Lesson 5

Measure words

Measure Words/量词(liang4ci2)

In Chinese, most specified or numbered nouns must be preceded by measure words according to the type of object. It is like the English use of “pair” in the phrase “two pairs of pants”. Like the word “pair,” Chinese measure words are placed between the noun and the preceding number or demonstrative pronoun.

1. 这本书里没有一个汉字。

Zhè bĕn shū lǐ méi yŏu yí gè Hànzì.
This book doesn’t contain one Chinese character.

2. 那间宿舍有六十个学生。

Nà jiān sùshè yŏu liùshí ge xuésheng.
That dorm has sixty students.

Some Common Measure Words

Column key: Trad. is Traditional, Simp. shows changes made for the simplified variant (if any).

Trad.Simp.PinyinMain usesExample
geindividual things, people — usage of this classifier in conjunction with any noun is generally accepted if the person does not know the proper classifier.一个书包 yí ge shūbāo, a schoolbag
“handful” — objects that can be held or grabbed (knives, scissors, keys; also chairs)一把刀 yì bă dāo. One knife.
bāo“package”, “bundle”一包纸巾 yì bāo zhǐ jīn; a package of paper towels
bēi“cup” — drinks一杯水 yì bēi shuǐ. A cup of water.
běn“volume” — any bound print or written matter (books, etc.)一本书 yì běn shū. A book.
slimmer volumes of books
“time” — opportunities, accidents
“droplet” water, blood, and other such fluids一滴水 yì dī shuǐ. a drop of water
diǎnideas, suggestions, can also mean “a bit”
duǒflowers, clouds一朵花 yì duŏ huā. One flower.
gēnthin, slender objects, lit. “a root of a…” (needles, pillars, grass, vegetable roots etc.)一根针 yì gēn zhēn. A needle
jiāgathering of people (families, companies, etc.)
jiàobjects with a “frame” or structure; generally used for machines or mechanical objects (esp. cars, planes, etc.)一架車 yì jià chē. One car.
jiànmatters, clothing, etc.一件衣服 yí jiàn yī fù
jié“a section” — of bamboo, tutorials and classes, etc.
liàngautomobiles, bicycles, vehicles, etc.一辆车 yí liàng chē. One car.
miànany flat and smooth objects, lit. “a surface of a…” (mirrors, flags, walls, etc.)一面镜子 yí miàn jìng zi. One mirror
horses and other mounts, or rolls/bolts of cloth一匹马 yì pǐ mă. One horse.
piàn“slice” — any flat objects, like cards, slices of bread, tree leaves etc.一片叶子 yì piàn yè zi. One leaf.
píng“bottle” — drinks
sōuships一艘船 yì sōu chuán. One ship.
suǒany buildings, apartment
táiheavy objects (TVs, computers, etc.) and performances (in theatre esp., etc.)
tiáolong, narrow, flexible objects (fish, trousers, etc.)一条鱼 yì tiáo yú. One fish.
tóu“head” — herd animals (pigs, cows, sheep etc., never for fowls or birds), hair一头牛 yì tóu niú (Literally translated into English, “头” means head. So literally we are saying one head of cattle.)
wèipolite classifier for people (e.g. “gentleman”, “professors”)
zhāng“sheet” — squarish or rectangular flat objects (paper, tables, etc.), faces, bows, paintings, tickets, constellations一张纸 yì zhāng zhĭ. One piece of paper.
zhīstick-like objects (pens, chopsticks, etc.)一支笔 yì zhī bî. One pen.
zhīone of a pair (e.g. hands, limbs), animals (birds, cats, etc.)一只狗 yì zhī gŏu. One dog.
zhǒngtypes or kinds of objects, ideas, etc.
dǒngbuilding object一栋房子 yí dòng fáng zí. One house
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