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?

3 Answers 3


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.

  • 1
    几十 >= 20 not > 20
    – xenophōn
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 8:21
  • 1
    @xenophōn but people will just say 20 when it is exactly 20 :) Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 14:43
  • 1
    Native Chinese goes for the idea that 几 is usually larger than 2, it is the same as several, you use it when you not sure or don't want to bother with the actual number, but one can always put a finger on it when the number is precisely 2.
    – Li Wang
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 6:00

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.

  • 1
    Feel like 几 usually indicates >= 2... Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 14:48
  • 2
    Yep, sorry my bad. (Actually I am a native Chinese, how on earth did I make that mistake??)
    – Lily White
    Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 14:49

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

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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