How to say Dates in Chinese – a full guide

Being able to dates is important to know when learning any language, and Chinese is no exception. In this post I will explain how to say dates, days of the week, months and years as well as provide example phrases and important vocabulary such as seasons.

How to say numbers in Chinese

Before learning how to say dates, it is important to know Chinese numbers. Check out my post on how to count in Chinese, however as a quite guide I’ve provided numbers from 1 to 31 below. Note that while Chinese write numbers using standard Arabic numerals as we do in English, such as 1,2,3,etc., it is important to be able to know how to say the numbers

Number Chinese Pinyin
2 èr èr
3 sān sān
6 liù liù
9 jiǔ jiǔ
10 shí shí
11 shí shí yī
12 shí'èr shí èr
13 shísān shí sān
14 shí shí sì
15 shí shí wǔ
16 shíliù shí liù
17 shí shí qī
18 shí shí bā
19 shíjiǔ shí jiǔ
20 èrshí èr shí
21 èrshí èr shí yī
22 èrshíèr èr shí èr
23 èrshísān èr shí sān
24 èrshí èr shí sì
25 èrshí èr shí wǔ
26 èrshíliù èr shí liù
27 èrshí èr shí qī
28 èrshí èr shí bā
29 èrshíjiǔ èr shí jiǔ
30 sānshí sān shí
31 sānshí sān shí yī

How to write dates in Chinese

Dates in Chinese are written in the format of YEAR – MONTH – DAY, the reverse of English. Thus for example 1st July 2000 would be written as 2000-07-01. Typically however you would write dates with the character for year, month and day after each of these, thus 1st July 2000 would be written as 22000000nián 77yuè 11, where:

  • nián (nián) means year
  • yuè ( yuè) means month
  • (rì) means day

The order that you write dates in Chinese are therefore different to the United States, which writes dates as MONTH – DAY – YEAR or many other countries which typically write days as DAY – MONTH – YEAR. Technically the Chinese way of writing dates is known as “big-endian”, meaning the largest value, being the year, is written first. By comparison writing days with the smallest value, the day, first is known as “little-endian”; finally writing days as MONTH – DAY – YEAR, is known as “middle-endian”.

Days of the Month Chinese Vocabulary

The day of the month is written in numerals, followed by either the character (rì) or hào (hào) . For example

jīntiān 10 hào

Today is the 10th

When talking about the date, hào is more casual and used when speaking, while is more formal and used for written Chinese. When writing a date should be used e.g. 22002200nián 11yuè 33 (3rd January 2020). is also used in the word for Sunday, that is Xīng (xīngqírì) is the word for Sunday

How to say “today”, “tomorrow” and “yesterday” in Chinese

Here is how to say, today, tomorrow and yesterday in Chinese:

  • yesterday zuótiān (zuótiān)
  • today jīntiān (jīntiān)
  • tomorrow míngtiān (míngtiān)

It is common to use jīntiān in phrases as you would in English, for example:

jīntiān wǒ xiǎng qù gōngyuán

Today I want to go to the park

How to say “the day after tomorrow” and “the day before yesterday” in Chinese

In Chinese the is a special word for both the day after tomorrow and the day before yesterday:

  • the day before yesterday qiántiān (qiántiān)
  • the day after tomorrow ssttrroonngg>>hòutiān//ssttrroonngg>>děishàngbān
    hòutiān wǒ yào shàngbānI have to go to work the day after tomorrow

    How to say “three days ago” in Chinese

    If you would like to talk about a given number of days in the past the Chinese word for “before” or “prior” 前 (qián) is used, so for example:

    • 3 days ago sāntiānqián (sān tiān qián)
    • 4 days ago tiānqián (sì tiān qián)
    • 5 days ago tiānqián (wǔ tiān qián)
    • X days ago XXtiānqián (X tiān qián)

    It is also fine to say:

