Sometimes a number isn't enough.
For instance, we can't have three scissors, can we: we have to have three pairs of scissors.
Although we can have four envelopes, we can't have four writing papers to put in them: our writing paper will probably come in sheets.
These extra words are called measure words. They're a particular feature of Mandarin, which uses them in fascinating ways.
The Mandarin word for a pair - shuang - for instance, isn't used for scissors, but only for things which can be separated, like shoes.
Kuai is used for tofu, stone, a slice of cake (and bread as well, as long as it's not in slices) tablecloths, or wristwatches.
Lun is for the moon.
Mei is for medals, stamps, rings, and missiles.
Men is for academic subjects and cannon.
Pi is for horses and rolls of cloth.
Tiao is for fish, dragons, dogs, skirts, sofas and heroic people.
Tou is for pigs, hair and dinosaurs.
Zhi is for fingers, chickens, butterflies, earrings...and elephants.
There are a lot of these measure words in Mandarin, and they're used a lot of the time. Luckily, one of the measure words is ge. Ge is for elder brothers, nations and questions - and when you can't quite remember the right measure word you need for a particular word.
Ge must be a great help: but these measure words must still be far from being a piece of cake.
Word To Use Today: a measure word. Measure is a very interesting word, but it has rather a dull history. It comes from the Latin word mēnsūra.