- What is a classifier?
- Is a classifier the same as a measure word?
- Which words are used as general classifiers in Persian?
- How written and spoken Persian differ in using classifiers?
- What is a massifier?
A classifier is a word that precedes nouns in Persian and indicates its type and category. For example, the classifier that is for human beings can not be used for birds. Classifiers are typical of East Asian languages like Chinese and Japanese. It is uncommon in Indo-European languages, particularly in the European branch of this language family. English examples like “two bars of chocolate” and “three loaves of bread” approximate to the concept of classifiers.
Classifiers are always used in spoken Persian. In written Persian, it is possible to say “I want three apples” but in spoken Persian, it is always “I want three X apples”, where “X” is a classifier. Persian has two general classifiers: تا (tâ) and دانه (dâne), which is pronounced دونه (dune) in colloquial Persian. The classifier تا is used with more than one of a noun and دانه is used for one single of a noun. In the following table, classifiers have not been mentioned for written Persian but this does not imply that classifiers are not found in the written form. It just implies that in written Persian, classifiers can be omitted for countable nouns.
|Written Persian||Spoken Persian|
|یک پسر دارد |
yek pesar dârad
She has a son
|یک دانه پسر دارد |
yek dâne pesar dârad
یه دونه پسر داره
ye dune pesar dâre
|دو پسر دارد |
do pesar dârad
She has two sons
|دو تا پسر دارد |
do tâ pesar dârad
دو تا پسر داره
do tâ pesar dâre
Please note that classifiers are not equal to measure words like “piece” and “bar”. In the following examples, both a measure word (“tekke”: piece) and a classifier (“tâ”) are used:
|سه تا تکهی پیتزا خوردم |
se tâ tekke-ye pitzâ khordam
I ate two pieces of pizza
|دو تا قطرهی اشک از گونههایش چکید |
do tâ ghatre-ye askh az gunehâ-yash chekid
Two drops of tears rolled down her cheeks
Classifiers are also used with interrogatives of quantity:
|چند تا پسر دارد؟ |
Chand tâ pesar dârad?
How many sons does she have?
|سه تا |
List of Classifiers
The following table shows the most important Persian classifiers and typical noun classes they represent.
|پارچه||village; a set of plates, bowls, cups etc that match each other|
|تخته||carpets, rugs; blankets|
|تن||human beings (similar to نفر but it is exclusively for human beings)|
|توپ||material distributed roundly: cloth, silk|
|جفت||anything that is normally paired e.g. shoes, socks and gloves|
|حبه||pills; sugar cubes; one of the separate parts that form grapes, garlics, etc.|
|حلقه||rings; films; tires; wells|
|دانه||eggs; grains (pomegranates, rice, sugar, salt)|
|دست||anything that is normally sold as a set: furniture; dishes, forks, spoons; clothes; bed/sleep items|
|دستگاه||cars; apartments; electronic devices like radios, televisions, cameras, mobile phones|
|دهنه||stores (in a complex, department)|
|رشته||necklaces, bracelets; Qanat|
|شاخه||flowers; metal beam|
|طاقه||material distributed rectangularly: cloth, silk|
|فروند||aircrafts, airplanes, helicopters, jets, ships|
|فقره||checks, bank drafts, driving license|
|قالب||block shape: soap, butter, cheese|
|قبضه||guns, knives (weapon)|
|قطعه||photos; birds, fish; poems|
|قلاده||dogs, cats and wild animals like wolves and lions|
|کلاف||yarn, thread; reinforcing bars; wires|
|گلوله||garlic; anything formed or rolled into a round shape (ball): string, dough, snow|
|لنگه||One of the things that are normally paired e.g. shoes, socks, gloves. Also a leaf of door, etc.|
|نفر||human beings, camels, palm trees|
The classifier عدد (adad) is used when there is no specific word for a class. It is also used, where applicable, as a generic classifier in place of a noun’s specific classifier. For instance, one can say یک عدد تلویزیون (yek adad televiziyon) instead of یک دستگاه تلویزیون (yek dastgâh televiziyon) even though it is not stylistically correct.
List of Massifiers
A massifier is a kind of classifier that results in a mass of a noun rather than a single or discrete unit. For example, the classifier for cigarettes is نخ (nakh) but it is normally sold in a pack. Therefore, بسته in یک بسته سیگار (a pack of cigarettes) is a massifier rather than a classifier.
|بار||an amount that a vehicle or an animal can carry (load)|
|بسته||an amount that a pack can hold (pack, packet)|
|بطری||an amount that a bottle can hold (bottle)|
|بغل||an amount that both arms can hold (armful)|
|پرس||an amount of food for one person (portion)|
|پیمانه||an amount that a cup can hold (cupful, cup)|
|دسته||a group of birds, whales, etc.; a bunch of picked flowers, herbs, etc.|
|سیخ||an amount cooked on a stick/skewer: kabob, chicken|
|شانه||a pack of eggs (usually 30 eggs), honeycomb|
|شیشه||an amount that glass containers like jars can hold|
|فال||10 nuts of walnut|
|قواره||an amount of cloth that is enough for making clothes; an amount of land that is enough for making a house|
|کیسه||an amount that a bag can hold (bag)|
|گله||a group of animals: sheep, cows, deers, wolves|
|مشت||an amount that you can hold in your hand (fistful)|
|واحد||an amount of something used as a standard of measurement (unit, dose)|
Regarding قواره, “one ghavâre of shirt” is enough for making a shirt and “one ghavâre of suit” is enough for making a whole suit i.e. jacket and trousers.