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Measure Words 數量詞

Measure words are also called classifiers.
See also Numbers.

go3 (the most common of all measure words) for people; for medium-sized, round objects like fruit, bowls, plates and buns; for countries and regions; for abstract nouns like questions, ideas and decisions; for many things that are not easily categorized like drawers and screw drivers
bou6 for books and magazines
bui1 glass, cup
bun2 for books and magazines
döü3 pair, couple
dzek3 for mammals, birds and insects; for utensils; for some parts of the body like hands and legs; for boats
dzi1 for slender, long and stiff objects such as pens, pencils, flowers, sticks; for songs, music; for armies, navies
dzön1 bottle
dzœng1 for flat things like papers, documents, dollar bills, swords, knives, CDs and records; for furniture like tables and chairs
fai3 slice, piece, lump
ga3 for cars, vehicles, planes; for devices like computers, TVs and stereos
lAp1 for very small things like grains of cereal, sand, cloves of garlic, diamonds, beads, stars
po1 for plants, trees and vegetables
sAu2 for songs
tiu4 for long objects like ribbons, tapes, strings, ties, loaves of bread; for hair, feathers, bones; for keys, roads, fish and reptiles; rude or slang for people
tsöt1 齣  for movies and plays
wAi2 for people in polite speech

What is a measure word?

In English, there are some words we must count in units:

Note that it is impossible or ungrammatical to say something like "two news" or "four breads".

In Cantonese, nearly all words work this way. We must use a special counting unit before them. For example:

three people sam1 go3 yAn4
four dogs sei3 dzek3 gAu2
two loaves of bread lœng5 tiu4 min6 bau1

Whenever you learn new vocabulary, it is a good idea to also learn the associated measure word (MW) with it. For example:

person  人  yAn4 (MW: 個 go3)

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