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According to Zhonghua Zihai (pinyinZhōnghuá Zìhǎi), the largest Chinese character dictionary, there are more than 85,000 Chinese characters! However, research (Huang 1994 and Da 2004) shows that the most frequently used 1200 Chinese Characters account for about 90% of the characters occurring in the real world. Therefore, this is exactly the number of characters needed for a learner to reach intermediate level, which is also the level to be able to communicate effectively, or in other words, to be able to carry on a daily conversation in Chinese for average Chinese learners or to be able to do business in Chinese for business people. Our mission is help you reach this goal in a more effective and less frustrated way!

Following is the list with explanations:

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Seq.num.

Character

Pronunciations and explanations

1

[de] <grammatical particle marking genitive as well as simple and composed adjectives>; 我的 wǒde my; 高的 gāode high, tall; 是的 shìde that’s it, that’s right; 是…的 shì…de one who…; 他是说汉语的. Tā shì shuō Hànyǔde. He is one who speaks Chinese.
[dì] 目的 mùdì goal
[dí] true, real; 的确 díquè certainly

2

一(A壹)

[yī] one, a little; 第一 dì-yī first, primary; 看一看 kànyīkàn have a (quick) look at
[yí] (used before tone #4); 一个人 yí gè rén one person; 一定 yídìng certain; 一样 yíyàng same; 一月yíyuè January
[yì] (used before tones #2 and #3); 一点儿 yìdiǎnr a little; 一些 yìxiē some
{Compare with 幺(F么) yāo, which also means “one”}

3

[shì] to be, 是不是? shìbushì? is (it) or is (it) not?; 是否 shìfǒu whether or not, is (it) or is (it) not?

4

[bù] not
[bú] (used before tone #4); 不是 bú shì isn’t

5

[le] <verb particle marking a new situation or a completed action>; 你来了! Nǐ láile! You have come! 我累了! Wǒ lèile! I’ve gotten tired! 那好了! Nà hǎole! That’s OK (now)! 我只请了一位客人. Wǒ zhǐ qǐngle yí wèi kèren. I invited only one guest.
[liǎo] end, finish, settle, dispose of, know clearly, to be able, (=了解 liǎojiě) understand, comprehend; 了了 liǎoliaǒ clearly understand, settle (a debt/etc.), to be intelligent; 了了 liǎole to be over/ended/finnish/settled; 你卖不了! Nǐ mài bùliǎo! You will not be able to sell (it)!
[liào] (=瞭 liaò) to survey/watch
{Compare with 子 zǐ child}

6

[rén] person; 人类 rénlèi humankind; 有人吗? yǒu rén ma? Is there anybody here?
{Compare with 入 rù enter}

7

[wǒ] I, me, my; 我们 wǒmen we, us
{Compare with 找 zhǎo seek}

8

[zài] at; 现在 xiànzài now; 存在 cúnzài exist

9

[yǒu] have, there is; 没有 méiyǒu haven’t, there isn’t; 有没有? Yǒuméiyǒu? Is there or isn’t there? Have (you) or haven’t (you)?; 有的 yǒude some
[yòu] (=又 yòu) again, both… and…

10

[tā] he, him, his, (she, her, it, its), (=其他 qítā) other
[tuō] (in classical texts) someone else, something else

11

这(F這)

[zhè] this; 这儿 zhèr here
[zhèi] this (before classifier)

12

[zhōng] middle, in; 中国 Zhōngguó China
[zhòng] hit (a target)

13

[dà] big; 多大? duōdà? how large?; 大小 dàxiǎo size; 大家 dàjiā everybody
[dài] 大夫 dàifu doctor
{Compare with 太 tài very and 木 mù tree}

14

来(F來)

[lái] come; 原来 yuánlái originally, as a matter of fact; 来年 láinián coming/next year(s)
[lai] (when used as a verb complement); 起来 qǐlai get up

15

[shàng] above, on, over, top, (go) up, last, previous
[shǎng] 上声 shǎngshēng 3rd tone in Mandarin
[shang] (when used as a verb complement)
{Compare with 下 xià under}

16

国(F國)

[guó] (=国家 guójiā) country, state, nation, <family name>; 中国 Zhōngguó China; 美国 Měiguó USA

17

个(F個,箇)

[gè] <general and non-specific classifier>; 个人 gèrén personal; 个人主页 gèrénzhùyè personal homepage
[gě] 自个 zìgě oneself

18

[dào] to, towards, until, arrive, reach

19

说(F說)

