Hey folks, I’ve got a new phrase for you today! It’s 五口人, which literally means ‘five mouthed person’. Whaaaaat?? Actually, in this phrase, the character 口 has a different meaning. 口 usually means ‘mouth’, but it’s also a measure word for counting people in a household. So 五口人 actually means ‘a five-person family’.
Have you come across any other measure words before? Measure words are used when we want to count something, like ‘three apples’ or ‘one drink’. In Chinese grammar, we place a measure word between the number and the noun. Here are some examples:
One Horse 一匹馬 = one (一) + measure word for horse (匹) + horse (馬)
Three Cars 三輛車 = three (三) + measure word for vehicle (輛) + car (車)
Five students 五個學生 = five (五) + measure word for person (個) + student (學生)
So, what if you forget to use measure word? Will Chinese speakers be able to understand you? I think most of them will still be able to, but it would sound very strange. It would sound a little like using the wrong tense in English, or saying ‘five student’ without the plural ‘-s’.
Ok, let’s review our new phrase!
五口人 = 五 (Five) + 口 (Measure Word, People in a Household) + 人 (Person) = Five-Person Family
P.S. Can you guess why we use ‘口’ as a measure word for counting people in a household? It’s because the number of people in the family is the number of mouths (口) to be fed! 😀 I bet that makes it easier for you to remember, right?