I know in Ancient Chinese there often was no classifier. But sometimes I notice the same phenomenon in modern Chinese. Today I heard the sentence:


For which words is such a usage idiomatic? What decides when to omit the classifier?

  • what do you mean "no measure word"? Do you mean classifier like 名, 個, 位? As in "一名女子, 一個女人, 一位女士" – Tang Ho Mar 11 '18 at 11:17
  • @TangHo exactly! – Ludi Mar 11 '18 at 12:37
  • The sentence sounds like narrated – Jacob Mar 11 '18 at 13:48

IMO, 一女子 can mean "there's one woman", 有一名女子 or 某女子. The measure word can be omitted only when the number is one 一. We don't usually say 两女子,三女子, and we say 两名女子,三名女子 instead.

More examples: 一小孩 == 一个小孩; 一老人 == 一个老人; 买一玩具 == 买一个玩具;

However, I wouldn't suggest such omissions since the rule might not work very well for all the noun words. We'd better add the measure word and it will work all the time.

| improve this answer | |
  • it is seldom omitted when the number is not one, because there are words for that, namely 俩 and 仨, but not for one (that I can think of). – zypA13510 Mar 17 at 13:21

Usually we do not omit the classifiers. The sentence in your example, I guess, probably comes from a news title, where brevity matters so there may be omission of the classifiers. But it's also correct to replace it with 一名女子 in your example.

Also, omission can happen in oral Chinese. For example I may say, 饿死我了,我中午就吃了一苹果。(I'm starving, I only ate an apple for lunch.) In this case (oral language), I don't think there's any restriction on which classifiers are allowed to be omitted.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.