numbers but also be able to pronounce the years, months, and days correctly. Then there are some important differences between how dates are said in Chinese and other languages such as English and Spanish.

Before we delve into the details, let’s look at a few things you need to be aware of when learning this aspect of the Chinese language.

Key Vocabulary for Dates in Chinese

First of all, to say and write dates in Chinese, you’ll need to know three keywords. 

English Character Pinyin
year nián
month yuè
date hào

These words are the building blocks of the date expression in Chinese. You’ll use them for every date.

Numbers for Dates in Chinese

numbers for dates in Chinese

In English, ordinal numbers (such as “first” or “second”) are used to say the date. In Chinese, however, you always use cardinal numbers. To say the date and month in Chinese, you’ll need to know the words for all the numbers from one to thirty-one.

If you have a bit of a knack for Chinese numbers, the dates should pose no particular problem for you. We’ve written a complete tutorial on numbers in Chinese to help you get started.

If you are not comfortable with the Chinese number system yet, try practicing it with random strings of numbers rather than counting in order. This proves to be a far more effective way to remember numbers in Chinese. You can also post notes around your house with the Arabic numeral and the Chinese word for that number. Soon you’ll get used to associating the two.

Formula for Saying the Date in Chinese

When you say the date in Chinese, you’ll use a different form than you may have learned in English. One of the most important things to note is that in Chinese, the year comes first, followed by the month and then the day.

For saying the date in its entity, you use a simple formula:

年 (nián) + 月 (yuè) + 日 (rì)

When you announce a date of the current year, you’d commonly leave out announcing the year.

  • 月 (yuè) + 日 (rì)

That being said, you are now ready to learn how to say the date in Chinese!

Years in Chinese

The first step to saying the date in Chinese is to say the year.

Unlike in many languages where you express the year by saying the whole number (e.g. 2021 in Spanish – dos mil veintiuno), to say the year in Chinese, you read out each digit of the number, and then add the word 年 (nián) year to it.

For example,

  • 2021
    二零二一年
    èr líng èr yī nián
    Literally, “two zero two one year”
  • 2005
    二零零五年
    èr líng líng wǔ nián
    Literally, “two zero zero five year”
  • 2000
    二零零零年
    èr líng líng líng nián
    Literally, “two zero zero zero year”
  • 1997
    一九九七年
    yī jiǔ jiǔ qī nián
    Literally: “one nine nine seven year”

A common mistake people make when saying the year in Chinese would be splitting the number the English way (e.g. 2020 – twenty twenty).

  • Don’t say: 二十二十年 (èr shí èr shí nián), 十九九十八年 (shí jiǔ jiǔ shí bā nián), etc
  • Do say: 二零二零年 (èr líng èr líng nián), 一九九八年 (yī jiǔ jiǔ bā nián)

If you’re talking about a recent year, you can also use a shortened way of expressing years by just reading out the last two digits of the number, like

  • 二零年
    èr líng nián
    the year 2020
    Literally, “two zero year”
  • 八八年
    bā bā nián
    the year 1988
    Literally, “eight eight year”

Theoretically, the two digits can refer to all those “20”s and “88”s in different centuries, but as long as the context is clear, people won’t be confused by the shortened version. For instance, if you say you were born in the year 88 – 八八年 (bā bā nián), people will surely know you are talking about 1988, not 1888 or 1788. (unless you’re a vampire!)

Last but not least, don’t get the two-digit shortened version mixed up with the way of saying whole numbers in Chinese. If you pronounced the year (19)88 as 八十八年 (bā shí bā nián), it would instead mean “eighty-eight years”. So, always read out each digit!

In most instances, you probably won’t need to state the year along with the date if you’re just speaking conversationally. But if you do, make sure to say the year at the very beginning rather than at the end.

Months in Chinese

After saying the year, you’ll then say the month of the year.

Here are twelve months in Chinese with the pronunciation.

English Chinese Pinyin
January 一月 yī yuè
February 二月 èr yuè
March 三月 sān yuè
April 四月 sì yuè
May 五月 wǔ yuè
June 六月 liù yuè
July 七月 qī yuè
August 八月 bā yuè
September 九月 jiǔ yuè
October 十月 shí yuè
November 十一月 shí yī yuè
December 十二月 shí èr yuè

The names for the months in Chinese are based on the word 月 (yuè), meaning “month” and a simple numerical sequence. To say January through December, start with the number that corresponds to the month and then follow it up 月 (yuè).

