Mandarin Chinese Count/Measure Words

A measure word (liàngcí 量词 量詞), also known as a classifier or a count word, is used along with numerals to define the quantity of a given object or objects, or with "this"/"that" to identify specific objects.

Usage depends on personal preference and dialects. For example, some people use 三部车 (三部車) and others use 三台车 (三台車) to mean three cars. Still others use 三辆车 (三輛車) or in Cantonese 三架车 (三架車), with all of these measure words serving the same purpose.

List of Idiomatic Count/Measure Words

ChinesePinyinMain usesExamples
bǎ (ba)"handful" — objects that can be held, relatively long and flat objectsknife 刀, scissors, sword, key 钥匙, umbrella 伞, fan 扇子, spoon 勺子, fork, toothbrush, hammer, padlock, pair of scissors, pistol, rifle, chair 椅子, handful of rice 一把米, handful of sand 一把沙, bunch of flowers, handful of seeds, bunch of chopsticks, skeleton, fire, teapot 茶壶
bān (ban)scheduled services (trains, etc.), group of people, a class as in pupils
bāo (bao)packet, package, bundlesweets, cigarettes 烟, sugar 糖, cookies
bēi (bei)"cup", "glass" — drinks/beveragestea 茶, wine, alcohol 酒, water 水, milk 牛奶, fruit juice 果汁, soda 汽水, Coca -cola 可口可乐
běn (ben) "volume" — bound print matter book 书, magazine 杂志, novel 小说, scripture 经文, dictionary 字典, notepad 笔记本, textbook 课本
笔 (筆)bǐ (bi)strokes of characters; large quantities of money12 strokes 十二笔; a large quantity of money 一笔钱; a deal 一笔交易
bù (bu)machinery, vehicles; productionsmobile phone, telephone, car 轿车, play 话剧, novel 小说, movie/film/motion picture 电影, opera 歌剧, literary work 著作
cè (ce)volumes of books
层 (層)céng (ceng)"floor"/"story"; "layer"9 stories (in a building) 九层楼; layer of dust 一层灰, seven layer cake 七层蛋糕, coat of paint 一层油漆
场 (場)chǎng (chang)short duration event; precipitationpublic spectacle, game, crisis, war, catastrophe, an illness 一场病, performance, play 戏; a rainfall/rain shower 一场雨, snowfall
chuàn (chuan)sets of numbersa cell phone/mobile number 一串手机号码
chuáng (chuang)"bed"blankets, sheets
cì (ci)"time" — opportunities, accidents
出 (齣)chū (chu)acts in a play
dá (da)dozenpencils 铅笔, eggs 鸡蛋
dài (dai)sackfuls, pouchfuls, bagfuls, pocketfulssugar, flour 面粉, rice 大米
dào (dao)linear projections (light rays, etc.); order given by an authority figure, question, memo; course (of food); long crooked things (mountain ridge, flash of lightning)
dī (di)"droplet" water, blood, other such fluids
点 (點)diǎn (dian)ideas, suggestions; "a bit"/"some" (only with 一)a bit of work 一点点工作
dié (die)saucer (soy sauce)
顶 (頂)dǐng (ding)objects with protruding top, something to put over one's headhat 帽子, tent, mosquito net 蚊帐
栋 (棟)dòng (dong)literally "pillar" (smaller building, house)
dǔ (du)encompassing fixtures (wall without roof)
duàn (duan)"adjoining length" — cables, roadways, piece of chalk, part of a song
对 (對)duì (dui)"couple", "matched pair" (for certain things) coupletsa (married) couple 夫妇, earrings, vases 花瓶
顿 (頓)dùn (dun)short duration actionsa meal 一顿饭, conflict, beating, quarrel, scolding
duǒ (duo)flower-like thingsa flower 一朵花, a cloud 一朵云彩, a mushroom 一朵木耳
fã (fa)"round"bullet, ammunition
fàng (fang)square thingsink stone, bacon
fèn (fen)portions, multi-page documentsserving of food, a newspaper 一份报, a job 一份工作
fēng (feng)things that can be sealedletter 信, mail, telegram 电报
fēnghumped animalscamel
fú (fu)picture-like objectsphoto, painting 画, drawing, banner 标语, work of art, picture, door poster 对联
fù (fu)"dose" — (Chinese) medicine
fù (fu)objects which come in pairs (gloves, etc.) also for spectacles, a pack of cards, mahjong
