1 September 2013

Chinese classifiers

The Chinese classifiers are "strange words" used along with numbers to define the quantity or with demonstratives to identify the object. 

Classifiers don't have any meaning without the numeral or demonstrative, they always need the combination of other words like nouns. If you combine a noun with a number or demonstrative, you must use a classifier.

Yī gè rén
One person

The classifier (gè) is the most common and you can use it as a general classifier in Mandarin. However, most nouns have one or more particular classifiers associated with them, and you should use these instead of the general classifier. These classifiers can be used with different words, depending on their properties: shape, size, quantity, type, etc.

Yī běn shū
One book

Nà liàng chē
That car

In these examples you can see the classifiers for "book" and "car". The first one, 本 běn, is used for books and similar objects like magazines, newspaper, notebook, etc. As you can guess, objects with similar properties. The second one, 辆 liàng, is used with any kind of vehicle: motorbike, car, van, bus, etc.

If you are trying to learn some Chinese classifiers you don’t need to learn all of them. Around 60 will be enough to be prepared in a normal conversation. The HSK lists a total of 69 classifiers in the 6 levels. But unfortunately, there are essential classifiers not included in the HSK levels. We put all of them in the Chinese HSK Classifiers app, a total of 118. We are sure you will never need more.


We will continue talking more about the Chinese classifiers soon!