Grammar Lesson 3:

Measure Words

Chinese makes frequent use of so-called "classifiers" or "measure words".

Measure words also exist in the English language (even if they are not so frequently used).

Examples for measure words in the English language:

- a cup of coffee
- a box of cereal
- a loaf of bread
- a tube of toothpaste
- a flock of birds

In these examples cup, box, loaf, tube and flock act as "measure words".

Here is a list of frequent Chinese measure words:

隻 / 只 / zhi1 = a measure word for animals and insects
間 / 间 / jian1 = a measure word for rooms, flats, houses, schools, restaurants, hotels, companies
張 / 张 / zhang1 = a measure word for flat objects like paper, tickets, stamps, records, tables
部 / 部 / bu4 = a measure word for works of literature, films, movies, machines, cars
首 / 首 / shou3 = a measure word for poems, songs
輛 / 辆 / liang4 = a measure word for vehicles like cars, motorbikes, truck, vans
位 / 位 / wei4 = a measure word for people

(The order on the left is: Traditional Chinese / Simplified Chinese / Pinyin)

If in doubt use the most common classifier, which is "ge" (Traditional: 個, Simplified: 个). This measure word is used for people or objects.


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