Ep14: What is your phone number? | Lí ê tiān-uē kuí hō? 你的電話幾號?

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Ep14: What is your phone number? | Lí ê tiān-uē kuí hō? 你的電話幾號?

In this episode, we’ve talked about the “literary” pronunciation of numbers. We’ve also talked about several number-related expressions and how to ask for someone’s phone number and year of birth.

(These show notes use tables and rich formatting. Please visit the episode webpage for an optimal viewing experience.)

1 2 3 4 5


it sam ngóo**


“tsi̍t” (it) “nn̄g” (jī) sann gōo
6 7 8 9 10


lio̍k tshit pat kiú si̍p


la̍k tshit pe̍h káu tsa̍p

*Syllables that have been greyed out require tone changes.

**For more on how to pronounce the "ng-" sound at the beginning of a syllable. Check out the Nasal Consonants & Vowels episode from our Pronounce it Like a Pro podcast series. 

The “literary” reading for numbers are typically used in these contexts:

  1. Reading off digits, e.g. a phone number or a lottery number
  2. Specifying a year
  3. Within certain set phrases or expressions
  4. Some place names or people’s given names

The “colloquial” reading for numbers are used in counting things and most other contexts. Note that the colloquial pronunciations for 1 and 2 are special cases. “Tsi̍t” and “nn̄g” are only used when counting one or two things.

nn̄g tshing jī-tsa̍p-sì the year 2024; 2024 years
khòng jī-sù the year 2024
khòng zero
Lí ê tiān-kuí hō? What is your phone number?
ê your; yours
tiān- telephone
kuí how many; several
(designated or ordinal) number
khòng-kiú, pat-sam-ngóo-ngóo, tshit-pat-sù-lio̍k /

khòng-kiú-pat-sam, ngóo-ngóo-tshit, pat-sù-lio̍k



Lí kuítshut-sì? What year were you born in?
tshut- to be born
Guá it-kiú kiú-jītshut-sì. I was born in 1992.
Lí kuí nî-tshù? What year were you born in?
nî-tshù year (usually of birth)
Guá it-kiú kiú-jī. Me, 1992.
sam-pat foolish, silly, ditzy (usually said of women)

(literally: “38”)

sam-pat hiann- to be overly polite among close friends (usually said among men)

(literally: “38 brothers”)

sam-tsân-ba̍h pork belly

(literally: “3 layer meat”)

sù-kuì the 4 seasons
sù-hái the 4 seas; figuratively “the whole world”
sù-ki the 4 limbs
sù-thong-pat-ta̍t an expression describing really convenient and accessible transportation networks
ngóo-hiang the 5 spices (usually star anise, cloves, fennel, cinnamon, and Sichuan pepper)
ngóo-kok the 5 grains (usually rice, millet, corn, wheat, and soybeans); crops, grains in general
ngóo-kim the 5 metals (usually gold, silver, copper, iron, and tin); hardware or ironware
ngóo-kuan the 5 sensory organs (usually referring to the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and body or heart); facial features
ngóo-tshái really colorful
lio̍k-ha̍p the 6 directions: East, West, South, North, Up, and Down; figuratively “everything under the sun” or “the entire universe”
lio̍k-thiok the 6 domesticated animals (cow, horse, sheep, chicken, dog, pig); domesticated animals in general
si̍p-jī-lōo the intersection, crossroads
si̍p-tsuân-si̍p- a common saying expressing that something is completely perfect

(literally: “10 completely 10 beautiful”)

For more about numbers, literary and colloquial pronunciations and related expressions, go check out our downloadable workbook! It also gives you additional vocabulary with characters, pronunciation notes, grammar explanations, culture tips, and fun exercises to help your practice.

Music Credit: TeknoAXE

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