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In Chinese, using "们" after a noun is, in some sense, equivalent to adding an "s" after an English word. Yet I find the rules in Chinese of using 们 to be very puzzling; I am a native speaker yet I couldn't figure this out when a good friend of mine asked me when to use 们 and when not to.

I can come up with a few examples:

我每天和我的同学**们**一起写作业。

Looks like a 们 is needed in this case. Yet, in

我有很多要好的同学。

...it sounds awkward if there is a 们 after 同学.

If anyone could come up with a rule that's easy to follow and applies to most cases, that would be very helpful, especially to non-native speakers like my friend.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted
  • 们 can only be used for pronouns and human nouns, as in 女士们 and 同事们, not for things or animals. 猫们 for cats, or 车们 for cars, are not valid.
  • 们 cannot be used in conjunction with measure words. 我跟孩子们做作业 is fine, but 三个孩子们做作业 is not; the last example reduces to 三个孩子做作业.

I am not aware of any definite rule pertaining to your example. 最坏的朋友们 and 我和我的同学们 are two movie titles, and you can just search for "很多的同学们" for more examples. I would agree that you more often than not omit 们 in such a case, though.

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I am accepting this answer as it presents more valid points (pronoun/human nouns only, omit when there is other measure words, no definite rules). –  jiehanzheng May 5 at 5:14
    
In children's tales, 们 can be used after animals or things, when animals or things are personified. –  孤影萍踪 May 5 at 23:40
1  
们 is used for plurals, but we don't use 们 when the plural has been expressed already. Like 三个朋友,it is plural already, so we don't say 三个朋友们. Another example: 人民, it is a collective noun showing plural already, so we don't say 人民们 (Note: in the word 人们, 们 is not for plural). For 我的同学, it can mean both singular or plural, so in this case saying 我的同学们 is ok. –  孤影萍踪 May 5 at 23:47

Here's a short explanation:

们 is used after pronoun and personal noun to indicate plurality, but if numeral-classifier compound or words indicating plurality have been added ahead, no need to use 们 again. For example, you can't say:

三个孩子们

许多老师们

很多同学们

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1  
A search yields millions of instances of 许多老师们, for instance: media.people.com.cn/GB/22114/45733/193275/11805739.html 许多老师们已经体会到这种角色的转变,并且已经开始这样做了。 The same goes for 很多同学们: edu.people.com.cn/n/2014/0219/c1053-24402382.html 很多同学们向他请教了制作简历、回答考官问题、银行招聘需求等问题,徐行都给予了耐心的回答。 While the numeral-classifier case is a strict rule, I would argue that it is more a matter of style for imprecise quantifiers like 一些, 许多 and so on. –  倪阔乐 May 4 at 3:16
    
@倪阔乐 It seems that it's not an absolute rule. You can add 们 is some case at modern Chinese. See here:wenku.baidu.com/view/8c57cc7101f69e3143329455.html. Anyway, 许多老师们 is weird to me. –  songyuanyao May 4 at 3:39
3  
@倪阔乐 许多老师们 is an incorrect usage that simply imitates English grammar in Chinese sentences. It's unnatural and weird. Unfortunately many people have not realized that this kind of translationese is wrong –  Rephinx May 4 at 7:36

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