(#37) How many / 多少

To finish up (at least for now) on ‘how’, I’ll explain more on 多少 duo1 shao3.

I had introduced 多少 in the previous post, and the set phrase 多少钱 too. This post will explain how to further use 多少 to ask questions.

Like explained, 多少 means how little, so when we are asking for quantities as in the number of people or number of items.

It would make you confused if you start questioning why would you ask ‘how little’ in Chinese when you actually want to ask ‘how many’. I can explain that it is just a way of speech, or because the word ‘多’ is already used as ‘how’, or because of the presence of 多, pairing a 少 would nicely mean ‘many-little?’ which sort of reminds you are asking how many or how little. But which ever way you prefer, choose something that helps you remember.

To use 多少, you simply put counters behind it. To ask how many people are there in this place, you can ask 这个地方有多少人? zhe4 ge4 di4 fang1 you3 duo1 shao3 ren2?

If you see me carrying lots of shopping bags, you may want to ask me “Exactly how many pair of shoes did you buy!?” 你到底买了多少双鞋子!? ni3 dao4 di3 mai3 le4 duo1 shao3 shuang1 xie2 zi3?!

Digress: 双 shuang1 is a counter to mean a ‘pair’.

More examples:

多少个苹果 duo1 shao3 ge4 ping2 guo3 how many apples
多少个星期 duo1 shao3 ge4 xing1 qi1 how many weeks
多少个朋友 duo1 shao3 ge4 peng2 you3 how many friends
多少只猫 duo1 shao3 zhi1 mao1 how many cats
多少支铅笔 duo1 shao3 zhi1 qian1 bi3 how many pencils

You will be interested to know most of the time you can use 几 ji3 to represent 多少. Important to note that this DOESN’T apply to 多少钱!You can say 几个人,or 几只猫, but never never never 几钱. Ok I made it sound too serious. You won’t get into trouble saying that, just that no one will understand you, ever.

Sorry for super length post. Hope I didn’t kill all of your brain cells.

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