How to use plurals in Chinese the right way
You might have noticed some Chinese people have trouble using the plural form of English nouns. This is because Chinese grammar is different; nouns in the Chinese language never change form. Here are the most common ways on how to use plurals in Chinese, to denote two or more of something.
1: Add “们” to indicate a plural
Use 们 (men) after pronouns or nouns that refer to people.
- Other nouns：老师们，学生们，老人们，妈妈们
However, there are some exceptions:
- “您们” and “谁们” are not correct. There is still controversy about “您们”. It’s better not to use it.
- When preceded by numbers, nouns cannot be followed by 们
- 五个学生们 (✖ WRONG)
- 们 can be used in the personification of something non-human e.g. animals or plants.
- 小狗们喜欢玩游戏 (Xiǎogǒumen zuì xǐhuan wán yóuxì – Puppies like playing games)
- 花儿们在风中跳舞 (Huārmen zài fēngzhōng tiàowǔ – Flowers are dancing in the wind)
2: Use a measure word to indicate a plural
Below are three situations where the number + measure word + noun structure is used for plurals in Chinese.
1: More than one of a noun
Any time you know the quantity of a noun and the quantity is more than one you can use this structure: Number (>1) + normal measure word + noun.
- 三只狗 (sānzhī gǒu – Three dogs)
- 五个杯子 (wǔgè bēizi – Five cups)
- 六杯啤酒 (liùbēi píjiǔ – Six glasses of beer)
2: A special quantity of a noun
Sometimes you might need to refer to one of a special quantity of a noun (ie. pairs, dozens, several, batch, etc.). In these cases, you can use a special measure word. These are some special measure words, which can denote a defined or undefined quantity that follows this structure: 一 + special measure word + noun
双 shuāng / 对 duì – pair双手 (yìshuāng shǒu – A pair of hands)
- 对花瓶 (yíduì huāpíng – A pair of vases)
些 xiē – several
- 些书 (yìxiē shū – Several books)
打 dǎ – dozen
- 打啤酒 (yìdǎ píjiǔ – A dozen of beer)
批 pī – batch
- 批货物 (yìpī huòwù – A batch of goods)
群 qún – group
- 群鸭子 (yìqún yāzi – A group of ducks)
3: An ambiguous quantity
If you don’t know the specific quantity, you can use ambiguous number words. When using an ambiguous number follow the following structure: ambiguous number word + measure word + noun.
- 几 (jǐ – Several)
- 几家很好的饭店 (jǐjiā hěn hǎochī de fàndiàn – Several good restaurants)
- 很多 (hěnduō – Many, a lot)
- 很多（间）教室 (hěnduō (jiān) jiàoshì – Many classrooms)
- 不少 (bùshǎo – Many, not few)
- 不少学生 (bùshǎo xuésheng – Many students)
- 数 (shù – Several)
- 数月不见 (shùyuè bújiàn – Haven’t met for several months)
That’s how to use plurals in Chinese the right way! Learn further? Subscribe to GoEast Mandarin’s YouTube channel here.