"What's your telephone number?"


November 4, 2017

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Chinese friend says the reason they don't use 'ma' here is because they say 'How much is the telephone number', based on a telephone number being composed of numbers.


Yes! 多少 substitutes 吗, just like 什么 in previous lessons


I think it's easier if you think of 多少 as literally meaning "what number(?)" :o)


Thank you! This really confused me


Yes, in chinese usually you don't have two things that have the same grammatical function (unlike in English) so duoshao here is a question word so you don't need another question word.


As a native Chinese speaker from Beijing, I would be confused if you ask for my number using 多少, because it refers to quantity. Just because someone's telephone number involves numbers doesn't mean you should use a quantity reference to ask for it. You'd use 多少 if you were asking for the price or weight of something. Just in English, you would ask for someone's telephone number using 什么 (as in "WHAT is your number?")


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm guessing from your facility with English, and from the fact that you're studying Chinese on Duolingo, that English is actually your stronger and more familiar language.

I've posted the following comment elsewhere and I'd be interested in your thoughts after you read it, and after you read the WordReference.com forum discussion whose link I've posted below.

It's interesting to note that a Google search for "电话号码是多少" in quotation marks returns about 1.5 million hits, and that the "多少" version is the most commonly taught version by native Mandarin speakers on Youtube (particularly Chinese mainlanders, with those teaching the "几号" version I list below being from Taiwan or elsewhere).

Here's my earlier post.

This is what I've learned:

  1. 你的电话号码是多少
  2. 你的电话(号码)(是)几号? (This version is common without "是", but it also occurs with it.)
  3. 你的电话号码是什么?

Native Mandarin Chinese speakers have their individual opinions about these, because China is a big place, not to mention the outlying Chinese-speaking countries and regions, and this is a colloquial sentence influenced by local dialects and by quirks of history.

1 is somewhat more northern, but common in a lot of China, and perhaps most common overall. 2 is perhaps half as common as 1, but it's more southern, and common in Singapore, Taiwan, and Malaysia (and perhaps other places, e.g. the southern mainland or some of it), where people will often swear they've never heard 1 (and likewise, proponents of 1 will often swear they've never heard 2). In each of these two cases, proponents of one version will say why the other isn't logical, and none of their reasons is really very convincing. It seems the usage of one or the other is really about history, habit, and experience.

3 is fairly common, but not as common as 1. It feels unnatural to some speakers (particularly to many who like 1) but not to others (those who like 2 are usually fine with it, as are some who like 1). Those who don't like it will even go so far as to say it sounds like you don't really know what a telephone number is, or even what a telephone is.

Where English has a greater influence, 3 seems like the more correct or formal structure to some speakers. That's not to say that 3 doesn't have inherent support by the rules of Chinese itself, but it's not necessarily the go-to phrasing historically in broad swathes of the Mandarin-speaking world, and some native speakers say they never hear anyone use it. But many native Mandarin speakers will swear that it's the only truly correct option.

There are still other ways to ask this question, including shortening the above sentences, but I would stick with those three choices to begin with.

Here are some Youtube videos teaching the "多少" version (which is the most common version on Youtube):


Did you mean “just as in English”?
If the Chinese is wrong, did you report it?

Could you give us the complete question as you use it?


I picture the sentence as, "你的电话号码是什么?" I hope that helps.


That's what I thought. But I'm not an expert.

  • 2741

They don't use 吗 'ma' here because 多少 'duo1 shao' is already a question word.

You can't have two question words in a Chinese sentence. It is the same for 什么 'shénme' = 'what' -> 你的名字是什么? = What is your name? (With 什么 as the only question word, no 吗 here either)


I thought 吗 'ma' was used for questions with yes/no answers.


吗 is used for yes-no questions.


Just put it in your mind: 吗 is only used for YES OR NO questions and doesn't apply for any other situation than YES OR NO QUESTION. Simple as that:

Do you have any sibilings? THIS IS AN YES OR NO QUESTION 你有兄弟姐妹吗?

