"What is the phone number of the hospital?"


November 17, 2017

This discussion is locked.


Is "医院的电话号码是什么?" wrong? why use 多少 over 什么?



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 perhaps 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):


2020.6.2 That's kinda where some of the general frustration of learning Chinese can come from for some people. The regions where Mandarin is spoken are so vast that you might as well think of each region as an individual country with their own separate speaking styles.

It's like Spanish. One country says it one way. Spain says it another. Mexico yet another and don't mention Argentina

That's why I don't put too much faith into a comment that says, "Oh, you're wrong. This is the only way it's said."

Like in learning English, it's my opinion you should pick a country whose English you wanna learn ( American, Canadian, British, Australian, New Zealand, South African, etcetera ) and gear your studies toward that country's English. Of course we can communicate with each other, more or less

Duo's Chinese is the standard mainland Beijing accented Mandarin because that's what the government has declared "proper, standard Chinese"

Now my interests are in Taiwan Mandarin, so I listen and watch a lot of material produced for the residents of Taiwan. But even though I don't care to say 哪儿 or read it since it's 哪裡 in Taiwan, I can still learn\understand the mainland Beijing Mandarin because that's what the majority of Chinese learning resources teaches. So I've had to learn both the simplified ( via Duo ) and traditional characters (via YouTube Taiwan content subtitles )

However, this shouldn't discourage people from learning. It's better to think of language learning as a journey, rather than a specific location in X years


I agree, though I imagine certain goals, such as passing a certain level of the HSK on a certain date, can also be motivating in the short term.

Listening to native speakers (whether live or on video etc.) is definitely a good way to go. Total immersion is the best.

In my experience Beijingers use more erhua than what most Chinese people would consider "standard", and they also have other quirks — some of them lisp some of their "z" sounds (apparently by choice), for example, and there are also quirks of word choice and sentence structure — but I take your general point.

I've found it hard to tailor my Chinese learning to a certain locale, though. In Beijing I was accused of sounding like I was from Taiwan, and in Taiwan I was accused of sounding like I was from Beijing. I don't worry too much about that any more (though I still like to understand the differences), but I do try to (mostly) avoid erhua when speaking Chinese to Taiwanese people.


2020.6.2 Yes, self motivation is a hard thing to quantify. Some people want to/ have to talk so that in itself provides enough motivation. Others love kanji and like to read and write them. And yet other people feel a test and the cash spent taking them, motivates them better, and they get a shiny certificate if they pass

My own personal view concerning proficiency tests are unless you need a cert to qualify for a job or to enter a uni / program or need a certificate to validate your level, they aren't a good use of your money. Most of the fees go to supporting the test organizations and their infrastructure. I'm speaking as a person who has passed the N2 Japanese test, and then really lost any desire to "level up" and pass N1. If it was required for work / uni / program, then obviously I would have to put in the time to pass it

@peacejoy, I think you should be proud of your Chinese that Beijingers think it's from Taiwan and vice versa. Sounds like your usage and pronunciation is good enough to make them take notice

I wholeheartedly agree that going to the region and being immersed in it, is the best route to go. From my experience one year of immersion is like 4 to 7 years of studying without it. Unfortunately not everyone has the opportunity or finances to make that happen obviously. All you can do then is try with what resources you have and can find

I started Duo with zero knowledge of Spanish. According to Duo, I've studied it here for 305 days in a row ( about 10 months ) Would I be further along if I lived in Spain or Mexico these last 10 months? Of course, I would be. I'm still having a lot of trouble listening, and getting the language to slow down enough where I can understand it. Sometimes I do and many times I don't. But I do realize that the only way I can develop that ear is to actively listen to a ton of Spanish at "normal" spoken speed once the slow, turtle speed becomes too easy. I know my listening ( rather than speaking or writing needs the most improvement ) so I try to find things on YouTube to watch in Spanish that's based on a family setting where the Spanish is definitely gonna be useful, you get to see how the language is spoken with context, and even if it's not technically 100% correct, it's the mistakes that native speaker make

Believe it or not, our brains are actually geared toward picking up languages and remembering stories, so with effort even though daily or monthly, you don't feel any improvement, one day things will just click in the brain as it crunches things to a critical mass. Then the whole process starts again to get to the next level

Anyway, this post is getting way too long. Just don't throw in the towel because you feel you aren't making progress, or you aren't making progress fast enough. In the end with effort, your brain will piece it all together for you in the background



I'm native Chinese, and I think 什么 is more common.


And in what region(s) have you lived, and for how long? This seems to make a difference.

Everyone answering in the forum I cited, and everyone teaching "多少" online, is also "native Chinese".


Chinese is my first language. I say it the #2 way and yes, can swear that i have never heard #1 used before. I speak mostly with Singaporeans and Taiwanese people, just like the areas you piinted out. Not sure #1 way is actually more common, as I've never heard it in Shanghai before either when I was there.


Thanks for your input and confirmation.

You'll have to go back to Shanghai and pay attention now that you're alive to the issue.

The guy in the following video says at the end that he's from Shanghai, and like most native Chinese teachers on YouTube, he's teaching #1:

We see the same phenomenon of regionalisms in English, which is one of the reasons for the endless discussion in these forums about how things should be said, what answers Duolingo should allow, etc., and I'll hazard a guess that the problem is worse in Chinese, because of the influence of local dialects.


it is correct, '多少'means ‘’how much‘, 什么 means ‘what’, so sometimes they are exchangeable but mostly not。 here you can use both


sorry but i'm living in china and duoshao is not correct for phone number, it is effectively for quantity. Plus the way they chinese people tell the phone number make even more incorrect to use "duoshao". They say it one digit after another.


@Kwirky - different regions in China have different ways of saying it. The same way different English speakers call an "elevator" a "lift" or spell "colour" as "color". I can definitely tell you I know people from China who say 多少 is the correct way.


Not wrong. Indeed telephone number does nothing in quantity, and we say 甚麼 for phone number more than 多少.


To say "duo shao" sounds very strange to me. I speak Cantonese and some Mandarin. Have never heard it said this way among native speakers (outside China). Is this how it's actually said by some people?


I study Mandarin and have lived in mainland China, I've never heard or read 多少 in this context.


@cfdance - I think you have not lived in every city in mainland China. Correct?


Are you CEO of Duolinguo or what


We've never used duo shao to ask for phone numbers. This is odd.


What is the right word instead of dua shao? Anyone can help me?


什么 makes more sense to me than 多少


Verbatim this reads as 'hospital of phone number is what?' Why is it not 电话号 的医院.... i.e number of the hospital ? (when it is the number that is the subject?). It is not the hospital name that is being asked!


Alan946894 is right. You have this backwards.

You're mixing up the Chinese "的" with the French "de".

In French, "de" means "of". In Chinese, "的" means " 's".

And as Alan946894 says, you need "号码".


I think perhaps it is because what you just said in Mando is "the number of the telephone's hospital" rather than the "hospital's telephone number."

电话号码 is also telephone number rather than 电话号


医院的电话号码是什么 is accepted in another lesson. Why it's wrong here?


It should be accepted. Feel free to report it.

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