个 (個)ge/gè (ge)individual things, people — general, catch-all measure word (usage of this classifier in conjunction with any noun is generally accepted if the person does not know the proper classifier)person 人, elder brother 哥哥, student 学生, relative 亲戚, way of thinking 想法, suggestion 建议, question 问题, nation 国家
gēn (gen)thin, slender objects; thin, flexible strandsneedle, pillar, banana, fried dough stick, fried chicken leg, popsicle, lollipop, chopstick, candle, incense; hair 头发, thread 线, string 绳
gǔ (gu)flows (of air, smell, influence)....
guà (gua)multi-component thingshorse and cart
guàn (guan)Small to medium "can of"soda 汽水, juice, food, beans, oil, candy
háng (hang)objects which form lines (words, etc.)
hé (he)(small) "box of" tape, food 食物, cake 蛋糕, candy 糖果, chocolate 巧克力, toys 玩具, books 书, cigarettes 烟, detergent 洗衣粉, clothing 衣服
hù (hu)householdsthirty households 三十户家人
huǒ (huo)generally derogatory classifier for bands of people such as gangs or hoodlums
jiā (jia)gathering of people, establishmentsfamilies, companies 公司, store, shop 商店, restaurant 饭馆
jià (jia)machinery, vehicleaircraft, airplane 飞机, piano 钢琴, machines, computers
间 (間)jiān (jian)rooms, spacesroom 房间, dorm 宿舍, bedroom 卧室, kitchen 厨房, classroom 教室, house 房子, school 学校, company 公司, chapel 教堂
jiàn (jian)matters (affairs), clothing (tops), furnitureclothing (top) 衣服, undershirt 内衣, shirt 衬衫, coat 大衣, bed sheet 床单, luggage 行李, present 礼物, issue/matter/thing 事
jiǎnglong class periods
节 (節)jié (jie)"section" (of bamboo, short class period)
届 (屆)jiè (jie)regularly scheduled sessions or meetings, year-groups in a school (e.g. Class of 2006)
jù (ju)lines of poems, sentencessaying 成语, idiom
kē (ke)trees and other such florapine tree 松树, rose 玫瑰
颗 (顆)kē (ke)small objects, objects appearing smallhearts, pearls, teeth, diamonds, seeds, distant stars, distant planets
课 (課)kè (ke)lessons in a text23 lessons 二十三课课文
kǒu (kou)population of villages (numbers less than 100), family members, wells, mouthfuls of foodfive people (population of a family) 五口人
块 (塊)kuài (kuai)irregularly shaped "chunk", "lump", "piece"land, stone, tofu, soap, piece/slice of cake 蛋糕, bread (not slices) 面包, watermelon 西瓜, meat 肉, cheese, pizza 比萨, gum 口香糖, tablecloth, wristwatch 表, block of incense
类 (類)lèi (lei)objects of the same type or nature
lì (li)"grain"a (single) peanut 一粒花生, grape, longan, uncooked rice 米, seed 种子, candy 糖果, bullet 子弹, chocolate 巧克力
辆 (輛)liàng (liang)wheeled vehicles (not trains)automobile, bicycle 自行车/脚踏车, car 汽车
liè (lie)trains
lún (lun)moon
méi (mei)medals, small flat things like stamps, banana peels, rings, badges, rockets, missiles
门 (門)mén (men)objects pertaining to academics (courses, majors, subjects, etc.); artillery (cannon)
miàn (mian)flat and smooth objects (mirror, flag, wall with roof, shield)
míng (ming)high-ranking persons (doctors, lawyers, politicians, royalty, etc.), members; in formal language, can also be used for any type of person (not necessarily high-ranking)party member 党员, university professor 大学教师
pái (pai)"rows of", "lines of" — objects grouped in rowschairs, seats 椅子, tables 桌子, lines of people 人
盘 (盤)pán (pan)flat objects or reels (video or audio cassette, small plate, coil of incense)
pī (pi)people, goods, etc.
pǐ (pi)horses and other mounts; rolls/bolts of clothhorse 马, wolf
piān (pian)writingspaper 论文, article 文章, essay, report
piàn (pian)"slice" — thin, flat, sometimes irregular objectscard, lip 嘴唇, cloud, beach, gum 口香糖, a slice of bread 一片面包, slice of meat, cracker, cheese, slice of watermelon, leaf 叶子, flower petal, field 麦田, lake, a pill (tablet of medicine) 一片药片, DVD
píng (ping)"bottle of"alcohol 酒, water 水, oil 油, beer 啤酒, drink 饮料, wine, soda 汽水, milk 牛奶, shampoo 洗头水, Pepsi 百事可乐
qī (qi)magazines
