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Hi everybody! Yinru here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Chinese questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is…
What are the most commonly used measure words for nouns?
In English, we say “one dog," “two books," “three kids," but in Chinese you can’t say 一狗 (yì gǒu), 两书 (liǎng shū), 三孩子 (sān háizi). Instead, you have to say 一只狗 (yì zhī gǒu), 两本书 (liǎng běn shū), 三个孩子 (sān ge háizi). Here, 只 (zhī), 本 (běn), 个 (gè) are measure words or, as they’re sometimes called, “counters” for nouns. There are so many different measure words for different kinds of nouns. Some measure words can only be used with one or two nouns; some can pair with thousands of nouns. Today we’re going to introduce the most used counters in Chinese.
The most common and easiest one to use is 个 gè. You can use it to count objects, animals, people, or even concepts. You can say:
一个苹果 (yí gè píngguǒ “one apple”), 一个手机 (yí gè shǒujī “one phone”), 一个虫子 (yí gè chóngzi “one bug”), 一个想法 (yí gè xiǎngfǎ “one idea”), or 两个故事 (liǎng gè gùshi “two stories”).
To count animals, you often use 只 zhī. Such as 一只小鸟 (yì zhī xiǎoniǎo “one bird”), 一只老虎 (yì zhī lǎohǔ “one tiger”), 很多只蝴蝶 (hěn duō zhī húdié “many butterflies”).
To count objects that are thin and flat, like paper, we use 张 zhāng.
一张票 (yì zhāng piào “one ticket”), 两张照片 (liǎng zhāng zhàopiàn “two pictures”), 三张黑色的桌子 (sān zhāng hēisè de zhuōzi “three black tables”).
To count objects that are long and easy to bend, you can use 条 tiáo, like 一条鱼 (yì tiáo yú “one fish”), 一条小河 (yì tiáo xiǎohé “one small river”), 这条裤子 (zhè tiáo kùzi “this pair of pants”), 那条路 (nà tiáo lù “that road”).
To count things that come in pairs, you can use 双 shuāng. For example, 一双鞋 (yì shuāng xié “one pair of shoes”), 两双手 (liǎng shuāng shǒu “two pairs of hands”), 三双筷子 (sān shuāng kuàizi “three pairs of chopsticks”).
To count people, we can use a more respectful counter than 个 gè. That’s 位 wèi.
一位客人 (yí wèi kèren “one customer”), 这位先生 (zhè wèi xiānsheng “this mister”), 几位老师 (jǐ wèi lǎoshī “a few teachers”).
If you are talking about their occupations, it’d be better to use 名 míng. 一名医生 (yì míng yīshēng “a doctor”), 一名消防员 (yì míng xiāofángyuán “a firefighter”), 一名歌手 (yì míng gēshǒu “a singer”).
There’s no way for me to list all the measure words in this one short video.
个 gè, 只 zhī, 张 zhāng, 条 tiáo, 双 shuāng, 位 wèi and 名 míng are some of the most frequently used ones. If you have more questions about measure words or counters, let us know in the comment section below.


How was it? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below, and I’ll try to answer them!
See you in the next episode!
我们下期再见!Wǒmen xià qī zàijiàn!