January is thus 一月 (yī yuè) – the first month, February is 二月 (èr yuè) – the second month, and so on all the way up to December 十二月 (shí èr yuè) – the twelfth month.

Once you’ve learned how to count to 12 in Chinese, saying the month should just be intuitive. If you still have a problem associating the numbers with the month names, buy a Chinese calendar so you’re looking at them regularly.

Days of the Month in Chinese

Finally, you’ll say the day of the month to round out the date.

Here’s how you say the 31 days of the month in Chinese.

English Chinese Pinyin
1st 一号 yī hào
2nd 二号 èr hào
3rd 三号 sān hào
4th 四号 sì hào
5th 五号 wǔ hào
6th 六号 liù hào
7th 七号 qī hào
8th 八号 bā hào
9th 九号 jiǔ hào
10th 十号 shí hào
11th 十一号 shí yī hào
12th 十二号 shí èr hào
13th 十三号 shí sān hào
14th 十四号 shí sì hào
15th 十五号 shí wǔ hào
16th 十六号 shí liù hào
17th 十七号 shí qī hào
18th 十八号 shí bā hào
19th 十九号 shí jiǔ hào
20th 二十号 èr shí hào
21st 二十一号 èr shí yī hào
22nd 二十二号 èr shí èr hào
23rd 二十三号 èr shí sān hào
24th 二十四号 èr shí sì hào
25th 二十五号 èr shí wǔ hào
26th 二十六号 èr shí liù hào
27th 二十七号 èr shí qī hào
28th 二十八号 èr shí bā hào 
29th 二十九号 èr shí jiǔ hào
30th 三十号 sān shí hào
31st 三十一号 sān shí yī hào

Dates in Chinese follow the same pattern of months: you’ll say the number of the day first, then follow it up with the word 号 (hào), meaning date.  

As with months, you use cardinal numbers (one, two, three, etc) instead of ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc) for dates in Chinese, e.g. 三号 (sān hào), not 第三号 (dì sān hào).

Dates in Chinese – The Complete Form 

say the date in Chinese

Now that you know the years, months, and days in Chinese, we can put all the pieces together to say the entire date using the “年 (nián) + 月 (yuè) + 日 (rì)” formula. 

Here are some examples:

  • December 25, 2021
    二零二一十二二十五
    èr líng èr yī nián shí èr yuè èr shí wǔ hào
    Literally, “two zero two one year, twelve month, twenty-five date”
  • February 14, 1986
    一九八六十四
    yī jiǔ bā liù nián èr yuè shí sì hào
    Literally, “one nine eight six year, two month, fourteen date”
  • July 4, 1776
    一七七六
    yī qī qī liù nián qī yuè sì hào
    Literally, “one seven seven six year, seven month, four date”

You can also say the year in the two-digit shortened way if it is recent and the context is clear.

For instance,

  • 我出生在八六年二月十四号。
    Wǒ chūshēng zài bā liù nián èr yuè shí sì hào.
    I was born on February 14, (19)86.

Easy, isn’t it?

Just one note: there is a slightly more formal way of expressing the date of the month by using 日 (rì) instead of 号 (hào).

  • December 25, 2021
    二零二一年十二月二十五
    èr líng èr yī nián shí èr yuè èr shí wǔ 
  • February 14, 1986
    一九八六年二月十四
    yī jiǔ bā liù nián èr yuè shí sì 
  • July 4, 1776
    一七七六年七月四
    yī qī qī liù nián qī yuè sì 

The word 日 (rì) means “day”. It works the same way as 号 (hào) when constituting the date in Chinese (you add it after the number of the day) – but it’s less common in daily use (you’ll encounter this word mainly in formal contexts such as documents and news reports).

So, stick to 号 (hào) in your daily Chinese interaction – it sounds more normal.

How to Ask the Date in Chinese

ask the date in Chinese

There are two main ways to ask about the date in Chinese.

1. 今天几号?(Jīntiān jǐ hào?)

The most common and natural way to ask for the date in Chinese is to use the question 今天几号?(Jīntiān jǐ hào?)

