skip to Main Content

Chinese Measure Words List

There are many unique features of the Chinese language. One of the features is the Chinese measure words, which are used to measure words to count nouns. As you can see, the typical structure is “number + measure word + noun.” Since there are no changes in the noun, no matter it’s singular or plural, the Chinese use the number to specify the quantity. And the use of the measure words is often based on the noun’s shape, characteristic, container, or common use. Many Chinese learners, especially the beginners, often use “个” as their preference. It is indeed a general measure word, but not for everything. Here is a list for you to learn more about the use of the very commonly used Chinese measure words.

Chinese Pinyin Usage Example
person, thing 一个人 (yī ge rén) “a person”
wèi person 三位老师 (sān wèi lǎoshī) “three teachers”
míng person, professional 一名医生 (yī míng yīshēng) “a doctor”
kǒu dependent 六口家眷 (liù kǒu jiājuàn) “six dependents”
corpse 一具尸体 (yījù shītǐ) “a corpse”
household 十戶人家 (shí hù rénjiā) “ten households”
zhī animal 一只鸟 (yī zhī niǎo) “a bird”
tóu livestock 一头牛 (yī tóu niú) “a cow”
horse 一匹马 (yī pǐ mǎ) “a horse”
tiáo fish, snakes 一条鱼 (yītiáo yú) “a fish”
tree 一棵树 (yī kē shù) “a tree”
zhū plant, flower still in the ground 一株花 (yī zhū huā) “a flower”
duǒ flower bulb or stem 一朵玫瑰 (yī duǒ méiguī) “a stem of rose”
handful 一把花 (yī bǎ huā) “a bunch of flowers”
zhī long (and straight) 一支笔 (yī zhī bǐ) “a pen”
tiáo long (and winding) 一条河 (yī tiáo hé) “a river”
gēn long (and thin) 一根头发 (yī gēn tóufǎ) “a strand of hair”
zhāng flat 一张票 (yī zhāng piào) “a ticket”
tuán pile 一团乱 (yī tuán luàn) “a mess (lit. a pile of junk)”
duī big pile 一堆瓦砾 (yī duī wǎlì) “a pile of rubble”
small, compact 一颗珠 (yī kē zhū) “a perl”
tiny 一粒药 (yī lì yào) “a pill”
shàn leaf, something that turns on a hinge 一扇门(yī shàn mén) “a door”
bāo a pack 一包面纸 (yī bāo miàn zhǐ) “a pack of tissues”
juǎn a roll 一卷卫生纸 (yī juǎn wèishēngzhǐ) “a roll of toilet paper”
fēng an envelope 一封信 (yī fēng xìn) “a letter”
tǒng tube, bucket 一桶油漆 (yī tǒng yóuqī) “a bucket of paint”
box 一盒巧克力 (yī hé qiǎokèlì) “a box of chocolates”
shù boquet 一束花 (yī shù huā) “a boquet of flowers”
běn book 一本书 (yī běn shū) “a book”
fèn newspaper 一份报纸 (yī fèn bàozhǐ) “a newspaper”
jiàn incident 一件事 (yī jiàn shì) “an incident, a circumstance, a thing”
jié event, episode 一节课 (yī jié kè) “one class” from a series or a course
mén a subject or series of classes 你在修几门课­n  (nǐ zài xiū jǐ mén kè) “How many subjects are you taking?”
time, occurrence 三次 (sān cì) “three times”
chǎng large event 一场大雨 (yī chǎng dàyǔ) “a heavy rain”
duàn a period of time 一段往事 (yī duàn wáng shì) “a past event”
zhèn sudden, passing event 一阵雨 (yī zhèn yǔ) “a quick rain shower”
a moment 一刻疯狂 (yīkè fēngkuáng) “a moment of madness”
fān a long period of time, or an activity that requires significant effort 一番好气象 (yī fān hǎo qìxiàng) “a stretch of good weather”
banquet 一席宴会 (yīxí yànhuì) “a banquet”
tàng a trip 一趟旅行 (yī tàng lǚxíng) “a tour”
jiān room, house 一间屋子 (yī jiān wūzi) “a room”
dòng tall building 一栋大楼 (yī dòng dàlóu) “a tall building”
céng floor 五层大楼 (wǔ céng dàlóu) “a five story building”, literally “five floors of building”
wall 一堵墙 (yī dǔ qiáng) “a wall”
miàn wall 一面墙 (yīmiàn qiáng) “a wall”
suǒ multi building complex 一所医院 (yī suǒ yīyuàn) “a hospital”
chǎng field, open public space 一场宴会 (yī chǎng yànhuì) “a party”
jiā place of work 一家公司 (yī jiā gōngsī) “a company”
zuò large structure 一座桥 (yī zuò qiáo) “a bridge”
fèn portion 一份面 (yī fèn miàn) “an order of noodles”
piàn piece 一片饼干 (yīpiàn bǐnggān) “a piece of cookie”