qún (qun)"group" (incl. people), "herd", "crowd", "throng", "swarm", etcpeople 一群人, a herd of cattle/elephants/horses/swans 一群牛、象、马、天鹅, a flock of birds/geese/hens/goats/swallows/sheep/chickens 一群鸟, a pack of hounds/wolves/grouse 一群猎狗, a skulk of foxes 一群狐狸, a pride of lions 一群狮子, a cluster of stars 一群星星, a school/shoal of fish/shrimps 一群鱼, a stud/drove of horses 一群马, a gaggle/flock of geese 一群鹅, a swarm of mosquitoes/butterflies 一群蚊子/蝴蝶, a colony of ants/bees 一群(窝)蚂蚁, a clump/complex of buildings 一群建筑物
rèn (ren)terms of officesecond president 第二任总统, terms
shàn (shan)things that open and close on hingeswindow 窗, door 门
shǒu (shou)things with versesmusical song 歌, poem 诗歌
shù (shu)bunches offlowers 花
双 (雙)shuāng (shuang)pair of objects which naturally come in pairschopsticks 筷子, shoes 鞋, gloves 手套, eyes
sōu (sou)shipsa ship 一艘船
suǒ (suo)small buildings, institutionsuniversity 大学, detached house 房子
tái (tai)heavy objects, especially machines; performancesTV 电视, computer 电脑, piano, appliance, airplane 飞机, train 火车, car 车, elevator 电梯; theater performance, play
táng (tang)periods of classes, suites of furnitureI have two classes today, lesson 课, lecture
tàng (tang)trips, scheduled transportation services
tào (tao)"set(s) of"books, magazines, collectibles, clothes, multiple-room houses/apartments, suites, stamps 邮票, furniture 家具, rooms 房间, a suit 一套西装
题 (題)tí (ti)classifier for questions
条 (條)tiáo (tiao)long, narrow, flexible objectsfish 鱼, snake 蛇, dragon 龙, worm, dog 狗, scarf, road 路, ribbon, river 河, root, stem 线, rope, comforter, towel, floss, trousers/pants 裤子, necktie 领带, skirt 裙子, sofa/bench, heroic person 一条好汉, a (smaller) boat 一条船
tiè (tie)adhesive bandages
tõng (tong)conversation, lecture
tǒng (tong)jug, bucket, barreljug of milk 一桶牛奶, barrel of oil 一桶石油
头 (頭)tóu (tou)"a head" — certain animals; hairpig 猪, cow 牛, oxen, yak, sheep, donkey, mule, leopard, dinosaur; hair
团 (團)tuán (tuan)"ball" — rotund and wound objects (balls of yarn, etc.)
wǎn (wan)"bowl of"rice 饭, noodles 面, soup 汤
wèi (wei)polite, respectful classifier for peopleteacher 老师, customer 顾客, colleague 同事
项 (項)xiàng (xiang)projects
xiē (xie)some (only with 一, 这, 那, 哪)
样 (樣)yàng (yang)general items of differing attributes
页 (頁)yè (ye)pagemore than five hundred pages 五百多页
zé (ze)journal, day log, diary
zhā (zha)In Cantonese usage, this is used in lieu of shù (束), e.g. a bundle of flowers
"jar", "jug" — drinks such as beer, soda, juice, etc. (A recent loan-word from English, it may be considered informal or slang.)
盏 (盞)zhǎn (zhan)light fixtures (usually lamps), pot of tea etc.
zhàn (zhan)stop (for buses and trains六站
张 (張)zhāng (zhang)"sheet" — flat or paper objectspaper 纸, table 桌子, bed 床, card 卡, sofa 沙发, CD/DVD, napkin, snapshot, photograph 照片, ticket 票, painting, constellation, face, mouth, bow 弓
阵 (陣)zhèn (zhen)"gust", "burst" — events with short durations (lightning storms, gusts of wind, instance of rain); uproar, peal of applause
zhī (zhi)fairly long, stick-like objectspen, pencil 铅笔, chopstick 筷子, drinking straw 吸管, bamboo 竹子, rose, rifle, arrow, spear, artillery shell, missile, more humble songs (ditty)
zhī (zhi)alternative form of 支 ("stalk"): can be used for rifles and roses
只 (隻)zhī (zhi)one of a pair; animalshand 手, finger 手指, eye, foot 脚, head 头, sock, glove, shoe 鞋, earring, eyeglasses; bird, chicken 鸡, cat 猫, tiger, dog 狗, monkey, elephant, sheep, mouse, butterfly, frog, bug 一只虫, fly 苍蝇
种 (種)zhǒng (zhong)"types of", "kinds of"things, books, people
zhū (zhu)smaller trees/plants (tree, rice plant, wheat plant)
zhuáng (zhuang)multi-story building (楼房)
组 (組)zǔ (zu)sets, rows, series, batteries (military)
zuò (zuo)mountain, hill 山, structure, large building 大楼, city, bridge, villa, high-rise, tower, temple, apartment block 公寓

