Article in Mandarin

This is a Quora Question Answer for Mandarin Chinese, which  can be a reference to the beginner students.

The Original Quora Link.

There are no articles in Chinese. How did you, as a native Mandarin speaker, learn how to use the articles ‘a’ and ‘the’?



Basically the concept of article just lie in European language system and Afroasiatic language system, which sometime carry more definitive information, such as plural, feminine, masculine. Checking out French here ‘La, Le’ etc, English is more easier as ‘a’,’the’ as we know.

Regarding of widely used Mandarin in Chinese Language system, there is no concept of article, but as your concern, we all know there should be something here to take the role prescribing a limit to the following noun. Yes,that’s expletive word(虚词), I like call it dummy word which can not be used separated, and means nothing as a single word usually.(except interjections, never mind )

I am gonna skip all the grammar rule here to give you some examples, because it is even literally hard for me to ‘logically ‘ understand myself. Also that should not be the burden for the new beginner to cross.

Check out some samples

A book


‘一’ literally means ‘A’. ‘书’ is the ‘book’

but what the heck ‘本’ is??it is kind of syntactic dummy word, which is necessary here to make the whole phrase complete. And it would be changed when different following noun. The worse thing here is you have to remember the combinations one by one, not much logical here, like you did masculine/feminine article stuff in French.

The book/ this book/that book


See, the ‘这’ ‘那’ is amount to the infinitive article in English, and the dummy word ‘本’ is the necessary combination with ‘书’.

These books/Those books


In plural case, usually the dummy word is gone, because ‘些’ in grammar literally means plural ‘s’ end with ‘book’ in English, ‘些’ take the place of the dummy word. but sometimes, if you do put ‘本’ before noun. 这些本书/那写本书, it is also natural to native people.

So in short, after you have accumulated enough mandarin phrase in your mind, then that article stuff would come natural to you.


Add Comment...

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies for your better browsing experience. more

The cookie settings on are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.