I saw two versions of a sentence "He is a teacher":

他是老师。 VS 他是一个老师。

After googling I've become even more confused by versions:

他是一位老师。 AND 他是一名老师。

Are they actually different? What is the difference? Is it possible to use these ‘一什么什么’ in questions?


Found one more version:


Which is said to be informal at this link.

  • 1
    他是一泡老师 -or- 他是一尊老师 for comedic effect.
    – Mou某
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 12:52
  • @user3306356 , "他是一尊老师" this is a nice example :) Commented May 27, 2019 at 8:23
  • There's also 他当老师.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 11:03

2 Answers 2


In English, an article such as "a", "an", "the" is essential element before a countable noun. In Chinese it is optional.

Comparing "He is a teacher" with "他是老師". 他/He implies there is one person. "a" is redundant.

In "他是一位老師" and "他是一名老師", "一位" and "一名" is a kind of respect to a teacher. 位 means position and rank. 名 means famed. In the old days, Chinese showed their high respect to teachers.

"一個" is a common measuring word. Saying "他是一個老師" is like treating a teacher as a common object or a common person.

In practical, 一 is redundant and people often say "他是位老師" and "他是名老師". So do "他是個老師".

In Classical Chinese, we can writing "他是一老師" if we emphasize it it "one".


Concerning your two example sentences, I believe that the difference is a matter of respect.

  • 名 : a person or a member of a group
  • 位 : a person (showing respect)

Aside from that there should not be any difference.

Source: http://www.ctcfl.ox.ac.uk/Grammar%20exercises/Measure%20words.htm

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