Lesson 8: What do you want to buy?

你要买什么? Nǐ yāomǎi shénme


In today’s lesson, we will learn the measurement words in Chinese. Do you know what measurement words are? For example, when you want to say a fish in Chinese, you don’t say 一鱼 but you need to add a measurement word in between 一and 鱼. You need to add the measurement word 条to describe a fish in Chinese. The correct way to say a fish in Chinese is 一条鱼 tiáo yú.


Now that you have an idea what measurement words are, let us begin our lesson through the dialogue below. Zhang Yun is accompanying Wang Li to buy a birthday present for her mother. They are at a departmental store.


Zhang Yun:     Wang Li, what do you want to buy? (What are you looking for?)

Wang Li:             My mom’s birthday is coming soon, I am looking for a birthday present for her.

Zhang Yun:     Why don’t you buy her a dress?

Wang Li:         My mom does not like dresses.

Zhang Yun:     Well then, why not get her a handbag?

Wang Li:         Good suggestion.

Zhang Yun:     Let us go to the handbag department.

Wang Li:         Ok. Let’s go.

Zhang Yun:     How’s this one?

Wang Li:         Not bad. Let’s buy this one.


张云                王丽,你要买什么?

王丽                    我妈妈的生日快到了,我想买份生日礼物给她

张云                买条裙子怎样?

王丽                我妈妈不喜欢穿裙子

张云                那,买手提袋(皮包) 好了

王丽                好建议

张云                我们到皮包部门看看吧

王丽                好的。走吧!

张云                这个手提袋怎样?

王丽        不错。就买这个吧。


Zhāng yún       wáng lì, nǐ yāomǎi shénme?

Wáng lì            wǒ māma de shēngrì kuài dàole, wǒ xiǎng mǎi fèn shēngrì lǐwù gěi tā

Zhāng yún       mǎi tiáo qúnzi zěnyàng?

Wáng lì            wǒ māmā bù xǐhuan chuān qúnzi

Zhāng yún       nà, mǎi shǒutí dài (píbāo) hǎole

Wáng lì            hǎo jiànyì

Zhāng yún       wǒmen dào píbāo bùmén kànkan ba

Wáng lì            hǎo de. Zǒu ba!

Zhāng yún       zhège shǒutí dài zěnyàng?

Wáng lì            bùcuò. Jiù mǎi zhège ba.


Measurement words

Simplified Chinese PinYin English
Fèn Portion, share
Tiáo A piece
A pieces, a
Zhǐ A
Bēi Cup, glass


There are more than 500 measurement words in Chinese. For study purposes, we will just concentrate on those used in the dialogue and another 2 commonly used ones for this lesson. In the dialogue, Wang Li said she wants to buy a present for her mom, and the measurement word for birthday present is Fèn as I guess present is in terms of portion or a share. Other things which you will use Fèn are 一份早餐Yī fèn zǎocān one portion of breakfast,一份点心Yī fèn diǎnxīn one portion of dessert etc.


tiáo as mentioned in the dialogue is used to describe things that are long . You can use tiao to describe pants 一条裤子Yītiáo kùzi, snake 一条蛇 Yītiáo shé, fish 一条鱼 Yītiáo yú, scarf 一条围巾 Yītiáo wéijīn.


is a very commonly and widely used measurement word. It can use on many things. For example, when you want to say an apple, you say 一个苹果 Yīgè píngguǒ,

a nose 一个鼻子 Yīgè bízi, a person 一个人 Yīgè rén, an egg 一个鸡蛋 Yīgè jīdàn.


Zhǐ can be used to describe animals, body parts and accessories. For example, a dog一只狗 Yī zhǐ gǒu, a chicken一只鸡Yī zhǐ jī, a hand一只手 Yī zhī shǒu, a leg一只脚 Yī zhǐ jiǎo, an earring 一只耳环Yī zhǐ ěrhuán, a sock 一只袜子 Yī zhǐ wàzi.


杯Bēi is a measurement word for a cup/glass in English. For example, when you are asking for a cup or glass of water, you say 一杯水 Yībēi shuǐ, a cup of coffee 一杯咖啡 Yībēi kāfēi, a cup of tea 一杯茶 Yībēi chá


The keyword we would like to highlight in this lesson is the Chinese word 吧ba. The word 吧ba can be used in 3 different situations. Firstly, when you are commanding, requesting or making a suggestion, you can use the word 吧ba at the end of the sentence. For example, in the dialogue above, Zhang Yun suggest to Wang Li to go to the bag department, and she said我们到皮包部门看看.


Secondly, when someone said something and you are in agreement with him/her. For example, 好,我们就去那里 (Alright, let’s go there then).


Thirdly is when you are in doubt and not very sure of the answer. For example, 这不是你做的?(Is this done by you?).


The word 吧 is sometimes confused with the word 呢 and 啊.  We have explained how the words呢 and 啊 should be used in our previous lessons. Please refer to the previous lessons again if you are still not very sure how to use them correctly.


Measurement words are rather important in learning Chinese. As there are way too many for you to remember, we suggest that you concentrate on those common ones like ge, zhi, bei etc. And if really want to master them, you can also make flashcards of all the measurement words and memorize them accordingly. Good luck!


That’s is all the time we have for you today. Do remember to check back for more interesting Chinese lessons.

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