So in a recent answer someone told me:

预言 here most likely is not plural - hence the whole 的大

Which brings to mind a question about other ways of determining plurality. Certainly I've heard of using 們 as in 他們 and I know that 的 acts as a possessive and plurality is then based on the subject (n.)的...

Are there other common plurality indicators?

4 Answers 4


Interestingly the ways to identify plurality in Chinese are almost the same as in English only except the noun itself doesn't change its form.

  • Count word larger than one: 只老虎 (two tigers)

  • Collective measure word: 一啤酒 (a dozen of beer)

  • Collective noun (grammatically singular, semantically singular or plural depending on the context): 狼 (wolf pack)

  • Degree adverb pertaining to quantity: 很多书 (many books)

  • Degree adverb that implies plurality: 所有证据 (all the evidences)

  • Plural suffix: 小朋友 (the kids)


I figured this deserved more than a comment.

Another big indicator of plurality would be - 都 means: all - so obviously it can't be all of one.

...孩子都... all the kids

...老虎都... all the tigers

...啤酒都... all the beers

  • 都 can be used singularly: 我都不同意。我哪里都不去。
    – user4452
    Aug 26, 2014 at 5:10
  • Dang, you're right! Is there a better way to word this?
    – Mou某
    Aug 26, 2014 at 6:59

Sure, numerals:

  • 两个孩子
  • 三个老虎
  • 四个城市
  • 五件衣服
  • 六挺机枪
  • 七位女性
  • 十万个为什么
  • That's good information, am I missing any other types of plurality?
    – Tommie C.
    Aug 25, 2014 at 17:51

In English we have 's' at the back of the noun to identify it's plural or singular, however it's not apply to Chinese, with the noun itself, we can't tell. So we have to add the quantifier to show it's plural when it come to many.

For quantifier, it should be something like 两个,三间,四条,五把 and etc, measure-words would be the 个, 间, 条, 把 and etc.

In English, we just use one car, but in Chinese, we need to add the measure-words : 一辆汽车, different object will have different measure-words.

Certain measure-words do define the quantity like 一双,(a pair of) 一打(a dozen), 一排(a row of) but not all of them.

So what I mean is with the word cars, we can tell it's multiple cars. However we do not have something like 汽车s

  • I've heard of measure-words, is this the same thing as the quantifier? Would you be able to give one or two examples? If they are not the same could you explain the difference a bit?
    – Tommie C.
    Aug 26, 2014 at 5:06
  • @TommieC., updated my answer with the example
    – ah_hau
    Aug 26, 2014 at 5:20

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