Articles in Mandarin Chinese

Updated:Sun, Oct 21, 2012 01:09 AM     Related:Chinese articles

There are no real Chinese articles, there is 这 zhè, but that actually means this. Definite and Indefinite Articles are not used in Chinese. In Chinese each noun needs a measure word.


In English articles are words that combine with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. Generally articles specify the grammatical definiteness of the noun. Examples are "the, a, and an". However that doesn't exist in Chinese.

There are no real articles in Chinese, there is 这 zhè, but that actually means this. As in 这本书zhè běn shū meaning this book. 本 běn is the measure word of 书 shū book. In English you cannot say: sugar, you have to say a lump of sugar, lump being the measure word, also a grain of salt, grain being the measure word. But there are only a few nouns in the English language which need such a quantity word. In Chinese each noun needs a measure word. Using the right measure word shows that you master the Chinese language, since finding the right measure word is quite some task. Chinese don’t always know the right measure word and they use the general quantity word 个 gè. The indefinite article can be translated as一些yī xiē but means some, some number of. Here are some examples:

English Articles

Chinese Articles

articles guān cí  - 冠词
the zhè,nà;nèi  - 这,那
a yī  -
one yī  -
some yī xiē  - 一些
few shǎo shù  - 少数
the book zhè běn shū  - 这本书
the books zhè xiē shū  - 这些书
a book yī běn shū  - 一本书
one book yī běn shū  - 一本书
some books yī xiē shū  - 一些书
few books hěn shǎo de jǐ;jī běn shū  - 很少的几本书

As you can see on the example above, the structure of no articles in Chinese takes a logical pattern.

Definite Article:

Unlike English, which has only one definite article “the", Mandarin does not have this word at all. You can say ‘this’ or ‘that’, ‘these’ or ‘those’, but not ‘the’.

Indefinite Article:

While we have (a / an / some) in English as indefinite articles, these words do not exist in Mandarin. To say ‘a book’ in Mandarin Chinese, you say ‘one book’.

Definite and Indefinite Articles are not used in Chinese, but you still need to know how to create sentences without them.




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