I'm trying to figure out if you ever use 个 when describing distances or weight. For example, people say "十公里“ NOT "十个公里“ - right? does the same apply for weights? like 公斤?


No, in general, you shall not use 个 before a unit, no matter what the unit is used for (mass, length,area etc ). 个 is a counter/measure word in Chinese, one of whose functions is to count something, like a unit, so you don't need to put a unit before a unit. In some weird scenarios, you may use 个 before a unit.for example,

本文中有几个公斤? How many occurrences of "kilogram" in the article ?

Here, kilogram itself is treated as a common word instead of a unit.

  • Good explanation, but the example sounds artificial - in real life scenario it would be phrased differently to avoid any possible ambiguity, e.g. 本文中公斤一词出现了几次.
    – NS.X.
    Jul 28 '14 at 5:54
  • @ns.x Yes, it's constructed by me on purpose. That's why I say "weird".
    – Huang
    Jul 29 '14 at 14:05

Yes, in some special cases.

Formally, the construction should be numeral + quantifier + noun, such as:


If can be deduced from the context, it could be omitted:


And in spoken language, it could be transformed to an "odd" construction of numeral + quantifier + noun further, in which 公里 is regarded as a noun.


Here's another example:


Anyway, this usage is very limited, for example, you can use it for the quantifier , it's unnatural.

  • No. In Chinese we use quantifiers only before objects. And units can be used as quantifier. 几个公里 is ridiculous, which I never saw anyone use. But as to 一个平方, it's an exception. So is 一个立方. I don't suggest using these exceptions, which probably confuse Chinese learners.
    – Sean C.
    Jul 28 '14 at 4:19
  • @SeanC. I can't summarize the grammar explicitly and clearly even though I'm a native Chinese, all I can say is these exceptions exist in the Chinese, especially in spoken language. I know it probably confuse Chinese learners, I just want they know it is used by Chinese, and when they hear them somewhere they won't be confused.
    – user4072
    Jul 28 '14 at 4:30
  • @SeanC. BTW, you can find many samples of 几个公里 at Baidu. baidu.com/…
    – user4072
    Jul 28 '14 at 5:06
  • Usually we say "你今天打算跑多少公里?"
    – Henry HO
    Jul 28 '14 at 6:24

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