[shuō] explain, scold, refer to, (=说话 shuōhuà) speak, say; 游说 yóushuō persuade
[shuì] try to persuade; 游说 yóushuì lobbying

20

们(F們)

[men] <pluralizing suffix for pronouns and nouns referring to persons>; 我们 wǒmen we; 人们 rénmen people, persons

21

为(F為)

[wèi] for, for the sake of, in order to, in this connection
[wéi] do, act, act as, be, become; 认为 rènwéi think or believe that…; 以为 yǐwéi think or believe erroneously that…
{Compare with 办 bàn do}

22

[zǐ] child, son; 子女 zǐnǚ sons and daughters; 儿子 érzi son
[zi] (noun suffix); 桌子 zhuōzi table
{Compare with 了 le <particle>}

23

[hé] together, with, (F龢) harmony, gentle, mild, kind, <family name>; 和平 hépíng peace
[Hé] Japan
[huo] 暖和 nuǎnhuo nice and warm
[hè] join in singing, compose a poem in reply
[huó] mix with water
[huò] mix, blend
[hú] complete a set in Mahjong

24

[nǐ] (Alternative feminine form: 妳 nǐ) you, your; 你们 nǐmen you (plural)

25

[dì] earth, ground, soil, place, position, distance; 地支 dìzhī the Twelve Terrestrial Branches
[de] <adverbial particle: descripion + 地 + verb>, ~ly; 快地走 kuàide zǒu walk quickly

26

[chū] go out, come out, in direction out from something, emit, issue, prouce; 出现 chūxiàn appear, emerge, (F齣) <classifier for operas and plays>

27

[dào] way, path, channel, way, say, a streak (of light), doctrine, <classifier for rivers, topics, etc.>, (=道教 Dàojiào) Taoism; 知道 zhīdao know
[dǎo] (=导 dǎo) lead; 领道 = 领导 lǐngdǎo leader

28

[yě] also, as well; 也许 yěxǔ perhaps

29

时(F時)

[shí] period, season, (=时间 shíjiān, =时候 shíhou) time, (=小时 xiǎoshí) hour

30

[nián] year, <family name>; 今年 jīnnián this year; 明年 míngnián next year; 去年 qùnián last year; 中年 zhōngnián middle age

31

[de] <adverbial particle: verb + 得 + descripion>; 走得快 zǒude kuài walk quickly
[dé] get, reach, achieve
[děi] should

32

[jiù] just, simply, right away; 就要 jiùyào about to (do something); 这就是我! Zhè jiùshì wǒ! This is simply me!; 他就要去. Tā jiùyào qù. He is about to leave.

33

[nà] that
[nèi] that (before classifier)
[nuó] 禅那 chánnuó deep meditation
[nuò] 无那 wúnuò helpless, unfortunately
[nǎ] (=哪 nǎ) what?
[něi] (=哪 něi before classifier) which?

34

[yào] want, will, shall, need, important, essential; 主要 zhǔyào main, fundamental
[yāo] 要求 yāoqiú demand

35

[xià] below, under, (go) down, next (as opposed to previous/last)
{Compare with 上 shàng above}

36

[yǐ] use, take, according to, because of, in order to; 可以 kěyǐ OK, may; 所以 suǒyǐ so, therefore, as a result; 以外 yǐwài beyond, except

37

[shēng] give birth, life; 先生 xiānsheng mister, gentleman, Sir

38

会(F會)

[huì] can, able, meet, meeting, society, union, party
[kuài] 会计 kuàijì accounting
[huǐ] 会儿 huìr moment

39

[zì] from, since, (=自己 zìjǐ) self; 自然 zìrán nature
{Compare with 目 mù eye and 白 bái white}

40

着(F著)

[zhe] <verb particle marking a continuing progress/state>
[zháo] touch
[zhuó] wear clothes, dress, touch
[zhāo] put in, add, (F招) make move in chess, trick, decieve

41

[qù] go, leave, depart (opposite of 来 lái)

42

[zhī] <subordinator similar to 的 de>, it (in classical texts)

43

过(F過)

[guò] pass, cross, go by, exceed, <verb particle marking that someone has had the experience of doing something, that it has happened at least once>; 过马路 guò mǎlù cross the street; 我去过中国两次. wǒ qùguo Zhōngguó liǎng cì. I have gone to China twice.

