For context, this is from lesson eight of Integrated Chinese.

I know 李友的 means "Li You's" and 一篇日记 is "a/one dictionary", but 李友的一篇日记 together doesn't make sense to me.

Is it just a casual usage of a counter, or does it mean something like "an entry/article from Li You's diary"?

5 Answers 5



You already know the first portion, lets break down the rest.

一篇 measure word for in this case a piece of writing/article etc.

日记 I understand the confusion but this term does not mean diary. it is an entry in a daily log. In this case the entry is a diary section, but the same term could be used for tracking repeating events daily, or scientific experiment recording, and so on.

That said, because there is no plural in Chinese, referring to the full collection of all entries is also 日记.

As long as you treat it like any other noun in that sense you should avoid confusion: remember that it usually defaults to the singular (entry here), unless context or additional words (like 本、簿、賬 here) say otherwise. The use of 一 with the measure word is also helpful context of it being singular.

  • So, just to get this straight in my head. 日记 means a diary entry as well as the collection of diary entries that makes “a diary” in English (or other daily log). 篇 is used when in reference to the entry, while 本 to a collection of entries encased in a book.
    – Tosaku
    Dec 6, 2022 at 9:00
  • 1
    @Tosaku if you are putting it straight being technical may be best: 日記 is daily entry or daily entries. I am not aware of an actual word specifically for diary, it is just a type of daily entry (of the writer's emotions/experiences etc.) In chinese you can simply say "I put the daily entries on my desk" or you could say "I put the daily entries book on my desk". This would be the comparison of with or without 本 etc. Both can equivalate to diary in english with context. Subtle changes to meaning with word choice but context should be clear.
    – zagrycha
    Dec 7, 2022 at 6:13

In a diary, the topic and contents change every day, you won't quote the entire diary but a piece of it. This piece usually contains, and conveys a meaningful story/event that equates to 一篇文章 (a short article, or an essay, on a book, magazine, or diary). 李友的一篇日记 indicates "an article/essay originated from 李友's dairy".

  • So what if I wanted to say 1 diary. As in, “he has one diary on his shelf”, what counter would I use.
    – Tosaku
    Dec 6, 2022 at 4:25
  • A diary is counted the same as a book, the quantifier is "本". “he has one diary on his shelf” - 他有"一本"日記在他的書櫃上.
    – r13
    Dec 6, 2022 at 13:33
  • Two more examples: 這"本"日記不是他的 (This diary is not his). 一年中他寫滿了三"本"日記 (He filled up three diaries in a year).
    – r13
    Dec 6, 2022 at 14:01

The answer of your question is: 李友的一篇日记 means a piece of 李友's diary of a certain day. In Chinese, if only refers 日记 without any count, it is plural 日记 which has almost the same meaning with English: "a book in which you can write down the experiences you have each day, your private thoughts, etc." (from Oxford dictionary). If there is a count in front like "一篇日记", the "日记" here after the "一篇" means a piece of the diary of a certain day.

By the way, 日记 is not equal to "diary". Diary means all the 日记 of a people, whereas 日记 means a piece of diary of a certain day. You can treat diary as plural of 日记. Most Chinese words have no plural conversions, but if do, you can treat "diary" as "日记s" (no such usage, just for understanding).


李友的一篇日记:an entry from Li You’s journal.

The main difference between journal and diary is that a journal is a personal record where you can pen your thoughts, observations, and experiences, while a diary is a book where you note down important things to keep track of them. Journals and diaries are books where you can keep a record of events and experiences.

So the longer and more detailed is the piece of writing when “thoughts,observations and experiences” are included, the more likely it would be a journal entry rather than a diary entry, the main purpose of which would be to “keep track of events”.


Looks like he is a serial diary writer:

One of Li You's diaries

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