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  Basics 6 - Measure Words


  Vocabulary


     個
   一個男人
  
   輛
   一輛汽車
  
   張,
   兩張紙
  
   碗
   一碗飯
  
   位
   三位女人
  
   顆
   一顆糖
  
   杯
   兩杯茶
  
   盤
   一盤青菜

  
   條
   三條魚
  
   枝
   一枝毛筆
  
   塊
   一塊蛋糕
  
   隻
   一隻肥鴨
  
   本
   三本書
  
   架
   兩架電腦
  
   雙
   一雙筷子
  
   把
   三把牙刷
  
   瓶
   一瓶牛奶
  
   扇

   一扇門
  
   件
   兩件女裝
  
   頂
   一頂帽子
  
   副
   一副手套
  
   套
   兩套睡衣
  
   所
   三所房子

yīge nánrén

lìang
yīlìang gìchē

zhāng
lǐangzhāng zhǐ

wán
yīwán fàn

wèi
sānwèi nǔrén


yīkē táng

bēi
lǐangbēi chá

pán
yīpán gīngcài


tíao
sāntíao yú

zhī
yīzhī máobǐ

kuái
yikuài dàngāo

zhī
yīzhī féiyā

běn
sānběn shū

jìa
lǐangjìa dìanmǎo

shuāng
yī`shuāng kuàizi


sānbǎ yáshuā

píng
yīpíng níunǎi

shàn

yīshàn mén

jìan
lǐangjìan nǔzhuāng

dǐng
yīdǐng màozi


yīfù shǒutào

tào
lǐangtào shuìyī

suǒ
sānsuǒ fángzi
(a general measure)
one (a) man

vehicles
a car

flat things
two sheets of paper

bowls
a bowl of rice

people
three women

lumps, pieces
a piece of candy

cups
two cups of tea

plates, dishes
a dish of green vegetables

long, narrow things
three fish

pens
a writing brush

pieces, slices
a slice of cake

animals
a fat duck

volumes
three books

machines
two computers

pairs
a pair of chopsticks

things you handle
three toothbrushes

bottles
a bottle of milk

things that open or close
a door

pieces, items
two dresses

things with a top
a cap

pairs, sets
a pair of gloves

things that cover
two pairs pajamas

buildings
three houses

Look at the Language

Measure Words

In Chinese, as in English, measure words are used to describe or specify a noun, such as: two quarts of milk, a bushel of potatoes, a flock of birds, a herd of cattle, or, three cups of tea. In English, some nouns are used with accompanying measures:


two cups of tea
three glasses of juice
a sack of flour
(cup)
(glass)
(sack)


and others have no measures attached to them:


two books
three bicycles
a spoon

In Chinese, however, measure words always accompany a noun, when a quantity of that noun is being spec ified:


一本書
兩本書
三本書

四把牙刷
五枝鉛筆
六顆珍珠
七輛腳踏車
八張地圖
九碗飯飯
十塊麵包
三十杯茶
五十雙筷子
yīběn shū
lǐangběn shū
sānběn shū

sìbǎ yáshuā
wǔzhī qiānbǐ
lìukē zhènzhū
qīlìang jǐaotàchē
bāzhāng dìtú
jǐuwán fàn
shíkuài mìanbāo
sānshíbēi chá
wǔshíshuāng kuàizi
a (volume of) book
two (volumes of) books
three (volumes of) books

four toothbrushes
five pencils
six pearls
seven bicycles
eight maps
nine bowls of rice
ten slices of bread
thirty cups of tea
fifty pairs of chopsticks

 

"Two" Words

Notice that the word liang is used instead of er, the usual translation of two.

Liang is the usual measure word, used as a quantifier for describing when two of a thing are present.

The word er, on the other hand, is a cardinal and used in all other cases when one means "two".

