I've seen many times that some nouns are used with and without measure words. Is it optional to use measure words with certain words?

The most notable ones I have come across,

  1. 星期



Is the measure word 个 before the word 星期 optional?

  1. 小时


I guess, I've seen the word 小时 with the measure word 个 somewhere else. Is it optional to use 个 before 小时?

  1. And the last one, which one is correct? Or, Are they both correct?

a.很多人 b.很多个人

Finally, is there a so-called "optional measure word" in Chinese?

  • Perhaps, you can call it omission.
    – dan
    Feb 17, 2022 at 8:51

5 Answers 5


In general, "個" should not be used when addressing/counting finite date and time, with the exception of "hour" and "week".

Mutually acceptable uses of 個:

  • One hour: 一小時 or 一個小時

  • One week: 一星期 or 一個星期

Problematic use of 個:

  • One month: 一個月 not equal to 一月 (January)

  • One year: 一年 not equal to (一個年)

Examples of other correct and (incorrect) use of 個:

  • One day: 一天. (Incorrect usage: 一個天)

  • One day: 一日. (Incorrect usage: 一個日)

  • One quarter (time): 一刻鍾. (Incorrect usage: 一個刻鍾)

  • One minute: 一分鍾. (Incorrect usage: 一個分鍾)

  • One second: 一秒鍾. (Incorrect usage: 一個秒鍾)

  • One moment: (等)一下, (等)一會. (Incorrect usage: 等一個下, 等一個會)

For all other cases, 個 can't be dropped for things that are number specific, such as "兩個蘋果", "一個傻瓜", "一個主意". On the other hand, for things of non-specific quantity, 個 is usually optional, for example - "很多蘋果/傻瓜/主意 = 很多蘋果傻瓜/主意". From this logic, the answer to your last question is "a.很多人 = b.很多个人.

  • Please note that even though it's common to say 两个苹果,一个主意,it's also fairly common to say, esp., colloquially, 俩苹果,一主意。See my answer below. A natural language is rarely always solely determined by textbook-rules, but often with "exception" (w.r.t., the so-called "rules" from textbooks), for good reasons.
    – ALife
    Feb 21, 2022 at 1:51

I'd like to point out a "mistake" that multiple answers have regarding the omission of 个。

Colloquially, or sometime in literature/novels in informal occasions, all of the following phrases can have their 个 omitted:

  1. 一个错误 (e.g.这儿有一错误)
  2. 一个人 (e.g.那儿有一人)
  3. 一个主意 (e.g.我有一主意)

there are also many other similar examples.

I'd like to emphasize that this is probably not the standard/official use, in the sense that in an official news program/newspaper (such as CCTV 新闻联播,中央人民广播电台 新闻和报纸摘要,人民日报 etc.) -- I do not remember any of such occasions unless they were referring to other speakers' words, but it's very very commonly spoken, esp., in Beijing -- if you live there you would probably hear such usage everyday.

Given the special status of Beijing and Beijing dialect (although it is not exactly the same as 普通话) and their influence on 普通话, it would be certainly an advantage to know such usage, if you want to learn how the people in mainland China actually speak, not just what the textbook/dictionary says.


1 and 2, 个 is optional. And since it is optional, it is normally omitted.

For 3, there is a slight difference . 很多人 emphasizes on the whole, while 很多个人 emphasizes on individuals. In real writings (without comparison between the 2 forms), the difference is hardly noticeable.


In general, measure words is omitted before -

  1. words meaning a period of time (e.g. 三秒,一小时,十天,两星期,三年; Note: 月 is a little different as for example 三月 = March and therefore the measure word must retain,e.g. three months = 三个月). The same applies to 'last/next + a period of time' (e.g. 上一秒,下一小时,明天,上星期,下月,去年).

  2. units (e.g. 一米,一公里,一平方)

Measure words can also be omitted after words meaning many/much such as “很多,好多,许多” (e.g. 好多人,地上有很多水,许多问题需要解决).


In your cases, "个" can be omitted. However, it's not always correct.

For example, the "个" in 一个错误 cannot be omitted.

If you're not sure, I suggest not omitting it.

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