The word 几 (jǐ) is the question word for asking a specific number. So this question literally means “today (is) what number date?”.

And when you are asked the date, you could answer by saying 今天是 (jīntiān shì) – meaning “today is” before the date. For example, when someone asked you “今天几号 (jīntiān jǐ hào)?”, you could say,

  • 今天是七月七号。
    Jīntiān shì qī yuè qī hào.
    Today is September 7.

And in most contexts, you can reply with just the date (day of the month).

  • 今天是七号。
    Jīntiān shì qī hào.
    Today is the 7th.

The verb “be” – 是 (shì) in 今天是 (jīntiān shì) is optional and often omitted in spoken Chinese. It’s totally okay to say 今天七月七号 (Jīntiān qī yuè qī hào), 今天七号 (Jīntiān qī hào), etc. Learn more about topic-comment structure.

2. 今天几月几号?(Jīntiān jǐ yuè jǐ hào?)

You can also ask 今天几月几号?(Jīntiān jǐ yuè jǐ hào?)

You typically use this question, which is translated as “today what number month what number date” word for word when you want to know what the month is as well as the date. People will then give you the number of both the month and the day, like

  • 今天三月十五号。
    Jīntiān sān yuè shí wǔ hào.
    Today is March 15.

If you want to know what day of the week it is instead of the specific date, use the phrase 今天星期几? (Jīntiān xīngqī jǐ?). This question means “what day is it today?” and people will respond with a day of the week. There are other ways to ask for the same information. Learn more about days of the week in Chinese.

When you give the date for the current year in an informal style, it’s normal to omit the year.

  • 今天是九月十号。
    Jīntiān shì jiǔ yuè shí hào.
    Today is September 10.

For the same reason, you wouldn’t normally ask for the year when asking the date. But if you happened to wake up from a coma and were wondering what year it was, you could ask 现在是几几年 (Xiànzài shì jǐ jǐ nián?), which means “what year is it now?”.

Remember to say 几 (jǐ) twice as each 几 (jǐ) corresponds to one digit in the two-digit version of saying the year.

How to Write the Date in Chinese

write the date in Chinese

There are three ways to write the date in Chinese. There is the numerals-only version, the characters-only version, and a mix of numerals and characters. Let’s take a look at how to write the date using each method!

1. Only Numerals

Like the rest of the world, Chinese people use Arabic numerals widely in daily life. It’s possible to write the date in Chinese without resorting to characters.

But be careful!

To write the date using only numerals, you’ll always write the numerals corresponding to the year first, followed by the month and then the day, which reverses the British style of putting the day first. The numerals can be separated by slashes, dashes, or periods.

For example, if you wanted to write the date January 09, 2021, you might write

  • 2021/01/09 (most common)
  • 2021-01-09
  • 2021.01.09

As with many languages, you can omit the “0” when writing one-digit months or days. You can also omit the first two digits of the year when writing the current year.

  • 2021/1/9
  • 2021-1-9
  • 2021.1.9

2. Numerals and Characters

The second way to write the date in Chinese is to use a combination of numerals and characters.

The format is the same when writing the date out (year+month+day). You’ll use numerals to represent the year, month and day, and three Chinese characters: 年 (nián) – year, 月 (yuè) – month, 日 (rì) – day, instead of slashes, dashes, or periods to separate these elements.

  • 2021年01月09日
  • 2021年1月9日

Note that in written Chinese, we typically use 日 (rì) instead of 号 (hào) to make it appear formal.

3. Only Characters

The third way, which is the most formal way of writing the date in Chinese is to use characters only. The numbers of the year, month, and day are all represented by Chinese characters, along with the separator words 年 (nián), 月 (yuè) and 日 (rì).

  • 二零二一年一月九日
    èr líng èr yī nián yī yuè jiǔ rì

In a very formal context, such as legal documents, the “0” in one-digit months or days may also be written out in character.  

  • 二零二一年一月九日
    èr líng èr yī nián líng yī yuè líng jiǔ rì

Write the date in Chinese characters if you want to practice your skills. Though you don’t typically need to write out the date in characters, it’s helpful to understand them – in many contexts, the numbers are only written in Chinese. We’ve written an in-depth guide to help you master this aspect of the Chinese language. Read more about Chinese numbers.

