Measure words in English are words like “two bottles of water.” A measure word (also called "classifier") categorizes a noun when counting, and is indispensable in Mandarin Chinese. Mandarin Chinese is more nuanced than English in some aspects, the use of the measure words is definitely one of those. They are a bit more involved than their English counterparts, and many Chinese measure words have no English equivalent. Dictionaries normally include between 120 and 150 such words.
Measure words in Chinese follow this pattern:
Number + measure word + noun
For example, 两把椅子 (liǎngbǎ yǐzi) [two chairs], where the amount is 两 [two], the measure word is 把, and the noun is 椅子 [chair].
There are two parts of this post on measure words: Part 1 focuses on how to use a measure word before a noun (a noun refers to people and things, e.g., words like, “teacher,” “table,” and “water”); Part 2 focuses on the patterns of the 10 most common measure words for nouns in Mandarin Chinese and explores measure words for verbs.
Let’s dive in to find out the strategies for using measure words in Mandarin Chinese!