List of Chinese measure words

The follow is a list of the most commonly used Chinese measure words along with usage guidelines along with a brief introduction on the topic.

Table of contents
1 Introduction
2 Nominal Classifiers
3 Verbal Classifiers
4 Examples


In the Chinese language, simple numerals cannot quantify a noun by itself; instead, the language relies on what are known as measure words or, to a lesser extent, classifiers. There are two types of such classifiers, nominal and verbal, with the latter being used in quantifying verbs and the amount of time which they take precedence. English also has its share of classifiers, however, these are generally understood to be extraneous and ultimately construe the object in question to greater details. As an example, in the English phrase "a stretch of sand", the word "stretch" is needed to disambiguate whether the sand is actually one grain or an entire beach's worth. Therefore, "stretch" serves to amplify the quantity of sand, but not necessarily quantify its existence in plurality. It should be noted that the usage of measure words in Chinese is strictly mandatory, that is, they must be used so long as a quantifying numeral or a pronoun is present (the definite article "the" does not exist in Chinese). In contrast with the English language wherein "a flock of birds" is precisely equivalent to "the birds", a plural of birds in Chinese must be rendered as "一群鸟". Likewise, "a bird" translates to "一只鸟".

Note: A few of the verbal classifiers are nominal classifers with altered meanings. For the sake of consistency, all classifiers have been listed under the first group regardless of their type. In addition, both the reused and the exclusive verbal classifiers have been listed under the second group.

Nominal Classifiers

Simplified Chinese Mandarin Pinyin Major usage
ba3 objects that can be held (knives, keys)
ban1 scheduled services (trains, etc.)
bao1 packages, bundles
ben3 bound print matter (books, etc.)
bi3 large quantities of money
bian4 exclusive to verbal classifiers
bu4 novels, movies
ce4 volumes of books
ceng2 stories (of buildings), layers
chang3 public spectacles
chuang2 blankets, sheets
ci4 opportunities, accidents
dao4 linear projections (light rays, etc.), orders given by an authoritative figure
di1 water, blood, and other such fluids
dian3 ideas, suggestions
ding3 objects with protruding top (hats, etc.)
dong4 buildings
du3 walls and encompassing fixtures
duan4 adjoining lengths of cables, roadways, etc.
dui4 couples
dun4 meals
duo3 flowers, clouds
fen4 portions
feng1 letters, mail
fu2 works of art (paintings, etc.)
fu4 medical entities (usually used for doses of Chinese medicine)
fu4 objects which come in pairs (gloves, etc.)
ge0 (neutral or sometimes fourth) people -- usage of this classifier in conjunction with any noun is generally accepted if the person does not know of the proper classifier.
gen1 thin, slender objects (needles, pillars, etc.)
hang2 objects which form lines (words, etc.)
hui2 exclusive to verbal classifiers
hu4 households
huo3 generally derogatory classifier for bands of people such as gangs or hoodlums
jia1 gathering of people (families, companies, etc.)
jia4 airplanes, pianos
jian1 rooms
jian4 matters, clothing, etc.
jie2 sections of items (bamboo, etc.)
jie4 regularly scheduled sessions or meetings
ju4 lines, sentences, etc.
ke1 trees and other such flora
ke1 small objects (hearts, pearls, teeth, etc.) and also objects appearing to be small (distant stars and planets)
kou3 people in villages
kuai4 objects which may be divided into pieces (land, stones, etc.)
lei4 objects of the same type or nature
li4 grains
liang4 automobiles, bicycles, etc.
lie4 trains
men2 objects pertaining to academics (courses, majors, etc.)
mian4 flat and smooth objects (mirrors, flags, etc.)
ming2 high-ranking persons (doctors, lawyers, politicians, royalty, etc.)
pai2 objects grouped in rows (chairs, etc)
pan2 flat objects (video cassettes, etc.)
pi1 people, goods, etc.
pi2 horses and other such equine animals
pian1 papers, articles, etc.
pian4 flat objects, slices, etc.
qi1 magazines
qun2 groups or herds
sheng1 exclusive to verbal classifiers
shou3 songs, poems, music, etc.
shu4 bunches
shuang1 objects which come in pairs
sou1 ships
suo3 buildings
tai2 heavy objects (TV's, computers, etc.) and performances (theater, etc.)
tang2 periods of classes
tang4 scheduled transportation services
tao4 sets of objects (books, magazines, collectibles, etc.)
tiao4 long and narrow objects (fish, pants, etc.)
tou2 certain animals (pigs, cows, etc.)
tuan2 rotund and wound objects (balls of yarn, etc.)
wei4 polite classifier for people
xia4 exclusive to verbal classifiers
xiang4 projects
yang4 general items of differing attributes
zhang3 light fixtures (usually lamps)
zhang1 flat objects (paper, tables, etc.)
zhen4 events with short durations (lightning storms, gusts of wind)
zhi1 stick-like objects (pens, chopsticks, etc.)
zhi1 one of a pair, animals (birds, cats, etc.)
zhi1 alternate form of 支, can be used for rifles and roses.
zhong3 types or kinds of objects
zuo4 large structures or mountains

Verbal Classifiers

bian4the number of times an action has been completed
chang3a length of an event taking place within another event
ci4times (unlike 遍 in that 次 refers to the number of times regardless of whether or not it was completed)
dun4actions without repeat
hui2occurrences (used in colloquialism)
sheng1cries, shouts, etc.
tang4trips, visitations, etc.
xia4brief and often sudden actions


去年我骑了一匹马。 Last year, I rode a horse.

一台电视看完一次就坏了。 This television set broke after one viewing.

我订了这两班车。I've reserved tickets for these two buses.

下完这阵雨我才会爬那坐山。Only after this rain passes will I climb that mountain.

Wikipedia content included on this page is licensed under the GFDL