Three Ways to Express Plural Nouns in Chinese
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 dàngāo) [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
Liǎng běn xiǎoshuō.
Two (volumes of) novel.
Note： we use 兩 (两) [liǎng] instead of 二 (èr) for counting.
Sān bēi chéngzhī.
Three (glasses of) orange juice.
Shí liàng pǎochē.
Ten (pieces of) sports car.
Note: 輛 (辆) [liàng] is a specific counter for wheeled vehicles.
Besides, we can also use ambiguous noun quantifier to express plurality, such as 一點 (一点) [yī diǎn] – a little, 一些 (yī xiē) – a few/some, 幾 [几] (jǐ) – several, and so on.
Structure: Quantifier + Noun
Zhè shì wǒ de yīdiǎn xīnyì.
This is a little token for you.
Wǒ yǒu yīxiē xiǎngfǎ yào gàosù nǐ.
I have a few ideas to tell you.
Lǎoshī qǐng jǐ gè xuéshēng qù tā jiālǐ chī wǎnfàn.
The teacher invited several students to go to his house for dinner.
The Ultimate 們 [们] (men)
Remember how to construct plural pronouns in Chinese? Attach the word 們 [们] (men)! We can also add the suffix 們 [们] (men) behind the noun, as in 人們 [人们] (rén men) – people, 學生們 [学生们] (xué shēng men) – students, 朋友們 [朋友们] (péng yǒu men) – friends, etc. Examples:
Tā shòudàole rénmen de chēngzàn.
She has been praised by people.
Zhè shì xuéshēngmen zuì qídài de shǔjià.
This is the summer vacation that students are most looking forward to.
Tā tèbié xǐhuān hé péngyǒumen yīqǐ qù jiāoyóu.
He really likes to go for outing with his friends.
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