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“零钱(língqián)” – Zero Money or Small Change?

Mar. 13, 2014

“零(líng), 0” in Chinese is known as zero, such as “零分(língfēn), a score of zero” “2014 年(èr líng yī sì nián), the year 2014,” etc.


Jīnnián shì èr líng yī sì nián.
今年     是   2014          年。


This year is 2014.

However, if you hear someone say “零钱(língqián)”, do you know what this means? Does he/she have money or not?

Actually, in Chinese the word “零(líng)” also can be used as an adjective meaning odd or fractional. “零钱(língqián)” means small change. The small change is just a small part of the big bill, which is very “零(líng), fractional.” So we add “零(líng), fractional” before “钱(qián), money” to express small change.


Zhè shì de língqián.  
这    是  你的   零钱。


Here is your small change.

Qǐngwèn, nǐ yǒu língqián ma?
请问,     你 有   零钱      吗? 


Excuse me. Do you have small change?

“零(líng)” also means odd and fractional in two other words in Chinese. “零花钱(línghuā qián), pocket money,” and “零食(língshí), snack.”

零花钱 (línghuā qián)

“零花钱(línghuā qián),” pocket money. “零花(línghuā)” in this word means small incidental expenses. So the “零花钱(línghuā qián), pocket money” just indicates the money for small purchases. Parents usually give their children some “零花钱(línghuā qián), pocket money” for their daily expenses.


Zhè shì wǒde línghuāqián. 
这    是  我的   零花钱。


This is my pocket money.

Lucy de línghuāqián hěn duō!
Lucy 的  零花钱          很   多!


Lucy’s has a large amount of pocket money?

零食 (língshí)

Usually we use “零(líng), odd” to modify “食(shí), food” meaning “零食(língshí), snack.” Because compared with a meal, “零食 (língshí), snack” such as chocolate, ice-cream, chips, etc are informal and usually eaten in our spare time.


 xǐhuan chī língshí ma?
你  喜欢    吃  零食    吗?


Do you like snacks?

Wǒ yǒu hěn duō língshí.
我   有   很    多   零食.


I have a lot of snacks.


1. If one says that there is a lot of “零钱(língqián)” in his wallet, he means that___.

A. He has no money.

B. He has lots of small change.

C. He has a big bill.

2. Which of the following is “零食(língshí)?"

A. chips

B. rice

C. meat

See answer


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