Measure Words, Pint-Sized Powerhouses

Did you know that Chinese “recycles” the same 409 sounds repeatedly in all of its words? It’s true. That’s great news when it comes to mastering pronunciation. Master the 409 sounds, apply each of the five tones (yes, I said five, the four primary tones, plus the neutral tone), and you will instantly be able to pronounce every word that exists in the Chinese language. That’s awesome, right? Well, maybe.

Before we schedule the circus clowns for our celebration, we need to consider the sheer number of homophones present in Mandarin. The plethora of words that are pronounced the same, but have different meanings is mind-boggling. Thus, making Measure Words, pint-sized powerhouses. Measure Words provide the context necessary for your audience to know what subject you are discussing. Omit them and your listeners will be left scratching their heads in confusion.

Measure Words are nothing new. English has its fair share of them. Think “a piece” of paper, “a flock” of seagulls, “a bunch” of flowers, etc. Their importance, however, is much more significant in the Chinese language. You cannot simply translate, “an orange,” two knives,” or “five plates” word for word. In Chinese, all countable objects, even single ones, require Measure Words.

Don’t fret, however. Our Measure Words series will have you well on your way to speaking Mandarin properly, by including Measure Words. Current subjects include the Most Common Measure Words, Very Common Measure Words, Animals, Buildings and Structures, Clothing, Events, and Food. Several more lists are coming soon, so be sure to Subscribe to our Blog to be notified when new ones are posted.

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