Actual Units of Measure

Time

ChinesePinyinMain uses
bèi (bei)lifetime (辈子)
diǎn (dian)o'clock
fēn (fen)minute
kè (ke)"quarter","15 minutes" (mainly in some dialects, such as Shanghainese, and translations)
miǎo (miao)second
nián (nian)year
rì (ri)day
时辰 (時辰)shíchén (shichen)"2 hours" (ancient)
世纪 (世紀)shìjì (shiji)century
岁 (歲)suì (sui)years old
tiān (tian)day (十天时间)
小时 (小時)xiǎoshí (xiaoshi)hour
载 (載)zǎi (zai)year
钟 (鐘)zhōng (zhong)hour (found in southern Chinese)

Weight, Mass

ChinesePinyinMain uses
bàng (bang)pound
吨 (噸)dūn (dun)ton
公斤gōngjīn (gongjin)kilogram
jīn (jin)"catty", "pound", 1/2 kilogram ( 1/2 kilo of apples 一斤苹果)
kè (ke)gram
两 (兩)liǎng (liang)50 grams
千克qiānkè (qianke)kilogram

Lengths, Distances

ChinesePinyinMain uses
chǐ (chi)Chinese "foot"
chǐ (chi)British foot
cùn (cun)British inch
cùn (cun)Chinese "inch"
公尺gōngchǐ (gongchi)"meter"
公分gōngfēn (gongfen)centimeter (less common)
公里gōnglǐ (gongli)"kilometer"
光年guāngnián (guangnian)"light year"
lǐ (li)British mile
lǐ (li)"lǐ", about 1/3 mile
厘米límǐ (limi)centimeter
mǐ (mi)meter
秒差距miǎochājù (miaochaju)"parsec"
天文单位 (天文單位)tiānwéndānwèi (tianwendanwei)"astronomical unit"
英尺yīngchǐ (yingchi)British foot
英里yīnglǐ (yingli)British mile

Money, Currency

ChinesePinyinMain uses
bàng (bang)Pound Sterling (六英镑)
fēn (fen)0.01 yuan (九分钱)
máo (mao)0.10 yuan (informal)
jiāo (jiao)0.10 yuan
块 (塊)kuài (kuai)¥ (an informal colloquial term, like "quid" or "buck")
元 (圓)yuán (yuan)100 cents, ¥, main unit of currency (四元钱) either form can be used in Traditional Chinese text

Other

ChinesePinyinMain uses
dù (du)degree (angle, temperature)

Verbal Classifiers

ChinesePinyinMain uses
biàn (bian)the number of times an action has been completed
场 (場)chǎng (chang)a length of an event taking place within another event
cì (ci)times (unlike 遍, 次 refers to the number of times regardless of whether or not it was completed)
顿 (頓)dùn (dun)actions without repetition
huí (hui)occurrences (used colloquially)
声 (聲)shēng (sheng)cries, shouts, utterances
tàng (tang)trips, visitations
xià (xia)brief and often sudden actions (hit 打两下, press 摁一下) much more common in Cantonese than in North dialects

Informal Classifiers

In modern colloquial speech of certain Chinese dialects, 俩 (liǎ) is sometimes used in lieu of 两个 (liǎng ge), thereby assuming the identity of a measure word meaning "two of (such and such)". The same holds true for 仨 (sā), three (items of a general nature).

Other References