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Expressing "half" with "ban"

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Chinese-grammar-wiki-ban.jpg

The Chinese word 半 (bàn) means "half." That's simple enough, but what can get slightly tricky is the rules for how it combines with measure words.

Basic Usage

Used Alone

Structure

You'll need to use a measure word (Measure Word) in this structure.

半 + Measure Word + Noun

Examples

The measure words are also indicated below.

  • 小时 bàn xiǎoshíhalf an hour
  • bàn yuèhalf a month
  • 米饭 bàn wǎn mǐfànhalf a bowl of rice
  • bàn píng jiǔhalf a bottle of liquor
  • 炒面 bàn fèn chǎomiànhalf a serving of chow mein

With a Number

When it's more than just a half, then 半 (bàn) comes after the measure word instead of before. It's the difference between "half an hour" and "an hour and a half."

  • 小时 bàn xiǎoshíhalf an hour
  • 小时 bàn xiǎoshían hour and a half

The order is actually basically the same as what we do in English (we just don't have so many pesky measure words to keep track of in English!).

Structure

Number + Measure Word + 半 + Noun

Examples

  • 小时 sān bàn xiǎoshíthree and a half hours
  • liǎng bàn yuètwo and a half months
  • 水果 One "jin" = 500gjīn bàn shuǐguǒ one and a half jin of fruit
  • 白酒 píng bàn báijiǔ one and a half bottles of wine
  • 巧克力 kuài bàn qiǎokèlì four and a half pieces of chocolate

Notable Exceptions

There are some words that act as their own measure words, notably the time words 天 (tiān), meaning "day," and 年 (nián), meaning "year."

Used Alone

Structure

半 + 天 / 年

Examples

  • bàn tiānhalf a day
  • bàn niánhalf a year

Note that you do not need to use 个 (gè) here; in fact, it's wrong to do so:

  • bàn tiānhalf a day
  • bàn niánhalf a year

With a Number

天 (tiān) and 年 (nián) aren't the only words that take this alternate pattern, but they're the two key ones you need to learn first.

Structure

Number + 天 / 年 + 半

Examples

  • liǎng tiān bàntwo and a half days
  • nián bàna year and a half
  • sān tiān bànthree and a half days
  • nián bànfour and a half years

See also