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I am learning very basic Chinese as part of a software project. I randomly chose the word "tree" as my go-to noun. However, it appears tree is pluralized in Chinese, even though it is said Chinese doesn't use plurals.

树木 (shùmù) trees
树 (shù) tree

It seems that 木 mù means wood. I don't understand what is happening here.

I thought that if I were to pluralize tree, I would say some equivalent of "many tree" or "tree many" or something, but I don't see that when searching around.

What am I missing?

I am trying to translate these sentences:

  • I see trees
  • I see the trees
  • I see the big red trees
  • I see many trees
  • I see both trees
  • I ... trees

But it doesn't seem to be following the pattern in intro Chinese grammar texts.

How should I be thinking about this?

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There is no plural form for the non-human Chinese nouns. 树 can be singular or plural. 树木 is a general term for trees (any tree; all trees)

To indicate tree in the plural form, you need to add plural counting words like 'two, few, some', or a plural pronoun like 'these, those'

一棵樹 - a tree

那棵樹 - that tree

幾棵樹 - a few trees

那些樹 - those trees

樹木 is a general term for trees. It refers to all trees in general. e.g. 樹木的歷史大概有 4.2億年 - The history of trees is about 420 million years

Similarly:

一隻野獸 - a wild animal

那隻野獸 - that animal

那些野獸 - those animals

幾隻野獸 - a few wild animals

野獸 - wild animals in general

  • I see trees - 我看到樹/ 我看到樹木
  • I see the trees - 我看到那些樹 / 我看到那些樹木
  • I see the big red trees - 我看到那些大紅樹
  • I see many trees - 我看見很多樹/ 我看見很多樹木
  • I see both trees - 兩棵樹我都看到了

There is no plural form for the non-human Chinese nouns, but for a human noun, you can add 們, as in 人們,醫生們,士兵們 (people, doctors, soldiers)

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