12 September 2013

Chinese classifiers classification

We introduced Chinese Classifier before, but now it's time to study in more detail. There are two types of classifiers:

  • Nominal classifiers (count and mass-classifiers)
  • Verbal classifiers

The nominal classifiers are used to count or classify a noun. These are the most common classifiers you will learn, because are used constantly. There are two subcategories of nominal classifiers: the count-massifiers and the mass-massifiers.

The count-classifiers are used for naming or counting a single noun that can be counted. These classifiers can't be used with non-count nouns. We can say "Five books" but we can't directly say with the same classifier "Five box books". The most general count-classifiers is 个 (gè). Any count-classifier can be replaced (but you shouldn't) by classifier, however mass-classifiers can't. The count-classifiers are particles without any meaning and are unique for Chinese language.

Wǒmen yǒu sān yǐzi
We have three chairs

Wǒ xǐhuan zhè liàng qìchē
I like this car

zhāng bǐsà
A pizza

The mass-classifiers are words with a meaning, but they can do the job of a classifier combined with a noun. These classifiers transform the noun into countable units. The same mass-classifiers can generally be used with multiples types of nouns.

A box of books

qún rén
A crowd of people

kuài bǐsà
A piece pizza

Verbal classifiers are used for counting the number of times an action occurs, rather than counting a number of items. There are only a few, the most common verbal classifier is (cì). It refers to the number of times an action has done. 次 can be translate as "times".

Five times

Wǒ zuòle sì
I did it four times

Wǒ qùguò sān shànghǎi
I've been three times Shanghai