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 PersianSpoken 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 pesar dârad
دو تا پسر داره
do 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
Se tâ

List of Classifiers

The following table shows the most important Persian classifiers and typical noun classes they represent.

بابhouses; stores
پارچهvillage; a set of plates, bowls, cups etc that match each other
تختهcarpets, rugs; blankets
تنhuman beings (similar to نفر but it is exclusively for human beings)
توپmaterial distributed roundly: cloth, silk
جامmirror; glass
جفتanything that is normally paired e.g. shoes, socks and gloves
حبهpills; sugar cubes; one of the separate parts that form grapes, garlics, etc.
حلقهrings; films; tires; wells
خوشهgrapes, dates
دانهeggs; grains (pomegranates, rice, sugar, salt)
دستanything that is normally sold as a set: furniture; dishes, forks, spoons; clothes; bed/sleep items
دستگاهcars; apartments; electronic devices like radios, televisions, cameras, mobile phones
دهنهstores (in a complex, department)
رأسcows, sheep
رشتهnecklaces, bracelets; Qanat
شاخهflowers; metal beam
شعلهlamps, candles
طاقهmaterial distributed rectangularly: cloth, silk
عرادهcannons, tanks
فروندaircrafts, airplanes, helicopters, jets, ships
فقرهchecks, bank drafts, driving license
قالبblock shape: soap, butter, cheese
قبضهguns, knives (weapon)
قطعهphotos; birds, fish; poems
قلادهdogs, cats and wild animals like wolves and lions
کلافyarn, thread; reinforcing bars; wires
گلولهgarlic; anything formed or rolled into a round shape (ball): string, dough, snow
لنگهOne of the things that are normally paired e.g. shoes, socks, gloves. Also a leaf of door, etc.
نسخهnewspapers, magazines
نفرhuman 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.

بارan amount that a vehicle or an animal can carry (load)
بستهan amount that a pack can hold (pack, packet)
بطریan amount that a bottle can hold (bottle)
بغلan amount that both arms can hold (armful)
پرسan amount of food for one person (portion)
پیمانهan amount that a cup can hold (cupful, cup)
دستهa group of birds, whales, etc.; a bunch of picked flowers, herbs, etc.
سیخan amount cooked on a stick/skewer: kabob, chicken
شانهa pack of eggs (usually 30 eggs), honeycomb
شیشهan amount that glass containers like jars can hold
فال10 nuts of walnut
قوارهan amount of cloth that is enough for making clothes; an amount of land that is enough for making a house
کیسهan amount that a bag can hold (bag)
گلهa group of animals: sheep, cows, deers, wolves
مشتan amount that you can hold in your hand (fistful)
واحدan 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.