In the following sentence:


The sentence means:

"Ginza Bees Project" started in 2016. Now the roof of all three buildings in Ginza have the bees farms, and each has 200 to 300 thousands of bees.

In this sentence, the 只 is a measure word for 蜂蜜.

However, if you want to express it as "each has only 200 to 300 thousands of bees", can you still use 只? Or should you use a different word to express "only" in order to avoid the duplicate of 只 (or possibly the confusion as well)?

In this case, how should the whole sentence be if you add "only" in the sentence?

  • certainly, "has only" is 只有, so that "only has 200,000 to 300,000 bees" becomes 只(zhǐ)有20万至30万只(zhī)蜜蜂,(200 to 300 thousand bees)
    – user6065
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 21:37
  • @user6065 So that means it is no problem at all to use two 只 in one sentence? Or even though it is OK grammartically, is there any other considerations such as aesthetics?
    – Blaszard
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 21:40
  • 只, only is an adverb, therefore precedes a verb, it is hard to see how 只, only could be followed immediately by measure word 只, also they have different tones, anyhow the same characters with the same pronunciation often occur side by side, find 5 samples with 只只 ("only" emphasized at jukuu),
    – user6065
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 21:53
  • In the five examples in Jukuu for 只只, two are wrong (typo), int the other three it means "every (one)"
    – fefe
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 0:20
  • maybe user only looked at 1st: 1. has 这样的娃娃从来只只知道单纯和亲切... i.e. 只只 precedes verb 知道道,corresponding to "never known anything but", it does seem in remaining 4 只只 corresponds to "every", repeating measure word
    – user6065
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 4:19

3 Answers 3


"有20-30万蜜蜂" is a valid sentence in simplified Chinese. You just have to read the two 只 differently, because they have different meanings.

  • The first "只" in the sentence means "only" in both simplified and traditional Chinese and it is read as /zhi3/. (It can also be written as "祇" in traditional Chinese)

  • The second "只" in the sentence, is the simplified version of 隻 (classifier for certain animals) and it is read as /zhi1/

The sentence "有20-30万蜜蜂" is actually "有20-30萬蜜蜂" in traditional Chinese characters.

  • possibly duplicating comments
    – user6065
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 6:38
  • 我写答案时没看到你的答案里涉及了繁简体的问题。:)
    – Philipp
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 6:55
  • Is it OK in terms of aesthetics, if that kind of considerations exist in Chinese?
    – Blaszard
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 11:19
  • sound or image (书法)aesthetics ?The 2 只 are separated by 2 other characters, 4 digits and 1 hyphen, too close to sound or look beautiful? Some users originally (erroneously ?) thought OP may have been worried about 2 只 being next to each other (or just separated by digits), which however also is a common occurrence.
    – user6065
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 13:59

It is perfectly fine to use 各有20-30万蜜蜂。

Natives will not misunderstand or get confused.


Both previous answers (Tang Ho and fefe) are correct: the two words are not confused by native speakers if they stand in a context.

I’d like to add that 只 (adverb: only) and 只 (measure word) are two different words which happen to be written with the same simplified character, rather than one character which has two meanings. When spoken, they have different tones, although it would not be a problem even if they had the exact same sound: there are plenty of homophones in Chinese, and the context is unambiguous in most cases. In written, they same applies: the context (the position in the sentence) clarifies its meaning.

Also, these words are written with the same character in simplified characters only: using traditional characters, the adverb zhǐ is mostly written as 只 (or sometimes 衹, or some variant) wheras the measure word zh­ī is mostly written as 隻 (or, to add to the confusion, sometimes 只).

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