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Chinese Grammar: Lesson 11: Measure words for Nouns

Always quantify

Whenever you talk about the quantity of something in Chinese, you need a measure word. In Chinese, every object needs to be quantified so measure words are used all the time. Don’t forget to use them!


Measure words are placed between the number and the name of the object.


A person.

Three apples.


Measure words are also used between a demonstrative pronoun (i.e. and ) and a noun, and with some question words, such as and .


This book

几个 苹果
How many apples?

Pick your flavor

There are a lot of measure words in Chinese, which quantify different nouns.

The most common measure word (so much it’s sometimes called universal) is . It can be used with pretty much every word, so if you don’t know the correct measure word, use .

Other measure words classify nouns by size, shape and so on.

Some of the most common

Here are some of the most common measure words:

  • for persons and objects in general
  • for people (polite)
  • for 1 of a pair (1 shoe, 1 eye…) and birds and some animals ( )
  • for bound objects (books, magazines…)
  • for flat objects (pieces of paper, tables, CDs)
  • for objects that are long and thin (ropes, snakes, streets rivers, but also trousers and news!)
  • for things with mouths (people, family members, etc)
  • for events, clothing items, etc
  • for segments, such as one hour class periods
  • and more!

Yes, classifiers can get very specific!

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