Learning the days of the week is one of the most fundamental parts of learning any new language. In Chinese, the days of the week provide a great opportunity to get familiar with the language, learn some vocabulary, and gain exposure to Chinese characters. Here is a comprehensive guide to the days of the week in Chinese.
In modern Mandarin Chinese, the days of the week are not directly named after celestial bodies like in English. Instead, their names reflect their numeric order within the week.
The Chinese names for Monday to Sunday are:
星期一 (Xīngqī yī) – Monday 星期二 (Xīngqī èr) – Tuesday 星期三 (Xīngqī sān) – Wednesday 星期四 (Xīngqī sì) – Thursday 星期五 (Xīngqī wǔ) – Friday 星期六 (Xīngqī liù) – Saturday 星期日 (Xīngqī rì) – Sunday
Xīngqī means “week”, while the numbers yī to liù represent the numeric order of each day, from one to six. For Sunday, rì meaning “sun” or “day” is used instead of the number seven.
The structure follows the pattern “Xīngqī + number”, except for Sunday. The days of the week in Chinese follow the same consecutive order as in English and most other languages/cultures.
It’s worth noting that in traditional Chinese writing, Sunday was originally 禮拜日 (lǐbàirì) meaning “worship day”, reflecting its significance as a day of rest and worship. While this term is still sometimes used in certain contexts, 星期日 is now the standard modern term for Sunday.
The days of the week are one of the first vocabulary lists beginner students of Chinese commit to memory. Having them solidly memorized and practiced makes reading calendars, scheduling activities, making plans with friends, and other everyday conversations much easier.
While the Chinese names for the days sound straightforward and logical, reading and writing them requires knowing the Chinese characters. The characters 星期 for “week” and 日 for “sun/day” are simple enough. But memorizing the numbers, especially properly distinguishing sān (三), sì (四), and liù (六), takes some focus when starting out.
Writing out the characters multiple times aids memorization. Mnemonic techniques like associating the character sān (三) with its three lines, or sì (四) looking like the English word “four” also helps cement them.
The characters for the days of the week reinforce some key introductory vocabulary. As Chinese numbers are used to name them, learning and practicing these daily terms provides exposure to the number characters and their pronunciations. For a beginner student, encountering sān for Wednesday, sì for Thursday, and wǔ for Friday starts to build awareness of common ways numbers are pronounced in Chinese.
The days of the week also serve as a good lesson in sentence structure patterns in Chinese. The consistent order of Xīngqī + number illustrates the basic subject + descriptor sentence structure. Chinese follows a fairly reliable subject-first word order, which differs from English in some ways. Getting familiar with properly ordering words this way takes practice. Using the routine days of the week examples accelerates this process.
Chinese differs from English in that nouns do not have plural forms. So in Chinese it is simply “星期一”, whereas in English we say “Monday” or “Mondays”. Learning and practicing the days of the week illustrates this key difference between the languages.
The days of the week present language learners with their very first chance to fully immerse in and regularly practice Chinese. By mastering these fundamental 7 vocabulary words, you take an important first step on your journey toward Chinese language proficiency. They are your gateway to many more conversations, lessons, and relationships ahead entirely in the Chinese language.
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