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I read somewhere that in order to express "over a number of things/people" we can use this pattern: (multiples of ten)+几+classifier+noun like 十几个人:more than ten people (less than 20) However, somewhere else I came across this pattern 几+十+classifier+noun The sequence of 十 and 几 are exactly reversed in these two patterns. I wonder if these two patterns have the same meaning or not?

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十 means 10, 几 means a few( less than 10 usually ). So 十几 means 10 + a few which indicates the number is 10+ but < 20. 几十 is a few of 10s so it is a multiple of 10, usually < 100 and definitely > 20.

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    几十 >= 20 not > 20
    – xenophōn
    Sep 1 at 8:21
  • @xenophōn but people will just say 20 when it is exactly 20 :) Sep 1 at 14:43
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十几个人 = 10 <= x <= 19

几十个人 = x > 20

So the latter has more people.

Generally, the 几 in the word means that this number can be chosen arbitrarily from all numbers greater then 2, so 几百个人 is 200-999 people.

If you just want to express that there are a lot of people, then you usually put 几 in front to show there is more.

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    Feel like 几 usually indicates >= 2... Aug 25 at 14:48
  • 2
    Yep, sorry my bad. (Actually I am a native Chinese, how on earth did I make that mistake??)
    – Shu Shang
    Aug 25 at 14:49
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My answer might not be how teachers would explain this typically, but here it is..

When you ask someone 這東西有幾個(几个)?, you can think of 幾(几) as a character that represents the uncertainty of counts.

So for "這東西有幾個", you can view it as "這東西有?個"

Same rule applies to your question:
幾十個 -> ?十個 -> ?0, so it implies you have at least >19
十幾個 -> 十?個 -> 1?, so it implies you have 11~19

幾百個 -> ?00, implies you have at least >100
幾千個 -> ?000, implies you have at least >1000

Same rule also applies when you want to answer:
五十幾個 -> 5? -> 51~59
^ This however only makes sense if the count is under a hundred.
If more than a hundred, then we typically use 多:
五十多個 = 50+
兩百多個 = 200+
兩百幾個 would not make sense

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