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Counting Things in Chinese - Dongxi

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Counting Things Dongxi (Dohng-she) 东西

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  Counting Things Dongxi (Dohng-she) 东西

The Chinese language uses special indicators, or “measure words,” for counting things, based on what they are – people, flat things, round things, animals, fish, etc. There are over a dozen such terms, so keeping them straight, and using them properly, can be a problem for the beginner.

However, the most common of these indicators, ge (guh), can be used when you are uncertain about which one to use. The “measure words” go between the numbers and the nouns to apply to. Here is a list of the most common ones:

Ben (bern)

Used when counting books

Ci (tsu)

Used when counting the number of times something occurs

Ke (ker)

Used when counting trees

Suo (swoh)

Used when counting of buildings and houses

Tiao (teow)

Used when counting large, long, slender objects like telephone poles

Zhi (jr)

Used when counting small, round objects like pencils and sticks

Zhang (jahng)

Used when counting flat things like pieces of paper

Wan (wahn)

Used when referring to bowls and things that come in bowls


Used when counting bottles and bottled things

Kuai (kwie)

Used when referring to money

Bei (bay)

Used when counting glasses of water, etc

Two bottles of beer
Liang-ping pijiu (lee-ahng-peeng pee-jeo) 两瓶啤酒

Three glasses of water
San-bei shui (sahn-bay shway) 三杯水

Two hamburgers
Liang-ge hanbaobao (lee-ahng-guh hahn-bow-bow) 两个汉堡包

One book
Yi-ben shu (ee-bern shoo) 一本书

Two sheets of paper
Liang-zhang zhi (lee-ahng-jahng jr) 两张纸         

I have three books
Wo you san-ben shu (woh you sahn-bern shoo) 我有三本书

Please give me one sheet of paper
Qing gei wo yi-zhang zhi (Cheeng gay woh ee-jahng jr) 请给我一张纸

Two glasses of water, please
Qing gei liang-bei shui (Cheeng gay lee-ahng-bay shway) 请给两杯水

One hamburger, please
Qing gei yi-ge hanbaobao (Cheeng gay ee-guh hahn-bow-bow) 请给一个汉堡包

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