    • “two days ago” liǎngtiānqián (liǎng tiān qián) instead of “the day before yesterday” hòutiān (hòutiān)
    • “one day ago” tiānqián (yītiān qián)  instead of “yesterday” zuótiān (zuótiān)

    So for example, you could say:

    sān tiān qián wǒmen qù hǎitānle

    Three days ago we went to the beach

    How to say “in three days” in Chinese

    If you would like to talk about a given number of days in the future the Chinese word for “after” hòu (hòu) is used, and is literally used to say “X days after”. For example:

    • in three days time sāntiānhòu (sān tiānhòu)
    • in four days time tiānhòu (sì tiānhòu)
    • in five days time tiānhòu (wǔ tiānhòu)
    • in X days time XXtiānhòu (X tiānhòu)

    Consistent with talking about days in the past, for days in the future you can also say:

    • “in two days time” liǎngtiānhòu (liǎng tiānhòu) instead of “the day after tomorrow” hòutiān (qiántiān)
    • “in one days time” tiānhòu (yī tiānhòu) instead of “tomorrow” míngtiān (qiántiān)

    Days of the week Chinese Vocabulary

    The days of the week in Chinese is very easy, as Monday to Saturday are simply numbered from one through to six, with Sunday pronounced separately.

    English Chinese Pinyin
    Monday Xīng xīngqí yī
    Tuesday Xīng'èr xīngqí’èr
    Wednesday Xīngsān xīngqísān
    Thursday Xīng xīngqísì
    Friday Xīng xīngqíwǔ
    Saturday Xīngliù xīngqíliù
    Sunday Xīng / Xīngtiān xīngqírì / xīngqítiān

    Here xīng really just means “day of week” or simply “day’, thus Xīng means “day one” for example.

    You may wonder if you could write days with numbers instead of the Chinese characters, for example 星期1 or 星期5; this is not how days are written and is not an acceptable form.

    How to say “next Monday” in Chinese

    In Chinese when talking about future or past days, the phrases use ”last”shàng (shàng) or “next” xià ( xià) as are used:

    English Chinese Pinyin Pronunciation
    Next Monday xiàxīng xià gè xīngqí yī
    Last Thursday shàngxīng shàng gè xīngqísì
    This Wednesday zhègeXīngsān zhège xīngqísān

    If you find yourself mixing up shàng and xià, think of time flowing downwards, thus yesterday is above (shàng) and tomorrow is below (xià). Note also that in the above table qián (qián) means “prior” and hòu (hòu) means “after”.

    Chinese Vocabulary for Weeks

    Below is are the phrases you will need when talking about this week, last week, next week, a few notes:

    • In talking about a previous week, month or day the Chinese character “last” shàng (shàng) is used. Although shàng also means “above”, in the context of dates, “last” is a better definition
    • When talking about next week, month or year, the Chinese character “next” xià (xià) is used. Again, you may be familiar with xià begin defined as below, however in this case “next” is the appropriate definition.

    Below are the full phrases that you will find useful when talking about weeks. Pay attention to the use of either xīng (xīngqí) or zhōu (zhōu) being used, both mean week.

    English Chinese Pinyin Pronunciation
    3 weeks ago sānzhōuqián sān zhōu qián
    2 weeks ago liǎngzhōuqián liǎng zhōu qián
    last week shàngxīng shàng gè xīngqí
    this week zhègexīng zhège xīngqí
    the week before last xiàxīng xià gè xīngqí
    in 2 weeks time liǎngzhōuhòu liǎng zhōu hòu
    in 3 weeks time sānzhōuhòu sān zhōu hòu

    How to say “Weekend” in Chinese

    The word for “weekend” in Chinese is zhōu (zhōumò), where zhōu is the word for week, which I covered above, and 末 means “end”, so zhōu literally means “week end”. The phrases for talking about this, last and next weekend are the same as those used for talking about weeks, however “weekend” zhōu (zhōumò) is used rather than “week” zhōu (zhōu):