Other Words Related to Dates in Chinese

In normal speech, you don’t typically use specific dates all the time to talk about when something happened or is going to happen. Your Chinese will sound more natural if you use relational words such as “yesterday” or “tomorrow.”

So here are some additional words you can use to reference time in Chinese.

English Chinese Pinyin
today 今天 jīntiān
yesterday 昨天 míngtiān
tomorrow 明天 zuótiān
the day before yesterday 前天 qiántiān
the day after tomorrow 后天 hòutiān

As for weeks, you can put 这 (zhè) – this, 上 (shàng) – last or 下 (xià) – next, before the word 星期 (xīngqī) – week, to indicate the present, previous or upcoming week.

English Chinese Pinyin
this week 这星期 zhè xīngqī
last week 上星期 shàng xīngqī
next week 下星期 xià xīngqī

The format for months is the same.

English Chinese Pinyin
this month 这月 zhè yuè
last month 上月 shàng yuè
next month 下月 xià yuè

You may also put the measure word 个 (gè) before 星期 (xīngqī) and 月 (yuè), e.g. 这个星期 (zhè gè xīngqī), 下个月 (xià gè yuè). Read more about Chinese measure words.

Year works differently. There are specific words for “this year”, “last year” and “next year” in Chinese, just as the days are named “today”, “yesterday” and “tomorrow” etc, in English.

English Chinese Pinyin
this year 今年 jīn nián
last year 去年 qù nián
next year 明年 míng nián

Practice Saying the Date in Chinese

say the date in Mandarin

Dates are essential for arranging meetings and vacations. Now that you know how to say the date in Chinese and the relevant vocabulary, it’s time to get out there and practice!

The following sentence examples will get you started.

  • 今天七月三十一号,明天几月几号?
    Jīntiān qī yuè sān shí yī hào, míng tiān jǐ yuè jǐ hào?
    It’s July 31 today, what’s the date tomorrow?
  • 我的生日是三月十四号,也就是后天。
    Wǒ de shēng rì shì sān yuè shí sì hào, yě jiù shì hòutiān.
    My birthday is March 14, that’s the day after tomorrow.
  • 每年十月一号是中国的国庆日。
    Měi nián shí yuè yī hào shì Zhōngguó de Guóqìng rì.
    The annual October 1 is China’s National Day.
  • 我们学校九月一号开学。
    Wǒmen xuéxiào jiǔ yuè yī hào kāixué.
    Our school starts on September 1.
  • 下月三号我要去台湾出差。
    Xià yuè sān hào wǒ yào qù Táiwān chūchāi.
    I’ll go to Taiwan on business on the third of next month.
  • 我要订两晚酒店,四号和五号。
    Wǒ yào dìng liǎng wǎn jiǔdiàn, sì hào hé wǔ hào.
    I need to book a hotel for two nights, (for) the fourth and the fifth.
  • 我从去年十月开始学中文。
    Wǒ cóng qùnián shí yuè kāishǐ xué Zhōngwén.
    I started learning Chinese last October.
  • 林肯出生于一八零九年二月十二号。
    Línkěn chūshēng yú yī bā líng jiǔ nián èr yuè shí èr hào.
    Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809.  

FAQ about Dates in Chinese

Before I wrap things up, let’s quickly go through a few questions I receive all the time about expressing dates in Chinese.

In Chinese, the month always precedes the day, so say the month first, then the day. Follow the same format when you write the date.

Example:

  • 十二月三十号
    shí èr yuè sān shí hào
    December 30

There are two main ways of asking the date in Chinese:

1. 今天几号?(Jīntiān jǐ hào?)
– literally “Today (is) what number date?”

2. 今天几月几号?(Jīn tiān jǐ yuè jǐ hào?)
– literally “Today (is) what number month what number date?”

The second way is typically used when you also want to find out what month it is.

“Today is…” in Chinese is 今天是 (jīntiān shì). To say the date today in Chinese, start by saying 今天是 (jīntiān shì) and then follow it up with the date. For example,

  • 今天是六月九号。
    Jīntiān shì liù yuè jiǔ hào.
    Today is June 9.

It’s also possible to drop the verb 是 (shì) in the sentence and just say 今天 (jīntiān) + date using “topic-comment structure”.