kuài piece, slice 一块蛋糕 (yīkuài dàngāo) “a slice of cake”
kǒu sip, mouthful 口 means “mouth”.
dào dish 一道名菜 (yīdào míng cài) “a famous dish”
dùn meal 一顿早餐 (yī dùn zǎocān) “a breakfast”
wǎn bowl 一碗饭 (yī wǎn fàn) “a bowl of (cooked) rice”
pán plate 一盘水果 (yī pán shuǐguǒ) “a plate of fruit”
lóng bamboo drum 一笼蒸饺(yī lóng zhēng jiǎo) “an order of steamed dumplings”
drop 一滴水 (yī dīshuǐ) “a drop of water”
bēi cup 一杯茶 (yī bēi chá) “a cup of tea”
píng bottle 一瓶啤酒 (yī píng píjiǔ) “a bottle of beer”
teapot 一壶茶 (yī hú chá) “a pot of tea”
guàn can, jar 一罐蜂蜜 (yī guàn fēngmì) “a jar of honey”
whiff, smell 一股香味 (yī gǔ xiāngwèi) “a pleasant aroma”
chuáng bedsheets 一床棉被 (yī chuáng mián bèi) “a cotton blanket”
tiáo towel, tablecloth 一条毯子 (yī tiáo tǎnzi) “a blanket”
zhǎn lamp 一盏台灯 (yī zhǎn táidēng) “a standing lamp”
painting or drawing 一幅画 (yī fú huà) “a painting or drawing”
zhēn printed picture 一帧照片 (yī zhēn zhàopiàn) “a photograph”
jiàn article of clothing 一件衣服 (yī jiàn yīfú) “an article of clothing”
tiáo a long article of clothing 一条领带 (yī tiáo lǐngdài) “a necktie”
tào costume 一套西装 (yī tào xīzhuāng) “a (Western) suit”
dǐng hat 一顶帽子 (yī dǐng màozi) “a hat”
shuāng pair of identical objects 一双眼睛 (yī shuāng yǎnjīng) “pair of eyes”
pair of complementary objects 一副碗筷 (yī fù wǎn kuài) “bowl and chopsticks”
duì man-woman pair 一对夫妻 (yī duì fūqī) “a married couple”, literally “one pair husband wife”
xiē a few 一些東西 (yī xiē dōngxī) “a few things”
zhǒng a kind 一种动物 (yī zhǒng dòngwù) “a type of animal”
qún group, flock 一群人 (yī qún rén)  “a group of people”
zhòng a crowd 一众人 (yī zhòng rén) “a crowd of people”
an organization 一组用戶 (yī zǔ yòng hù) “consumers’ organization”
bāng a group or a band 一帮贼 (yī bāng zéi) “a group of thieves”
bān a class 一班学生 (yī bān xuéshēng) “a class of students”
pái a row, queue 一排电杆 (yī pái diàn gān) “a row of electrical posts”
duì a team, battalion 一队军人 (yī duì jūnrén) “a battalion of soldiers”
liè a chain, exhibited items 一列火车 (yī liè huǒchē) “a train”, literally “a chain of cars”
xiàng item in a list, headline 一项标题 (yī xiàng biāotí) “a headline”
chuàn skewer 一串肉 (yī chuàn ròu) “a skewer of meat”
dozen 一打鸡蛋 (yī dá jīdàn) “a dozen eggs”
dié stack 一叠箱 (yī dié xiāng) “a stack of boxes/containers”
sentence 一句话 (yī jù huà) “a spoken sentence”
shǒu poem, song 一首诗 (yī shǒu shī) “a poem”
chǎng speech 一场演说 (yī chǎng yǎnshuō) “a speech”
tōng phone call 接到三通电话 (jiē dào sān tōng diànhuà) “receive three phone calls”
piān written piece 一篇文章 (yī piān wénzhāng) “a newspaper article”
AD, news report, story 一则广告 (yī zé guǎnggào) “an AD”
chū a play 一出戏 (yī chū xì) “a play, a drama”
a movie 一部电影 (yī bù diànyǐng) “a movie”
tái machine 一台电视 (yī tái diànshì) “a television”
liàng road vehicle 一辆汽车 (yī liàng qìchē) “a car”
jià airplane 一架飞机  (yī jià fēijī) “an airplane”
sōu ship 一艘帆船 (yī sōu fānchuán) “a sailboat”
miǎo second 一秒钟 (yī miǎo zhōng) “one second”
fēn minute 一分钟 (yī fēnzhōng) “one minute”
tiān day 一天 (yī tiān) “one day”
day 一日 (yī rì) “one day” (used in literature and journalism)
zhōu week 一周 (yī zhōu) “one week” (used in literature and journalism)
nián year 一年 (yī nián) “one year”
dài era, generation 上一代 (shàng yīdài) “the previous generation”
unit 一个小时 (yīgè xiǎoshí) “one hour”
jīn unit of weight (~0.5 kg)
dūn unit of weight (ton)
bàng unit of weight (pound)
píng unit of area (~0.6 m2)
kuài monetary unit (1 yuan)
máo monetary unit (1/10 yuan)
an unspecified amount of money
cùn one inch (~1/30 m)
chǐ one foot (~1/3 m)
unit of distance (~0.5 km)
shēng     unit of volume (1 liter)
dòu     unit of volume (10 liter)
degree, level