Liang is used for numbering two things, and telling clock-time (two o'clock), for two pennies and two dollars. Er is used for counting, two dimes, Tuesday (the second day of the week), February (the second month of the year) and in compound (twelve, twenty or more things) measures..


兩點鐘
兩塊錢
兩分

星期二
二月

二十瓶牛奶
二十塊蛋糕

二毛
lǐangdǐan
lǐangkuài
lǐangfēn

xīngqīèr
èryuè

èrshípíng níunǎi
èrshíèrkuài dàngāo

èr máo
Two o’clock
two dollars
two cents

Tuesday
February

twenty bottles of milk
twenty-two pieces of cakes

two dimes

For a pair, say


一雙
一雙鞋
yī shuāng
yī shuāng xíe
a pair
a pair of shoes

 

More about Measures

Only when a noun is being used without a sense of quantity, is the measure word omitted:


大書
聰明的學生
綠蘋果
dà shū
cóngmíngde xuéshēng
lù píngguǒ

big books
smart students
green apples


The word ge is a general measure. It can be applied to most nouns, and is often so generally used, colloquially, by a great many Chinese, but proper usage, and the mark of an educated person, should be to know and use the appropriate measure word for each noun:


一個蘋果
兩個人
三個燈
yīge píngguǒ
lǐangge rén
sānge dēng
an apple
two people
three lamps

For people, ge is acceptable, but wei is the proper term:


一個男人
兩個女人
三個女孩
兩個男孩

一位總統
兩位老師
三位教授

yīge nánrén
lǐangge nǔrén
sānge nǔhái
lǐangge nánhái

yīwèi zǒngtǒng
lǐangwèi lǎoshī
sānwèi jìaoshòu
a man
two women
three girls
two boys

a president
two teachers
three professors

In some instances the use of ge is illiterate and marks the person as uneducated. Try to learn the formal measure word. Don't say


一個書
三個紙
一個本子
三個字典

yīge shū
sānge zhǐ
yīge běnzi
sānge zìdǐan

a book
three sheets of paper
a notebook
three dictionaries

say instead


一本書
三張紙
一本本子
三本字典
yīběn shū
sānzhāng zhǐ
yīběn běnzi
sānběn zìdǐan
a book
three sheets of paper
a notebook
three dictionaries

Additional adjectives are placed after the quantity and measure words, but before the noun:


一本紅書
兩本好書
三張白紙
yīběn hóng shū
lǐangběn hǎo shū
sānzhāng bái zhǐ
a red book
two good books
three sheets of white paper

unless they are demonstrative adjectives:


這個學生
那三個學生
zhèige xuéshēng
nèi sānge xuéshēng
this student
those three students

Most measure words quantify a certain class of objects. The nouns that a particular measure word quantifies generally fall into a certain category, e.g., long, narrow things:


一條魚
兩條毛巾
一條 街道
三條川
兩條繩索
一條帶子
三條船
yītíao yú
lǐangtíao máojīn
yītíao jiēdào
sāntíao chuān
lǐangtíao shéngsuǒ
yītíao dàizi
sāntíao chuán
a fish
two towels
a street
three rivers
two ropes
a belt
three boats

or things with a handle:


一把牙刷
兩把刀
三把湯匙
一把劍
三把調羹
yībǎ yáshuā
liǎngbǎ dāo
sānbǎ tāngchí
yībǎ jìan
sānbǎ tíaogēng
a toothbrush
two knives
three soupspoons
a sword
three spoons

 

Questions

To ask a question, use the indefinite measure ji:



幾本書?
幾張紙?

jǐben shū ?
jǐzhang1 zhǐ ?
how many
How many books?
How many sheets of paper?

Measures were probably developed long ago in the Chinese language as an aid to intelligibility, just as tones were. Tones help to distinguish between two characters with a similar pronunciation; in a like manner, accompanying and dissimilar measure words are also helpful in differentiating between like-sounding nouns.

(See the section on Demonstrative Pronouns for more on Measures.)