    English Chinese Pinyin Pronunciation
    3 weekends ago sānzhōuqián sān zhōumò qián
    2 weekends ago liǎngzhōuqián liǎng zhōumò qián
    last week shàngzhōu shàng gè zhōumò
    this week zhègezhōu zhège zhōumò
    the weekend before last xiàzhōu xià gè zhōumò
    in 2 weekends time liǎngzhōuhòu liǎng zhōumò hòu
    in 3 weekends time sānzhōuhòu sān zhōumò hòu

    How to say Next Month, This Month and Last Month in Chinese

    Similar to weeks, when talking about months you should use the ”last”上 (shàng) and “next”下 ( xià) characters.

    English Chinese Pinyin Pronunciation
    3 months ago 33yuèqián 3 yuè qián
    2 months ago 22yuèqián 2 yuè qián
    1 month ago 11yuèqián 1 yuè qián
    last month shàngyuè shàng gè yuè
    this month zhègeyuè zhège yuè
    next month xiàyuè xià gè yuè
    in 1 month yuèhòu yī yuè hòu
    in 2 months liǎngyuèhòu liǎng yuè hòu
    in 3 months Sānyuèhòu sān yuè hòu

    Chinese Vocabulary for Months

    Chinese write months as the month number followed by the character for month, 月 (yuè), where January is the first month and December is the last month:

    English Chinese Pinyin Pronunciation
    January yuè yī yuè
    February Eryuè èr yuè
    March yóuxíng yóuxíng
    April yuè sì yuè
    May kěyǐ
    June Liùyuè liù yuè
    July yuè qī yuè
    August yuè bā yuè
    September Jiǔyuè jiǔ yuè
    October Shíyuè shí yuè
    November Shíyuè shíyī yuè
    December Shí'èryuè shí’èr yuè

    Note that writing months in this way is the equivalent of writing it in words in English, that is “January” or “February”. Writing a full date in YEAR – MONTH – DAY is the numerical format, where you use the number for the month rather than the Chinese character. If however you were to say “My birthday is in January”, you would write the date with Chinese characters, that is deshēngshìyuè.

    What is the difference between 月 and 月份 (yue and yuefen)?

    yuè (yuè) and yuèfèn (yuèfèn) are essentially the same, although yuèfèn is a more formal. When writing dates you will commonly see just yuè used, such as January yuè. Using the example I provided earlier in this post, you can write the sentence “my birthday is in January” as either:

    • deshēngshìyuè (wǒ de shēngrì shì yī yuè)
    • deshēngshìyuèfēn (wǒ de shēngrì shì yī yuè fēn)

    Both of these are acceptable.

    Chinese vocabulary for years

    The word for year is nián (nián). When writing the year you simply write the year followed by nián, for example 22002200nián is the year 2020

    How to write “last year”, “this year” or “next year” in Chinese

    Below is a table with the vocabulary for talking about years:

    English Chinese Pinyin Pronunciation
    3 years ago 33niánqián sān nián qián
    2 years ago 22niánqián liǎng nián qián
    1 years ago 11niánqián yī nián qián
    the year before last qiánnián qiánnián
    last year nián qùnián
    this year jīnnián jīnnián
    next year míngnián míngnián
    the year after next hòunián hòu nián
    in 1 year niánhòu yī nián hòu
    in 2 years liǎngniánhòu liǎng nián hòu
    in three years sānniánhòu sān nián hòu

    As you can see the vocabulary used for years is very similar to that used for days, with the exception that: (qù) is used when saying “last year” nián (qùnián) and essentially means “the year just passed”.

    How do you write AD or BC in Chinese?

    The Chinese word for Common Era (AD) is gōngyuán (gōngyuán). Before the Common Era (BC) is gōngyuánqián. For example 2020AD is gōngyuán22002200nián, while 800BC is gōngyuánqián880000nián

    What is the name of the Western Gregorian calendar in Chinese?