44

[jiā] home, house, family; 国家 guójiā nation; 大家 dàjiā everybody
[jie] 整天家 zhěngtiānjie all day long; 家里 jiālǐ (at) home, (in the) family

45

学(F學)

[xué] study, learn; 学校 xuéxiào school; 学生 xuésheng student
{Compare with 字 zì written character}

46

对(F對)

[duì] correct, answer, treat, agree, mutual, pair; 对不起 duìbuqǐ excuse me

47

[kě] ~able, (=可以 kěyǐ) may, can, (=可是 kěshì) but, however; 可爱 kě’ài loveable, cute; 可能 kě’néng possible, probable, maybe; 可口可乐 kěkǒukělè Coca Cola
[kè] 可汗 kèhán khan

48

[tā] she, her

49

[lǐ] neighbourhood, half kilometer, <family name>, (F裏,裡) in, inside, lining; 哪里? nǎli? where?; 那里 nàli there; 这里 zhèli here

50

[hòu] queen, (F後) after, behind, <family name>; 后天 hòutiān the day after tomorrow

51

[xiǎo] small; 大小 dàxiǎo size

52

[me/mo] (F麼,末) (interrogative suffix) 什么? shénme? what?; 为什么? wèishénme? why? 没什么! méi shénme! It doesn’t matter!, Never mind!; 怎么? zěnme? how?
[yāo] (S幺) youngest, one (e.g. in bus/house/phone numbers)

53

[xīn] heart; 小心 xiǎoxīn be careful; 心理 xīnlǐ psychology, mentality; 中心 zhōngxīn center

54

[duō] many, much, more; 多大 duōdà how large?; 多少 duōshǎo how many/much?

55

[tiān] sky, heaven, god, day, (=天空 tiānkōng) sky; 天气 tiānqì weather
{天 干 tiāngān the Ten Heavenly Stems: 甲乙丙丁戊己庚辛壬癸 jiǎ-yǐ-bǐng-dīng-wù-jǐ-gēng-xīn-rén-guǐ (these characters are sometimes used as ordinal numbers}
{Compare with 夫 fū man and 无 wú without}

56

[ér] (=而且 érqiě) and, furthermore, (=然而 rán’ér) yet, even so

57

[néng] can, be able; 能够 nénggòu be capable of; 可能 kě’néng maybe

58

[hǎo] good, good to…, easy to…; 你好! Nǐhǎo! Hello!
[hào] to like
[hāo] 好好儿 hǎohāor in perfectly good condition

59

[dōu] all
[dū] (=首都 shǒudū) capital city

60

[rán] right, correct, so, like that; 虽然 suīrán although; 忽然 hūrán suddenly; 当然 dāngrán of course; 自然 zìrán nature

61

没(F沒)

[méi] (=没有 méiyǒu) haven’t, there isn’t; 有没有? Yǒuméiyǒu? Is there or isn’t there? Have (you) or haven’t (you)?
[mò] sink, overflow, disappear, confiscate

62

[rì] sun, (=日子 rìzi) day; 日记 rìjì diary; 日光 rìguāng sunlight
{Compare with 曰 yuē say, 目 mù eye and 甘 gān sweet}

63

[yú] <family name>, (F於) in, at, for, to, from, by, than
{Compare with 千 qiān thousand and 干 gān stem}

64

[qǐ] rise, start; 起来 qǐlai get up; 对不起 duìbuqǐ excuse me
[qi] (when used as a verb complement)

65

还(F還)

[hái] still, yet
[huán] return, give back

66

[fā] (F發) deliver, utter, express, shoot, emit, develop, expand
[fà] (F髮) hair
[fa] (F髮) 头发 tóufa hair

67

[chéng] (=成为 chéngwéi, =变成 biànchéng) become, <family name>; 成功 chénggōng succeed; 完成 wánchéng accomplish, complete, fulfill; 成语 chéngyǔ idiom

68

[shì] matter, affair, thing, event, accident, job, responsibility; 事情 shìqing situation

69

只(F祇)

[zhǐ] only, just, merely, <classifier implying “one of a pair”, animals, vessels, utensils, etc.>; 一只猫 yì zhǐ māo a cat
[zhī] (F隻) single, one, only
{Compare with 兄 xiōng brother}

70

[zuò] do, make; 工作 gōngzuò work; 作业 zuòyè homework
[zuó] 作践 zuójian spoil, waste, humiliate, insult
[zuō] do

71

[dāng] (F當) serve as, (F噹) ding-dong
[dàng] (F當) proper, right, equal, (=当作 dàngzuò) treat as, regard as

72

[xiǎng] think, feel, consider, want, remember

73

[kàn] see, look at, read, think, consider
[kān] look after, tend; 看守 kānshǒu guard