Do you want to go? you can simply reply as YES or NO 你想去吗?

Can you tell me what's your name? WELL, YES I CAN. OR I CANNOT, I DON'T WANT TO, I'M NOT OBLIGED. 你能告诉我你叫什么名字吗?

That's it. Simple.


It's obnoxious that I can't hear either my wrong answer or the correct answer after I check. I'm finding that without hearing the answers I'm having problems remembering the order that the characters go it. Please make it so we can hear the answers both given and correct AFTER they are checked. This is one reason I can't bring myself to spend money on this app.


Why can't I just say "你的电话是多少?“


That would be analogous to saying, in English, "What is your phone?", using the contextual meaning of "多少". Although people might still understand the intended meaning, it's not the proper way to say it. "电话号码" is phone number, as shown when one hovers over those characters. Using the more frequent meaning of "多少", your sentence almost sounds like the person is asking the other person how much his/her phone cost.


But wasn't an earlier sentence exactly that? Something like 我的电话是九四六八 or something.


But in English, "What's your number?" is far more idiomatic than spelling (wording?) out "What - is - your - te - le - phone - num - ber?"

A number of comments from "native speakers" have pushed both ways on 电话号码 vs 电话 vs 号码, and on 多少 vs 什么.

It really does sound like one of those "this is how you're supposed to write it but that's how most people outside the capital speak it" things.

You know, just like the French course has arguments between Parisien and Provençale ...


Why must one say hao ma here? In the previous lesson, dian hua was enough to say telephone number.


号码 refers to number, so this is just the longer way of saying it. Think of it as the difference between "What's your number?" And "What is your phone number?"


This is incorrect? 你的电话号码是什么?

The explanation I'm understanding is they ask "how much" is your telephone number -- is this correct?


Yah its confusing


It appears a lot of Chinese speakers use 多少 like it literally means what number.

When we ask "how much" or "how many" we often expect a number in return. Indeed we usually mean "what quantity ...?" i.e. "What number (of) ...?".

So while we do indeed ask "What is your telephone number", it hardly seems like we should be criticising those native speakers who use a word that can mean "What number (of) ...?" to request a (telephone) number ;o)


Yes that is my understanding


你的电话是什么? was correct in a different question asking for "his" telephone number. Why is this not correct for "your" telephone number?


Once again, 多少 refers to quantity and 什么 means "what." This is why the correct translation here should be 你的电话号码是什么?


You seem to understand that putting two characters together can come up with a specific meaning that may not be what those characters mean separately. Expand on that: the entire expression has a meaning that is different from the sum of each individual character. We need to recognize the Chinese expression and translate it to the English expression. If any Chinese native speakers find this sentence wrong, please report it and provide the correct version.


I am a native Chinese speaker and that's why I've been reporting all of these sentences.


In case of an error, it would be great to point out where the mistake is instead of making the whole sentence wrong...sometimes I find it hard to find my error.


Can you write out, or copy and paste, your sentence here so we can help you?


Why is this without 的 incorrect? 你电话号码是多少


Without it, “you” cannot show possession and would not be “your”.


Vielen Dank, thanks!


It would be very nice to be able to hear the solution being spoken because a large part of memory that's operating is the same, in a neural pathways sense, as that which is operating when we first acquire language in infancy


Why is 吗 required for 他的电话号码是多少吗 to make it a question, but NOT required here??? This is so confusing : (


Because má is like the English "is" for a question, i.e. a yes-or-no question. Duó shaò is "what number" or "how much".


吗 would never be required to this question since there's already the question word "多少". 吗 is only used for YES OR NO questions. You're not asking "is your telephone number yes or no?" you're asking "WHAT is your telephone number" which is NOT an "yes-or-no" question, rather a question that requires a specifc answer of WHAT is.


im pretty sure 你的电话号码是什么 is also acceptable

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