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Lesson Transcript


Hi, everybody! Olivia here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Cantonese questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: What are measure words?
You use measure words in Cantonese to specify which type of object you are talking about. Just as English says "A pair of shoes," or a "bottle of water."
Let's get into more details. Why and how do we use measure words or classifiers?
Since there is no plural or singular form in Chinese, using measure words can be used to more precisely define the quantity of objects.
To construct a phrase with measure words for counting, first start with the amount number (eg. 一 jat1 "one"), then the measure word (eg. 個 go3), followed by the noun (eg. 蛋糕 daan6 gou1). Altogether, we have 一個蛋糕 (jat1 go3 daan6 gou1) "one cake". Note that we CANNOT say it without the measure word, 一蛋糕 (jat1 daan6 gou1).
Following the same steps, "three cakes" in Cantonese is 三個蛋糕 (saam1 go3 daan6 gou1).
There are many measure words, but the most common measure word by far is 個 (go3).
If you find yourself in a situation where you can't remember the exact measure word, you can simply use 個(go3), and no one will think twice.
Are there rules or patterns in using measure words?
Yes, most of the nouns in the same category of shape, type, appearance, or usage have the same measure word. For example, upper body clothing including tops, shirts, t-shirts, and jackets all use the measure word 件 (gin6). And for clothing that you wear on the lower body, like pants, dresses, or leggings, the measure word is 條 (tiu4). For example: 一條裙 (jat1 tiu4 kwan4) "one dress".
For anything that comes in a pair, like shoes and gloves, we use 對 (deoi). Example: 一對鞋 (jat1 deoi3 haai4) "one pair of shoes". So sometimes you can guess the measure word based on items that fall in the same category.


How was it? Pretty interesting right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
"See you next time!", 下次見! (haa6 ci3 gin3!)


Please to leave a comment.
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CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Friday at 06:30 PM
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What Cantonese learning question do you have?

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Monday at 01:51 AM
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Hi Seb,

1. No. There're in fact many differences between the two set of measure words. Some are same character, different meaning. Some are different character, same meaning.


Using 道 [dou6], it is for door in Cantonese; a beam of light in Mandarin.

For fish, use 條 [tiu4] in Cantonese; use 尾 [mei5] in Mandarin.

2. Here is a lesson provided by Cantonese Class 101:


Here is a list prepared by Chinese University of Hong Kong but no English meaning is provided. If you need help translating, do let us know!



Team CantoneseClass101.com

Wednesday at 12:51 AM
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Hi team,

I have two questions:

1. Do Cantonese speakers use the same measure words as Putonghua speakers or more precisely, the same characters (obviously the pronunciation of these measure words are different)? I just want to know whether I have to learn new measure words once I start learning Putonghua.

2. Do you provide a list of the most common measure words on your site or could you recommend a web resource where to look them up (for Cantonese)?

Thank you!

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Thursday at 03:58 PM
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Hello mimi lowe,

Thanks for your question!

You can say 一吤麵包(jat1 kai2 min6 baau1) ~ a loaf of bread and a slice of bread. 😉


Team CantoneseClass101.com

mimi lowe
Sunday at 11:14 AM
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how do we say a loaf of bread and a slice of bread?