Years in Chinese are expressed by reading out each digit of the number corresponding to the year and adding the word 年 (nián) afterward. To say the year 2021, say 二零二一年 (èr líng èr yī nián). It’s translated as “two zero two one year” literally.

We usually say the year part of date by reading out each digit of the number, for example

  • 2001
    二零零一年
    èr líng líng yī nián

But for the years from 2001 to 2009, it’s also okay to say the whole number like in English (两千零 liǎng qiān + number).

  • 2001
    两千零一年
    liǎng qiān líng yī nián

This, however, is less common than the first method.

There are three common ways of asking “when is your birthday” in Chinese:

1. 你的生日是几月几号?
Nǐ de shēngrì shì jǐ yuè jǐ hào?
Literally, “Your birthday is what number month what number date?”

2. 你的生日是什么时候?
Nǐ de shēngrì shì shénme shíhou?
Literally, “Your birthday is when?”

3. 你的生日是哪一天?
Nǐ de shēngrì shì nǎ yì tiān?
Literally, “Your birthday is which day?” 

To answer the questions when you get asked, say 我的生日是 (wǒ de shēngrì shì) then the date. For instance,

  • 我的生日是二月二十九号。
    Wǒ de shēngrì shì èr yuè èr shí jiǔ hào.
    My birthday is February 29.  

“Date of birth” in Chinese is 出生日期 (chūshēng rìqī). To say when you were born, you can start by saying 我出生在 (Wǒ chūshēng zài) – meaning “I was born in/on” before your date. For example,

  • 我出生在九五年十月十八号。
    Wǒ chūshēng zài jiǔ wǔ nián shí yuè shí bā hào.
    I was born on Oct 18, (19)95.

The Chinese word for “calendar” is 日历 (rìlì), literally “day history”. The measure word for calendars is 本 (běn). To say a calendar in Chinese, you say 一本日历 (yī běn rìlì).

“Lunar calendar” in Chinese is 农历 (nónglì) or 阴历 (yīnlì). To express dates based on the lunar calendar, place the word 农历 (nónglì) or 阴历 (yīnlì) before the date. For example, July 7 on the lunar calendar:

  • 农历七月七号
    nónglì qī yuè qī hào
    (most common)
  • 阴历七月七号
    yīnlì qī yuè qī hào

The word for “gap year” in Chinese is 间隔年 (jiàngé nián), although the word/concept didn’t really exist in China until very recently and it’s a direct translation of “gap” and “year” from English. You may have to further explain what a 间隔年 (jiàngé nián) is to Chinese as taking a year off before or after college is rarely practiced and considered unorthodox in China.

Quick Summary

Here’s a quick summary of what we covered in this guide:

In Chinese, the elements of the date are named in the order “year + month + day”. To say the date in Chinese, use the formula 年 (nián) + 月 (yuè) + 号 ( hào). Say the number corresponding to the year first, then the month of the year, and finally the day of the month. For the years from 2001 to 2009, you can also say the whole number (两千零 liǎng qiān + number) instead of reading out each digit. When giving the date for the current year, the year is often omitted.

To ask the date in Chinese, ask “今天几号?(Jīntiān jǐ hào?)” or “今天几月几号?(Jīn tiān jǐ yuè jǐ hào?)” depending on whether you want to know what month it is as well. For the notation of dates, you can choose between numerals only, Chinese characters, or a mixture of numerals and characters. Always put the year first: the format is YYYY/MM/DD. Remember in written Chinese, 号 ( hào) is usually replaced by 日 (rì).

The day of the week can be just as important as the specific date, especially when planning future events. Now that you’ve learned how to say the date in Chinese, it’s also a good idea to know how to say the days of the week in case you’re asked.

We also recommend you combine what you learn in this article with our other free resources:

By the way, if you’re just starting out to learn Chinese, we strongly recommend that you take a structured Chinese course online.

To be fair, it’s possible to learn Chinese by yourself. But you’re facing a rather complicated language (which is nothing like English or Spanish). Instead of reading odd bits and pieces and trying to put them together on your own, you should follow the progress of an existing course – it’s far more effective.

We’ve taken the time to try out dozens of Chinese courses online, some are fabulous while others are abysmal. Read our unbiased reviews here and discover our top recommendations!