Learning measure words right along with the nouns

Measure words are still quite a weak point in my learning I have to say. I am about to wrap up HSK 3, and while I am quite confident about vocabulary and grammar points, measure words are still a bit of a headache, especially spontaneous use of them without a lot of thinking.

When you learn German, you have to learn the definite article (der/die/das) right along with the noun. So when going through your vocab list you learn tree as “der Baum”, flower as “die Blume”, because you really need the gender. You need the gender even when you are not using the definite article, because otherwise you don’t know whether it is “ein schöner Blume” or “eine schöne Blume” (a beautiful flower).

In Chinese, you only need to know the measure word when you actually want to use it. You may, however, have memorized a noun through sentences that don’t need a measure word. For example, a text book sentence could be “开车去超市”, drive to the supermarket by car. You can easily access the words for car or supermarket in your memory. But if all of a sudden you need a measure word for them, like in: “I bought a new car” or “The are two supermarkets in the neighborhood”, you start thinking: What kind of word is it, what could the appropriate measure word be?

I think it would be wise to learn the measure words along with the nouns at all times. So a vocabulary list could have entries like “a car 一辆车”, “a supermarket 一家超市”, “a chopstick 一根筷子”, “a pair of chopsticks 一双筷子”. It would be a longer vocabulary list. But maybe those measure words would be more accessible to you when speaking if you had learned them that way.

As I have not done this from the beginning I am thinking of creating a list of all nouns from HSK 1-3 with measure words attached. Or maybe such a list already exists somewhere? I would appreciate any advice.


Yes that’s a good idea. The reason it is not done consistently especially for lower levels is to not overwhelm students. You have to battle tones, characters, grammar, pronunciation and vocab, adding measure all measure words would be too much.

Also to get quite well by with 个 most of the time.

Having said that, check Chinese Measure Words | 71 Most Common (+ FREE PDF, Video & Quiz)
It has some excellent graphics for measure words, explanations and a quiz too.

And of course the LTL grammar bank

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Bad habit but I mostly default to 个. My main aim really when speaking is to make sure locals can understand me. I’m fine making the odd grammatical error, so long as I got my point across - but that’s perhaps me being lazy!

个 is a saviour for us learners ultimately but I like the fact at that level you are looking to improve that.

My advice would be to grab 10 of the most commonly used in that article above and start utilising those in your daily speech. Then gradually add more. Soon enough you’ll have most of the topics covered.

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Try the classifier finder here Welcome to Dictplus - Classifiers (ce-dictplus.co.uk)

find words that use a specific classifier or find a classifier for a specific work, use meaning, pinyin or character to search.


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