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.