Measure Words

Unlike English, Cantonese has a series of “measure” words which follow a number and express the unit of object or action.   They vary depending on the type of object and action.  I have been unable to memories a lot of them and when in doubt use 個。 This is however grammatically incorrect but most people understand what I am trying to say.

The structure should be:

Number > Classifier > Object / Action



Here is a list of all of the measure words (numerical classifiers) which I can find in books on online:

廣東話

粵語

Description

go3

people, round objects, abstract things (ideas, questions etc)

gaa3

machines (with a wooden framework historically, eg. cars)

gin6

upper body clothing items

baau1

packet or parcel

gaan1

buildings & rooms

bun2

books & magazines

hap6

small box like objects (eg. a case)

zek3

animals, ships, and 1 thing of a pair

deoi3

paired objects (chopsticks, shoes etc)

tiu4

long & narrow objects such as streets

zoeng1

paper, cards, flat surfaces (tables etc)

zi1

cylindrical, ridged and thin objects (pencils etc)

bou6

machines such as mobile phones, sometimes cars

bui1

cup (or quantity which a cup will hold)

wun2

bowl (or quantity which a bowl will hold)

dip6

plate (or quantity which a plate will hold)

gun3

can (or quantity which a can will hold)

fan6

objects in a set

Sources of information: Cantodict and “Cantonese for Everyone” by Chow Bun Ching (its in Jyutping and well worth a read).

Examples of classifiers being used can be found here and here.

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