The Beauty of Chinese Measure Words

One of the distinguishing features of the Chinese language is the importance and variety of measure words.  It is true that measure words can be found in English as well: for example, when we say a strand of hair or a head of cattle, these are considered measure words. But for the most part, they are needed only to specify a collection of things, such as a flock of sheep, or an uncountable quantity, such as a gust of wind.  But in Chinese, even single, countable objects require measure words, so that you cannot simply say “a flower”, “two people” or “five houses”.

The reason why measure words are so important in Chinese (and other Southeast Asian languages like Thai or Vietnamese) is because names of simple objects are typically words with one or two syllables, and so there are many homophone word pairs which are pronounced the same but having different meanings. The measure word serves as a kind of context that helps us to identify the meaning of the word that follows. Without measure words, the chance of misunderstanding what someone is saying becomes higher.

Chinese measure words can categorize the noun that follows it according to its function, shape, or some other property related to that noun.  In some cases, more than one measure word may be used for the same noun, and our choice depends on which characteristic we wish to emphasize.  With this in mind, “measure word” may not be the best label; we could also call them “specifiers”.

It’s difficult to count exactly how many there are — partly because most measure words also serve as other parts of speech.  Chinese often uses simple object or action names to count other objects with similar properties.  This construct can be observed in English as well, as with phrases like a slice of bread or a handful of salt. The Measure Word Dictionary, published by China Daily in Taiwan, contains over 420 measure words, and mentions that there are over 500 currently in use. (You can also check the measure words comparisons as well as more HSK4 related grammar tutorial videos at here.)

Since I am a big fan of learning by recognizing patterns, I compiled 115 frequently used measure words, grouped into sixteen logical categories.  There are seven that appear in two categories each. There is one, 场/場 (chǎng), which appears in three, and another one, 条/條(tiáo), which appears in four.  These categories will be presented in seven parts:

Author: Joe Varadi
Back To Top