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I know that 东西 translates to "something" in english - so I was interested Can I both 一些东西 and 一点东西 be used? If so what are their differences in meaning?

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一些东西 refers to "some stuff" in a general sense. However 一点东西 is subtly different: because 一点 can mean either "some in a general sense" or "(only a) few", when you say 一点东西, the listener would probably feel you suggest "things are few". Thus I don't hear "一点东西" often. "这是我的一点心意" is a good example which shows the nuance. To be humble, native speakers prefer "一点心意" to "一些心意" here. – Stan Sep 1 '14 at 6:34

5 Answers 5

Yes, 一些东西 and 一点东西 are both OK. 一些东西 means something that the quantity can be either many or less, while 一点东西 means something but not many.

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You can say both, but they apply in different situations.

一些 means a small number of countable things. Use it when you would say "some" or "a few" in English.

For example:
一些蛋糕 "some cakes" is appropriate to talk about three or four cakes in the bakery window.
一些汽水 "some sodas" is appropriate to talk about a few cans of soda on the table.
一些自行车 "some bicycles" is appropriate to talk about some bicycles outside your school.

On the other hand, 一点 means a small amount or "a little bit" of a "mass noun".

For example:
一点蛋糕 "a little bit of cake" is appropriate to talk about a portion of a single cake.
一点汽水 "a little bit of soda" is appropriate to talk about how much is left in your glass.

The difference is very clear when you try to say 一点自行车 since a bicycle cannot be portioned out "a little bit" at a time.

tl;dr To make it easy to remember, if you can count how many you have (apples, kittens, phones, etc.) then use 一些, otherwise, go with 一点。


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Shouldn't it be 明白吗 or 明白了吗? in this context – Huangism Jan 8 at 19:33
@Huangism Nah, I used a Western-style question mark to indicate my application of an extended second tone, which, to the shock of many, is often used in place of a question marker. ;c) Academically, it needs a 吗, but the 了 is necessary for change of status here. Points for that catch. – Andrew Kozak Jan 9 at 2:36

一些means "some", but 一点 means "a little".

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In math, 一些東西 is more than 一點東西.

Just like "some" is more than "a little".

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Be careful with the assumptions you're making here. In English, "some" and "a little" are not well-defined. Asking someone for "some" water or "a little" water is likely to yield the same amount of liquid in your glass. Even saying "I'll have some more" versus "I'll have a little more" makes no difference. – Andrew Kozak Oct 19 '14 at 21:57
@AndrewKozak it is also the case in Chinese. Asking for 一些水 and 一点水 is also likely to yield the same amount of water. – Wang Dingwei Jan 8 at 1:03

I've been studying chinese for a couple of years and this is the most difficult subject I have bumped into with difference. It's like a stone in the road I can't jump over. All those answers are right in a superficial and practical level but implies a western approach to something far more complex.

Many natives have told me that chinese people don't make a distinction between countable or uncountable nouns, and that I should approach the subject of indefinite measure words with a chinese mind. 一点 doesn't always means "a little" of a mass noun. It can be used sometimes with countable nouns in english like for example "advice" (一点意见 = a few advices, not a little bit of advice) but we can't say 一点锚 (some cats). That would be incorrect. Which leads me to think that chinese DO really make a distinction between countable or uncountable things (ok, maybe this way of naming it is misleading as everything can be counted with it's appropriate number and classifier, let's called them common nouns VS material nouns, or individual nouns VS mass nouns, whatever...)

On the other hand, you say that 一些 means "a few", but it can also be used with things that for an english speaker would be mass nouns like sand, water, gold or rice, (like "a few waters!") in the same way we do with 一点. So, the boundaries between countable and uncountable nouns seem to be quite blurred and confusing and I still find some inconsistencies even when I try to think as a native chinese.

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