Lesson 24: Three Ways to Express Plural Nouns in Chinese

Office Space

Unlike English which adds ‘s/-es’ or Indonesian which reduplicate the nouns, Chinese does not modify the nouns to express plural nouns in Chinese. So, how do Chinese turn a noun from singular into a plural? Let’s find out the answer here!

Use the number along with the counters

In Chinese, we use counters between the number and a noun to do the counting. We could say both ‘three cakes’ and ‘three pieces of cakes’ in English. However, we can only use 三块蛋糕 (sān kuài dàn gāo) [literally meaning: three pieces of cake] in Chinese. We have to use the cake counter, 块 (kuài). In fact, these counters are very specific to what is being counted. One of the most commonly used counters in Chinese is 个 (ge).

Structure: Number + Counter + Noun

Examples:

两      本    小    说。

Liǎng běn xiǎo shuō.

Two (volumes of) novel.

Note: we use 两 [liǎng] instead of 二 (èr) for counting.

三   杯   橙     汁。

Sān bēi chéng zhī.

Three (glasses of) orange juice.

十   辆    跑  车。

Shí liàng pǎo chē.

Ten (pieces of) sports car.

Note: 辆 [liàng] is a specific counter for wheeled vehicles.

Using quantifiers

Besides, we can also use ambiguous noun quantifier to express plurality, such as 一点 [yī diǎn] – a little, 一些 (yī xiē) – a few/some, 几 (jǐ) – several, and so on.

Structure: Quantifier + Noun

Examples:

这    是 我 的 一 点  心  意。

Zhè shì wǒ de yī diǎn xīn yì.

This is a little token for you.

我   有  一 些   想   法  要  告  诉 你。

Wǒ yǒu yī xiē xiǎng fǎ yào gào sù nǐ.

I have a few ideas to tell you.

老    师   请  几个 学   生    去  他 家里 吃 晚 饭。

Lǎo shī qǐng jǐ gè xué shēng qù tā jiā lǐ chī wǎn fàn.

The teacher invited several students to go to his house for dinner.

The Ultimate 们 (men)

Remember how to construct plural pronouns in Chinese? Attach the word 们 (men)! We can also add the suffix 们 (men) behind the noun, as in 人们 (rén men) – people, 学生们 (xué shēng men) – students, 朋友们 (péng yǒu men) – friends, etc.

Examples:

她   受   到 了 人  们   的   称     赞。

Tā shòu dào le rén men de chēng zàn.

She has been praised by people.

这   是  学    生   们     最  期 待 的 暑 假。

Zhè shì xué shēng men zuì qí dài de shǔ jià.

This is the summer vacation that students are most looking forward to.

他 特别  喜 欢   和  朋    友   们   一 起 去 郊 游。

Tā tè bié xǐ huān hé péng yǒu men yī  qǐ qù jiāo yóu.

He really likes to go for outing with his friends.