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The measure word of 饭 is 顿 and 碗. But what is the difference between the two and how should I classify them?

At first I thought 一碗饭 means a plate of food, for example if you have rice and chicken, they are considered 两碗饭, while 一顿饭 is the entire meal, so no matter how many plates are on the table, it is considered 一顿饭.

But is my intuition correct or otherwise how can I differentiate them?

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Your intuition is correct.「頓」and also「餐」are measure word for meals, while「碗」is a measure word for bowls (of rice).

Since「飯」refers to both meal and cooked rice, the statement of how much you ate is inferred from the measure word.


To add: I would suggest that「碗」does not really refer to plate of food, as Chinese does not present meals that way. The western notion of plates of food should be measured by「份」(a share; portion) or「盤」(tray; plate; dish). These two are also used to count Chinese dishes.

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  • Ah, yes, I did not think carefully... it should be 份, thanks! – Blaszard Oct 28 '18 at 6:18
  • @Blaszard The character 饭/飯 refers to meal only, not cooked rice. Since noodles and cooked wheaten foods are the main staple foods in northern and western China, we say 饭 for general meal while 米 or 米饭/米飯 for cooked rice. Instead, rice is the main staple foods in southern and western China, they say 饭/飯 for cooked rice while 面/麵 or 吃面/吃麵 for noodles. So this is just a matter of living habits. The character 饭/飯 represents different meanings in different places by default. It just like that 蛋 represents for 鸡蛋 generally, you could not consider that 蛋 means 鸡蛋. – xenophōn Mar 12 '19 at 15:14
  • I made a mistake, rice is the main staple foods in southern and eastern China. So, 一碗饭 may means a bowl of rice in southern and eastern China, also means a bowl of noodle in northern and western China, while 一顿饭 means a meal. – xenophōn Mar 12 '19 at 15:25
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At first I thought 一碗饭 means a plate of food, for example if you have rice and chicken, they are considered 两碗饭

You are not quite right. 一碗饭 or 一碗米饭 just means a bowl of rice. 两碗饭 means two bowls of rice, not one rice and one chicken.

一顿饭 is just one meal in English.

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