From what I can tell, 一个年 is completely wrong because you can never use a classifier together with . The situation is different from a phrase like 一个朋友.

My question is: why? Is there a reason why is different from 朋友 like this? Are there other nouns which behave like ?

Or is really syntactically more like ? Is actually usable as a measure word? Can you for example say 一年时间 or 两年工作?

  • see any grammar: CCG:2.11 Missing measure words ...one possibility is that the noun itself may be a measure. E.g. 一个人,一人,e。g。一人船,一个星期、一星期,e。g。一星期假期,there is some ambiguity with temporal nouns, some are only nouns, some may be both nouns and measures, while others may be only used as measures: 一个小时,一小时,一个钟头,*一钟头,*一个天,一天,一个礼拜,*一礼拜,一周,一个周,一个月, 一月 (January),*一个年,一年
    – user6065
    Nov 20, 2017 at 21:25
  • also note 数词+名词短语做定语, e.g. 一人船, 四贴袋男用套装 chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/14657/…
    – user6065
    Nov 20, 2017 at 21:55
  • You may speak 一日/一天, 一星期/一个星期/一周/一个周, 一月(depending on context)/一个月, 一年, you may not speak 一个日/一个天, 一个年. The word 一月 would mean one month or January. If you say 这一月, it means this one month, or you may speak with second tone, , and stress the character 月, it means one month but not January. January reads as (first tone) yue (untoned).
    – xenophōn
    Nov 21, 2017 at 5:14

3 Answers 3


You cannot say 一个年, but you can say 一个年头

The difference between 年 and 年头 had been explained here Understanding 年頭 in context

Yes, 年 itself can be a classifier '一年时间' and '两年工夫' are both valid


As the other answers said, 年 is a measure word when it refers to 'year', i.e. 一年时间, 两年工作.

Well, when 年 is used as a noun, it specifically refers to the Spring Festival, 新年.

For example,

你在中国过了几个(新)年了? // How many Spring Festivals have you spent in China

这(一)个年怎么过 or 这(一)个新年怎么过 // How are we going to celebrate this Spring Festivals?

  • should be the accepted answer. Others failed to consider when 年 is a noun, 一个年 is correct.
    – jf328
    Nov 22, 2017 at 13:14
  • 年 may also means a monster, which is a noun
    – tsh
    Nov 24, 2017 at 7:57
  • 新年 is a countable noun, 年 is a short form of it. The correct phrasing should be "你在中国过了几个新年了", writing "你在中国过了几个年了 could be "你在中国过了几个年头了 ". In short, '年' being a noun only when it is the short form of either '新年' or '年头'. Finally, saying '一个年' is a short form of '一个年头' or '一个新年'-- people usually don't shorten these two phrases like that.
    – Tang Ho
    Nov 24, 2017 at 10:00
  • the noun 年 by itself doesn't take classifier,
    – Tang Ho
    Nov 24, 2017 at 10:10
  • @TangHo, 一个年 is usually short for 一个新年, but not 一个年头. 年头 should not be elided.
    – dan
    Nov 24, 2017 at 10:19

Because 年 is a count word or classifier. In our language it is called 量词. You can't use a count word to count another count word, like we never say 一个粒 or 一条只. But you use the double count words to express every, like 一年年 means every year.

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