Lesson Three

How many are there in your family

Although the family is a common topic of conversation in Britain, English people may not feel comfortable if too many details are asked for. Chinese people feel differently. Talking about your family is a way to show friendliness. So, questions such as ‘how old are you’, ‘are you married’ and ‘what’s your salary’ might be asked even of a stranger.  Follow the saying ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’ and be prepared to follow these customs in order to have good relations with Chinese people when you go to China one day.

Basic expressions 




there is, there are, to have

there is, there are, to have






It does not function in the same way as ‘and’ in English. is used to link two nouns, or two phrases functioning as nouns.



I, me

I, me

It can be placed before a noun such as 爸爸 bàba father or dad, 妈妈 māma mother or mum. Here, wǒ means my.  Other pronouns such as nǐ , tā or tā can be used in the same way as wǒ For instance, 你妈妈 nǐ māma your mother, 他哥哥 gēge his older brother, 她妹妹 tā mèimei her younger sister.

The 'plural pronoun’ men can also be placed after the personal pronoun and before a noun to imply for example your, our, their family, as in nǐ ( men) jiā,wǒ( men) jiā,tā(men) jiā.



how many

how many

A person uses this word when he expects a figure below ten. 




a measure word for people in a family

mouth KOU

There are some measure words in English, such as ‘piece’ in a piece of paper etc. However, there are many more measure words in Chinese. 




people, person

people, person


Notes on expressions

The neutral tone

Some syllables are not pronounced in any of the four tones, but instead are pronounced in a very soft and short tone called a neutral tone. The second syllables of 哥哥 gēge older brother, 爸爸 bàba father or dad,妈妈 māma mother or mum, 妹妹 mèimei younger sister and 弟弟 dìdi younger brother are all in the neutral tone. The neutral tone is used in the second syllable in 什么 shénme what, in men (plural) in 我们 wǒmen we or our and in 他们 tāme they or their, and in 你们 nǐmen you or your.

In general, measure words such as is pronounced in the neutral tone in sentences. 

Let say the following sentences.

1.          有          人。                             

             wǒ    jiā    yǒu   wǔ  kǒu   rén

             My family has   five KOU people                        

            There are five people in my family.

five is normally in third tone, but here it’s pronounced in second tone. That is because the measure word is in third tone.

         2.  我   有   哥哥            和   妹妹。               

              wǒ  yǒu  gēge             hé mèimei

  I    have older brother and younger sister      

  I have an elder brother and a younger sister.

Have you noticed that the duplicated words are pronounced in the neutral tone? Neutral tone is a short tone. Everything in the world is comparative. By saying the word before the neutral tone longer can make the neutral tone shorter.

The following new words may be helpful when you introduce your family to others. Please pay attention to the words which have the neutral tone:

1.             爷爷       yéye                       grandfather

                祖父       zǔfù                        grandfather

2.             奶奶       nǎinai                     grandmother

                祖母       zǔmǔ                       grandmother

3.             弟弟       dìdi                         younger brother

4.             爱人       àiren                       wife or husband

5.             先生       xiānsheng                Mr, husband

6.             夫人       fūren                       Mrs, wife

7.             太太       tàitai                       Mrs, wife

8.             儿子       érzi                          son

9.             女儿       nǚér                        daughter

10.                      yī                             one

11.                       èr                             two

12.                       sān                          three

13.                       sì                             four

14.                       liù                            six

15.                       qī                             seven

16.                       bā                            eight

17.                       jǔ                             nine

18.                       shí                           ten  

19                       shéi                         who, whom

Don’t worry if you don’t remember every word just select the ones that you need when you talk about your family.


Let’s learn the follow dialogue:

    a.  你                                  人?                 

         nǐ       jiā       yǒu  jǐ               kǒu    rén

         your   family have how many KOU people               

        How many people are there in your family?


    b.                     人。                              

        wǒ  jiā       yǒu wǔ   kǒu   rén

        my  family have five KOU people                             

         There are five people in my family.


    a. 他们    谁?                                              

        tāmen shì shéi

        they    are whom                                                   

        Who are they?


b.   他们   我爸爸、我妈妈、  我哥哥、            我妹妹                我。

      tāmen shì wǒbàba,   wǒmāma,   wǒgēge,               wǒmèimei            hé  wǒ.

         They are my father,  my mother, my older brother, my younger sister and I.

        They are my father, my mother, my older brother, my younger sister and myself.


1.  Talk about your family to your classmates in Chinese.

2.  Try to find out more information about the families of your classmates in Chinese.

Tape version

Part one: new words


how many?






mouth (MW for people)



people, person






have, there is / are



father, dad



mother, mum



elder brother



younger sister





Part two: expressions


your family have how many KOU  people

How many people are there in your family?


his family have five KOU people

There are five people in his family.


Peter’s family has how many KOU people

How many people are there in Peter’s family?


his family has what people

Who are the people in his family?

Part three: conversation


your family have how many KOU people

How many people are there in your family?


my family has five KOU people

There are five people in my family.


they are who

Who are they?


they are my fathermy mother my elder brother my younger sister and I

They are my father, my mother, my elder brother, my younger sister and I.