    The modern Western or Gregorian calendar is know as:

    • New Calendar xīn (xīnlì)
    • Public Calendar gōng (gōnglì)

    China adopted the Western (Gregorian) calendar on 1st January 1912, however many holidays are still based on the lunar calendar.

    What is the name of the traditional lunar calendar in Chinese?

    The Chinese calendar is essentially a solar-lunar calendar, meaning that years and months are based on the seasons (the earths rotation around the sun) and the moon. Specifically, each month starts on the first day of a new moon, while the years start two or three lunar months after the Winter Solstice, that is the shortest winter day.

    The traditional lunar calendars can be written as:

    • Peasant or Farming Calendar nóng (nónglì)
    • Lunar Calendar yīn (yīnlì)
    • Former / Old Calendar jiù (jiùlì)

    The Chinese names and timing of public holidays in China

    Chinese public holidays are based on either the lunar or Gregorian (Western) calendar:

    • New Years Day Yuándàn – occurs on the 1st of January
    • Chinese New Year Zhōngguóxīnnián / Spring Festival Chūnjié – the first day of the lunar calendar, approximately late January or February
    • Qingming or Tomb-sweeping, literally the “pure brightness festival” Qīngmíngjié (qīngmíng jié) is based on the Solar term, not the luni-solar date, and so falls consistently on either the 4th or 5th of April every year
    • Labour Day Láodòngjié (láodòng jié) occurs on the 1st of May
    • Dragon Boat Festival Duānjié (duānwǔ jié) occurs on the 5th day of the 5th lunisolar , approximately May/June.
    • Mid-Autumn Festival Zhōngqiūjié (zhōngqiū jié) occurs on the 15th day of the 8th lunisolar month, approximately September/October
    • National Day Guóqìngjié (guóqìng jié) occurs on the 1st of October

    How to say the seasons in Chinese

    As china is a large country, you will see the seasons defined differently. The names and months of the season in China are:

    • Spring chūntiān (chūn tiān), March – May
    • Summer xiàtiān (xià tiān), June – August
    • Autumn qiūtiān (qiū tiān), September – November
    • Winter dōngtiān (dōng tiān), December – February

    The traditionally Chinese seasons are based on the lunar-solar traditional Chinese Calendar nóng (nónglì). Specifically the names for the start of the seasons are:

    • Start of Spring chūn (lìchūn), the 1st solar terms in the lunisolar calendar, starting 4th or 5th of February
    • Start of Summer xià (lìxià), the 7th solar terms in the lunisolar calendar, starting 5th or 6th of May
    • Start of Autumn qiū (lìqiū), the 13th solar terms in the lunisolar calendar, starting 7th or 8th of August
    • Start of Winter dōng (lìdōng), the 19th solar terms in the lunisolar calendar, starting 7th or 8th of November

    In fact there are 24 solar terms, and the start of spring, summer, autumn and winter are only four of the 24 terms. The actual dates and names of the terms isn’t particularly relevant or useful to commit to memory.

    What is the lunisolar calendar?

    The lunisolar is the traditional Chinese calendar where the date indicates both the time of the year and the moon phase. Essentially the lunisolar calendar year is broken in to 24 “solar terms” based on the longitude of the sun. This is why the start of the seasons vary slightly on the western (Gregorian) calendar from year to year.

