Chinese Measure Words You Need to Know

Chinese is now a widely spoken and highly developed language in the world. More people are using Chinese to communicate in their daily life. It is becoming more international to the world.

The measure words are crucial in Chinese grammar as you need them before every noun.

But, foreign learners always get sick of such complicated Chinese grammar. One of the reasons is the over a hundred measure words for Chinese grammar. 

Today, we will talk about the standard Chinese measure words that you can easily learn. Let’s dive deep!

What is a Measure Word?

Measure word is called 量词(liàng cí) in Chinese. Many English speakers might find it familiar as it is a way to classify the type of object being discussed. For example, you would say a “cup” of coffee or a “loaf” of bread. 

The difference? Chinese has a lot more measure words than English. In fact, you’ll need a Chinese measure word for every noun. What’s more, each noun could have one or more Chinese measure words!

Let’s look at some examples showing the differences between English and Chinese measure words. 

We could say “three houses” in English. But in Chinese, we need to say “three + measure word + houses.” One of the measure words for the house is 栋 (dòng), and the Chinese word for “house” is 房子(fáng zi). Thus, you would say 我有三栋房子(wǒ yǒu sān dòng fáng zi), which translates to “I have three houses.”

Generic Measure Word

There is one “generic” measure word that is common in the Chinese language. You can use it when the actual measure word is unknown. 

This measure word is “个“(gè). It is a measure word for people, but it is also frequently used for things. You can even use it when there are other more appropriate words for these objects.


Common Measure Words

Today, we are going to look at some common measure words. Here are 15 commonly used measure words. Let’s have a deep dive.

1) 个 (gè)

Used For: People or Objects
Example: 这里有一个人。(zhè lǐ yǒu yī ge rén.)
Translation: There is a person here.

2) 块 (kuài)

Used For:
a) Pieces of thing. Ex: Cloth, Cake, Soap, etc.
b) Money and currency units (colloquial)
Example: 我想吃一块蛋糕。(wǒ xiǎng chī yī kuài dàn gāo.)
Translation: I want to eat a piece of cake.

3) 只 (zhī)

Used For: Certain animals such as birds. One of a pair, some utensils, boats, etc.
Example: 一只小鸟在天上飞。(yī zhī xiǎo diǎo zài tiān shàng fēi.)
Translation: A bird is flying in the sky.

4) 本 (běn)

Used For: Books, parts of a serial, etc.
Example: 我有一本书。(wǒ yǒu yī běn shū.)
Translation: I have a book.

5) 辆 (liàng)

Used For: Vehicles
Example: 我有一辆车。(wǒ yǒu yī liàng chē.)
Translation: I have a car.

6) 瓶 (píng)

Used For: Quantity contained in a bottle, vase, jar, or flask.
Example: 把那瓶水给我。(bǎ nà píng shuǐ gěi wǒ.)
Translation: Give me that bottle of water.

7) 杯 (bēi)

Used For: Certain containers of liquids, glass, and cups.
Example: 请给我一杯水,谢谢。(qǐng gěi wǒ yī bēi shuǐ, xiè xie.)
Translation: Please give me a glass of water, thank you.

8) 双 (shuāng)

Used For: Pairs (of shoes, socks, chopsticks, etc.)
Example: 这是我最喜欢的一双鞋。(zhè shì wǒ zuì xǐ huan de yī shuāng xié.)
Translation: This is my favorite pair of shoes.

9) 件 (jiàn)

Used For: Clothes, events, things, etc.
Example: 我有一件很好看的裙子。(wǒ yǒu yī jiàn hěn hǎo kàn de qún zi.)
Translation: I have a nice dress.

10) 张 (zhāng)

Used For:
a) Flat objects and sheets (bed, desk, paper, etc.).
b) Certain body parts (face, mouth)
Example: 请把那张纸转交给我,谢谢。(qǐng bǎ nà zhāng zhǐ zhuǎn jiāo gěi wǒ, xiè xie.)
Translation: Please pass me that paper, thank you.

11) 碗 (wǎn)

Used For: Measurement of food and drink (bowl)
Example: 先喝这一碗粥。(xiān hē zhè yī wǎn zhōu.)
Translation: Drink this bowl of porridge first.

12) 种 (zhǒng)

Used For: Types, kinds, sorts.
Example: 我有很多种不同颜色的裙子。(wǒ yǒu hěn duō zhǒng bù tóng yán sè de qún zi.)
Translation: I have many different kinds of skirts in different colors.

13) 匹 (pǐ)

Used For:
a) Horses, mules.
b) Bolts of cloth.
Example: 我有一匹好看的马。(wǒ yǒu yī pǐ hǎo kàn de mǎ.)
Translation: I have a good-looking horse.

14) 头 (tóu)

Used For:
a) Certain domestic animals (cattle, mules, pigs, etc.)
b) Garlic
Example: 这人的脾气倔的像头驴一样。 (zhè rén de pí qi jué de xiàng tóu lǘ yī yàng.
Translation: This man’s temper is as stubborn as a donkey.

15) 条 (tiáo)

Used For: Long, narrow or thin objects (ribbon, river, road, trousers, etc.
Example: 我抓到一条鱼了。(wǒ zhuā dào yī tiáo yú le.
Translation: I caught a fish.

Different Types of Chinese Measures Words for Some Words

There will be different types of measure words for the same noun in Chinese. You’ll have to know what you want to convey in the sentence to choose the correct measure word.

Let’s have an example, “cake.” To translate this noun with a measure word into Chinese, you have to first identify the noun, which is “cake 蛋糕 (dàngāo).” 

How is the cake? Is it a whole cake or a piece of cake?

If you want to talk about one piece, our phrase should be 一块蛋糕(yī kuài dàn gāo). If we want to talk about a whole cake, the phrase should be 一粒蛋糕(yī lì dàn gāo).

This is why Chinese is so complicated, as there are different types of grammar for just a short sentence or even a short phrase. Fret not – you’ll discover more as you walk through the Chinese language learning journey with us.

Final Thoughts

Learning the measure word for Chinese is essential as it is used for every noun. When used right, you’ll be able to show a good mastery of the Chinese language.

I hope this content shares valuable Chinese language information with you. In Maayot, we bring bite-sized content for Chinese learners so you can learn better. Subscribe to us to learn more! Or, you can also read our interesting articles below:

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