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How to order the food and drinks

Are you accustomed to using measure words now?
Li Hui: Amy, I’m so starving. Shall we order takeout in phone now?
Li Yameng: Sure, why not?
Li Hui: Wait! Wǒmen yào liǎngfèn niúròu, yífèn yángròu, liǎngfèn shēngcài, yífèn bōcài, yífèn tǔdòu piàn, Right?
Li Yameng: Right. When you want to order something, you can just say “wǒ yào”. Here “yào” means “want something”. After it, we will use noun like food or drink. In restaurant or store, if you want to be more polite, you can also say “wǒ xiǎng yào”. Do you remember “xiǎng”? It means “would like to do”.
Li Hui: There is a word between the number and the noun. Amy, could you please tell us what it is?
Li Yameng: Sure. That is called measure word. Chinese always use a measure word for noun with a number, which is a very special language phenomenon in Chinese.
Li Hui: Yeah, right. There are different measure words for different kinds of nouns. Many of my foreign students complain that it’s very difficult to learn measure words.
Li Yameng: Don’t worry. There are some rules about measure words to follow.
Li Hui: “fèn” is a measure word for an order of something, like “yífèn niúròu”, “yífèn yángròu”, “yífèn chǎofàn”.
If the food is put in the bowls, we use “wǎn”, which means “bowl”, like “yìwǎn mǐfàn”, “yìwǎn miàntiáo”.
If it is some liquid, then the measure word comes from the container. For example, “yìbēi chá”. Here, “bēi” means “bēizi”, “cup” or “glass”. “chá” means “tea”. So a cup of tea is “yìbēi chá”, and a bottle of tea is “yìpíng chá”. A tea pot of tea is “yìhú chá”. Can you guess the meaning of “yìbēi kāfēi”, “liǎngpíng píjiǔ”?
Li Yameng: You can think about it for a while. Lydia, except what we talk about, is there any other measure words?
Li Hui: Yeah, right. Now I’ll introduce a most frequently used measure word”gè”, like “sāngè rén”, “liǎng gè píngguǒ”, “yígè bēizi”.
Li Yameng: Lydia, what time is it now?
Li Hui: Ooh. 12 o’clock already.
Li Yameng: Have you made the order yet?
Li Hui: Yeah. Now I’m going to pay the check. Just now, we learned how to order the food and drink. In Chinese we say.
Li Yameng: “wǒ yào” plus food or drink. For example, “Wǒ yào yífèn niúròu”, “Wǒ yào yìbēi kě lè”.
Li Hui: Now let’s take a quick review of the measure words you learned. “fèn”, “wǎn”, “bēi”, any other measure words?
Li Yameng: Don’t forget the most frequently used one “gè”.

When we talk about the food and drinks, the measure words are often used. In Chinese, we always use a measure word for a noun with a number. Here are some examples about food.


  • 一份牛肉 (yí fèn niúròu) an order of beef
  • 一份羊肉 (yí fèn yángròu) an order of lamb
  • 一份炒饭 (yí fèn chǎofàn) an order of fried-rice
    “份(fèn)” is a measure word for an order of something.
  • 一碗米饭 (yì wǎn mǐfàn) a bowl of rice
  • 一碗面条 (yì wǎn miàntiáo) a bowl of noodles
    “碗(wǎn)” literally means bowl. If the food is put in the bowls, we use the measure word “碗(wǎn)”.

Here are more examples about different drinks.
一杯茶 (yì bēi chá) a cup of tea
一瓶茶 (yì píng chá) a bottle of tea
一壶茶 (yì hú chá) a pot of tea
一杯咖啡 (yì bēi kāfēi) a cup of coffee
两瓶啤酒 (liǎng píng píjiǔ) two bottles of beer

So if it is some liquid, the measure word comes from the container.

There is another measure word we use often, which is “个(gè)”.
三个人 (sān gè rén) three persons
两个苹果 (liǎng gè píngguǒ) two apples
一个杯子 (yí gè bēizi) one cup

The following sentence pattern can be used for ordering the food and drink.
我(Wǒ) 要(yào)+food or drink

“要(yào)” means want something. In restaurant or store, if you want to be more polite, you can say “我想要(wǒ xiǎng yào)”.

Are you accustomed to using measure words now? If you still feel confused about measure words, you are welcome to leave us comments.

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Learn Chinese: Introduction to Chinese Conversation

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