74

[wén] language, literature, <family name>; 文化 wénhuà culture; 中文 Zhōngwén Chinese (written) language

75

无(F無)

[wú] without, nothingness, have not
[mó] 南无 nánmó <Sanskrit> to give oneself totally to
{Compare with 天 tiān heaven}

76

开(F開)

[kāi] open; 开始 kāishǐ begin 打开 dǎkāi open, unfold
[kai] (when used as a verb complement)
{Compare with 并 bìng combine}

77

[shǒu] hand, a person skilled in something; 挥手 huīshǒu wave; 拍手 pāishǒu clap; 握手 wòshǒu shake/clasp hands
{Compare with 毛 máo hair}

78

十(A拾)

[shí] ten; 十三 shísān thirteen; 五十 wǔshí fifty; 十月 shíyuè October

79

[yòng] use; 好用 hǎoyòng useful; 不用 búyòng there’s no need; 使用 shǐyòng use, apply
{Compare with 甩 shuǎi swing}

80

[zhǔ] lord, master, host, god, (=主要 zhǔyào) main, primary; 主义 zhǔyì doctrine, ~ism; 主页 zhùyè homepage
{Compare with 王 wáng king}

81

[xíng] go, OK; 行动 xíngdòng action, operation, move, get about, act
[háng] line; 银行 yínháng bank; 行业 hángyè profession
[hàng] 树行子 shùhàngzi rows of trees
[héng] (phonetic radical)

82

[fāng] side, square; 地方 dìfang place; 方面 fāngmiàn aspect
{Compare with 万 wàn ten thousand}

83

[yòu] again, both… and…

84

[rú] like, as, as if, (=如果 rúguǒ) if; 如此 rúcǐ like this

85

[qián] in front, previous, ago, former, first; 前天 the day before yesterday

86

[suǒ] place; 所以 suǒyǐ so, therefore; 所有 suǒyǒu all; 厕所 cèsuǒ toilet

87

[běn] basis, origin, edition, <classifier for books, periodicals, files, etc.>; 本人 běnrén I, me, myself; 日本 Rìběn Japan
{Compare with 木 mù tree}

88

见(F見)

[jiàn] appear to be, meet with, call on, (=看见 kànjian) see; 意见 yìjian idea, view, opinion; 听见 tīngjiàn hear
[xiàn] show, appear, become visible
{Compare with 贝 bèi shellfish}

89

经(F經)

[jīng] longitude (both geographic and in Chinese medecin), scripture, constant, regular, <family name>, deal with, (=经纪 jīngjì) manage (a business); 已经 yǐjing already; 经过 jīngguò pass, go through; 经验 jīngyàn experience; 经由 jīngyóu via, by way of; 经常 jīngcháng frequent, daily; 易经 Yìjīng Book of Changes;

90

头(F頭)

[tóu] head, top, first, <classifier for livestock, garlic, etc.>; 头发 tóufa hair
[tou] 石头 shítou stone

91

[miàn] face, surface, <classifier for mirrors, flags, etc.>, (F麵) wheat flour, (=面条 miàntiáo) noodle; 面包 miànbāo bread

92

[gōng] public, official; 公里 gōnglǐ kilometer; 办公室 bànggōngshì office; 公司 gōngsī company; 公共 gōnggòng public, communal, common; 公共汽车 gōnggòngqìchē (public) bus; 李公 Lǐgōng (honorable and old) Mr Li

93

[tóng] same, with; 同志 tóngzhì comrade
[tòng] (F衕) 胡同 hútòng lane

94

三(A叁)

[sān] three; 第三世界 dì-sān shìjiè 3rd World; 三月 sānyuè March

95

[yǐ] stop, cease, end, (=已经 yǐjīng) already
{Compare with 己 jǐ self, which is “open” on the left side}

96

[lǎo] old, venerable, outdated; 老师 lǎoshī teacher; 老虎 lǎohǔ tiger; 老张 lǎo Zhāng old Zhang = dear (friend) Mr Zhang

97

从(F從)

[cóng] from, through, join, follower, secondary
[cōng] 黑从从 hēicōngcōng murky

98

动(F動)

[dòng] move, change, arouce; 动物 dòngwù animal; 活动 huódòng activity; 运动 yùndòng sports

99

两(F兩)

[liǎng] two (before classifier), 50 grams

100

长(F長)

[cháng] long, lasting, length
[zhǎng] grow up, chief, head, older, elder

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