- A measure word 量词 ((liàng cí), also known as a classifier, is used along with numerals to define the quantity of a given object or with words such as “this” and “that” to identify specific objects. e.g.:
一张纸 。(a piece of paper)
那一张纸。(that piece of paper)
- In terms of measure words, the main difference between English and Chinese is that Chinese requires a measure word for most objects. In English, one can say “two books”. In Chinese, we do not say “两书”, but “两本书”. (本 is a measure word for book 书)
- However, when a noun is not counted or introduces with “this” or “that”, a measure word is not necessary. e.g. : We do not say “我的本书”, but “我的书”.
- Most nouns have one or more particular measure words associated with them. The usage depends on personal preference and dialects. e.g:
For car, some people use 那辆车 and others may use 那部车 or 那台车 to mean three cars.
- There is a general measure word 个 which can be used when the actual measure word is not known. It is frequently used for many types of things (such as apples, bread, and light bulbs). In informal and spoken language, native speakers tend to use this measure word far more than any other, even though they know which measure word is “correct” when asked.
- There are more than a hundred Chinese measure words. Here are some of the common measure words that we have learnt so far:
个 间 件 张 位 条 本
|Measure Word||Pinyin||Main Uses||Example|
||individual things, people, catch-all measure word (usage of this measure word in conjunction with any noun is generally accepted if the person does not know the proper classifier)||一个人 (person)
两个哥哥 (elder brother)
||rooms, spaces||一间房间 (room)
||matters (affairs), clothing (tops), furniture||一件衣服 (clothing (top))
一件床单 (bed sheet)
||“sheet” — flat or paper objects||两张纸 (paper)
||polite, respectful classifier for people||三位老师 (teacher)
||long, narrow, flexible objects||三条鱼 (fish)
一条好汉 (heroic person)
一条船 (a boat)
||“volume” — bound print matter||一本书 (book)