Chinese Measure Words III – For Animals

  • To recap:
    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)
    那张纸。(that 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.
  • Today we are going to learn the most obvious use of measure words for animals :    匹
Measure Word Pinyin Main Uses Example
1 tóu
used for something with big head or something stupid 一头牛 (cow)
那头猪 (pig)
一头驴 (donkey)
2 tiáo
used for something with long figure 三条鱼 (fish)
两条蛇 (snake)
三条虫 (worm)
五条狗 (dog)
3 zhī
used for most of the animals 一只老虎 (tiger)
那只蜘蛛 (spider)
used for horse or camel 一匹马 (horse)
5 qún
used to a group of beings 一群羊 (sheep)
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