Mandarin Chinese measure words: never get them wrong again (2)

Pierre Cerchiaro | March 04, 2019 | | 0 Comments

In our previous article, we talked about how to use Chinese measure words to quantify nouns. Today, we will see how to use verbal measure words to quantify actions. In this article, we will teach you how to use the 5 most common ones.  

/!\ Warning /!\

  • If you haven't seen the first part of the measure words grammar article, click here.
  • This point of grammar fits intermediate students. 
  • When preceding a fourth-tone character, 一 yī is pronounced yí




Verb + ( le* or  guò**) + number + verbal measure word

* 了 le --> completed action maker

** 过 gùo --> experienced action maker


次 cì

In Mandarin Chinese, there are two ways of expressing "one/two/three ... time". The first way is 次 cì. It is the most used verbal classifier and helps you to express how many times you did something (regardless of whether or not it was completed).


我试了五次 / wǒ shì le wǔ cì / I tried five times

我吃过臭豆腐两次 / wǒ chī guò choùdòufu liǎng cì / I've eaten stinky tofu twice

我去过北京一次 / wǒ qù guò Běijīng yí cì / I've been to Beijing once



The second way to express how many times you did something is 遍 biàn. However, it is different from 次 cì. 遍 refers to the number of times an action has been completed, emphasizing the action's length and effort. 


请再说一遍 / qíng zài shuō yí biàn / Please say it again (please repeat it, I didn't get it)

你的文章我改了三遍 / gǎi le sān biàn / I revised your article three times (already! I don't want to revise it again)

这本书我看过两遍 / zhè gè kèwén wǒ kàn le liǎng biàn / I have read this book twice (already! I really love it)



趟 tàng is used to quantify trips, visitations, etc. 


我一天去了三趟邮局 / wǒ yītiān qù le sān tàng yóujú / I've been to the post office three time in one day

我去楼下五趟拿一些东西 / wǒ qù lóuxià wǔ tàng ná dōngxi / I went downstairs five times to pick up some things 

今天下午到我家来一趟 / jīntiān xiàwǔ dào wǒ jiā lái yí tàng / Come to my home this afternoon 



场 cháng is used to emphasize a length of an event taking place. 


昨天下了一场大雨 / zuótiān xià le yī cháng dàyǔ / Yesterday it was raining a lot (there was a bout of rain)

大干一场 / dàgàn yī chàng / Make an all-out effort (during a specific moment)

她害了一场大病 / tā hài le yī cháng dàbìng / She was seriously ill (lit. She suffered a long serious illness - for a specific moment)


It can be omitted if you don't feel the need to emphasize a specific moment:

昨天下了大雨 / Yesterday it was raining a lot 

大干 / Work energetically

她害了大病 / She was seriously ill



顿 dùn is used to express actions without repetitions. It usually refers to fights and is only used with “一”. A subject should be added between the verb and “一” to tell who received the actions. 


老师骂我一顿 / lǎoshī mà wǒ yí dùn / The teacher scolded me severely 

我爸爸昨天打我一顿 / wǒ bàba zuótiān dǎ wǒ yídùn / My dad gave me a severe beating


Here is some additional vocabulary to express "time"

每次 / měicì / Every time

上次 / shàngcì / Last time

下次 / xiàcì / Next time

第一次 / dìyícì / The first time

最后一次 / zuìhòu yí cì / The last time

再一次 / zài yí cì / One more time


Classifiers can seem complicated to learn since it doesn't exist in the English language. However, you can easily master them if you practice a lot.  Don't hesitate to try one free Chinese lesson offered by TutorABC Chinese qualified teachers. You'll get the chance to enjoy a customized lesson that suits your level and have the chance to finally improve your Mandarin skills from your own bedroom.

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Pierre Cerchiaro

Pierre Cerchiaro

Pierre Cerchiaro is a contributing writer at TutorABC Chinese. He is a French expat working in Taiwan and has had both studying experience in China and Taiwan. He is passionate about the Chinese language and is a foodaholic.

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