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Say It Right Series

When and when not to use measure words?

Posted by doodlemonster December 18, 2009 in the Group General Discussion.

I know you would have to use a measure word if you wanted to say something like "I have two pieces of cake" - "我有两块糕" but that kind of example speaks for itself; ie: when we use an "English measure word" (such as "piece" of news, "slice" of bread") you would have to use a Chinese measure word. I totally understand the idea that Chinese measure words do not have direct translations or equivalents in English but I think it's fair to say when you use a measure word (of sorts) in English, you need one in Chinese. Although having said that, it's clear that Chinese uses far more measure words than English does.

So how do we know when to use a measure word in Chinese? I know they come before nouns, but are they always before every noun? That's what I'm getting at. How do I know whether or not I should put a measure word in? Eg: 他吃汉堡包 doesn't use a measure word but 我喜欢巧克力 does. So what is the difference?! On the internet, I found this statement:

"Chinese measure words must be used whenever the noun is used with a numeral or after 'this' or 'that'."

How true is that? Are there exceptions? If it's true, it might just meet another one of my needs of wanting a rule for ever grammar 'subject'! hehe

Emma ^.^

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