    Vocabulary Summary

    This is a quick summary of how to say day, days of the week, weeks, weekend, month, year and seasons in Chinese:

    English Chinese Pinyin Pronunciation
    day of the month 11--3311 / 11--33hào 1-31 rì/ 1-31 hào
    day of the week (Mon – Sun) XīngXīng'èrXīngsānsòngXīngXīngliùXīngtiān/Xīng xīngqí yī, xīngqí’èr, xīngqísān, sòngqì sì, xīngqíwǔ, xīngqíliù, xīngqítiān/xīngqírì
    week zhōu / xīng zhōu/ xīngqí
    weekend zhōu zhōumò
    month yuè yuè
    year nián nián
    spring, summer,autumn,winter chūntiānxiàtiānqiūtiāndōngtiān chūntiān, xiàtiān, qiūtiān, dōngtiān

    Below is a summary of how to talk about previous, current and future days, weeks, weekends, months and years:

    years months weekends weeks days
    3 years/months/weekends/weeks/days ago 33niánqián 33yuèqián sānzhōuqián sānzhōuqián sāntiānqián
    2 years/months/weekends/weeks/days ago 22niánqián 22yuèqián liǎngzhōuqián liǎngzhōuqián liǎngtiānqián
    1 year/month/weekend/week/day ago 11niánqián 11yuèqián zhōuqián zhōuqián tiānqián
    the year/month/weekend/week/day before last qiánnián shàngshàngyuè shàngshàngzhōu shàngshàngzhōu qiántiān
    last year/month/weekend/week/day nián shàngyuè shàngzhōu shàngxīng zuótiān
    this year/month/weekend/week/day jīnnián zhègeyuè zhègezhōu zhègexīng jīntiān
    next year/month/weekend/week/day míngnián xiàyuè xiàzhōu xiàxīng míngtiān
    the year/month/weekend/week/day after next hòunián xiàxiàyuè xiàxiàzhōu xiàxiàzhōu hòutiān
    in 1 year/month/weekend/week/day time niánhòu yuèhòu zhōuhòu zhōuhòu tiānhòu
    in 2 years/months/weekends/weeks/days time liǎngniánhòu liǎngyuèhòu liǎngzhōuhòu liǎngzhōuhòu liǎngtiānhòu
    in 3 years/months/weekends/weeks/days sānniánhòu Sānyuèhòu sānzhōuhòu sānzhōuhòu sāntiānhòu

    Below is the pinyin for the above phrases

    years months weekends weeks days
    3 years/months/weekends/weeks/days ago sān nián qián sān nián qián sān zhōumò qián sān zhōu qián sān tiān qián
    2 years/months/weekends/weeks/days ago liǎng nián qián liǎng nián qián liǎng zhōumò qián liǎng zhōu qián liǎng tiān qián
    1 year/month/weekend/week/day ago yī nián qián yī nián qián yī zhōumò qián yīzhōu qián yītiān qián
    the year/month/weekend/week/day before last qiánnián qiánnián shàng shàng zhōumò shàng shàng zhōu qiántiān
    last year/month/weekend/week/day qùnián qùnián shàng gè zhōumò shàng gè xīngqí zuótiān
    this year/month/weekend/week/day jīnnián jīnnián zhège zhōumò zhège xīngqí jīntiān
    next year/month/weekend/week/day míngnián míngnián xià gè zhōumò xià gè xīngqí míngtiān
    the year/month/weekend/week/day after next hòu nián hòu nián xià xià zhōumò xià xià zhōu hòutiān
    in 1 year/month/weekend/week/day time yī nián hòu yī nián hòu yī zhōumò hòu yī zhōu hòu yī tiānhòu
    in 2 years/months/weekends/weeks/days time liǎng nián hòu liǎng nián hòu liǎng zhōumò hòu liǎng zhōu hòu liǎng tiānhòu
    in 3 years/months/weekends/weeks/days sān nián hòu sān nián hòu sān zhōumò hòu sān zhōu hòu sān tiānhòu


    As you can see there is a lot of vocabulary that is involved when talking about dates in Chinese. Much of the vocabulary is repetitive, so you should try to take a holistic approach to this vocabulary.

    Note that the best way of remember this vocabulary is to use it, even if only by talking to yourself every day in saying something like:

    jīntiān shì xīngqí yī

    Today is Monday

    If you keep a physical diary of any kind, write the date each day in Chinese. As with any vocabulary, if you don’t think about it, internalise it and use it, you will forget it.