How to Say “The” in Mandarin: A Comprehensive Guide

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on how to say “the” in Mandarin! Whether you are a beginner or an intermediate learner, understanding how to properly use “the” in Mandarin is essential for effective communication. In this guide, we will cover the formal and informal ways of saying “the,” along with any regional variations that may exist. We will also provide you with plenty of helpful tips and examples to enhance your understanding.

Formal Ways to Say “The” in Mandarin

When it comes to formal situations or written language, Mandarin utilizes specific classifiers or measure words to indicate “the.” These classifiers are used to count and identify objects. Let’s take a closer look at some commonly used classifiers and how they are used:

1. 个 (gè)

One of the most versatile classifiers in Mandarin is 个 (gè). It is widely used to indicate “the” when referring to general or unspecified objects. For example:

Zhè shì yī gè xuéxiào.
This is a school.

Here, 个 (gè) is used to indicate “the” in front of 学校 (xuéxiào) which means “school.”

2. 这/那 (zhè/nà) and 本 (běn)

Another common way to express “the” in formal Mandarin is by using demonstrative pronouns like 这 (zhè) for “this” or 那 (nà) for “that,” combined with the classifier 本 (běn). This is often done when referring to specific objects or things. Here’s an example:

Wǒ mǎi le yī běn nà běn shū.
I bought that book.

In this example, 这本 (zhè běn) or 那本 (nà běn) combined with 书 (shū) meaning “book” denotes “the” in Mandarin.

Informal Ways to Say “The” in Mandarin

Conversational Mandarin often adopts a simpler approach when it comes to using “the.” Native speakers tend to omit any specific classifiers or measure words and instead rely on context to indicate “the” in a sentence. Let’s explore some examples:

1. No Classifier

In informal Mandarin, you can directly use the noun without the need for any classifiers to indicate “the.” For instance:

Wǒ xǐhuān chī píngguǒ.
I like to eat apples.

In this example, there is no explicit “the” mentioned. The context makes it clear that the sentence is referring to a specific, known apple.

2. Demonstratives or Possessives

Another common approach is to use demonstratives or possessive pronouns to indicate “the” in everyday conversations. Here’s an example:

Nǐ kàn dào nà ge nánhái le ma?
Have you seen that boy?

In this case, 那个 (nà ge) is used before 男孩 (nánhái), meaning “boy,” to indicate “the” in Mandarin.

Regional Variations

While Mandarin Chinese is the official language in mainland China, it is important to note that regional variations exist within the language. The difference in dialects can sometimes result in variations in how “the” is said. However, for standard Mandarin, the previous methods discussed are widely applicable and understood across regions.


To summarize, Mandarin Chinese has both formal and informal ways of saying “the.” In formal situations, classifiers such as 个 (gè) or demonstratives like 这/那 (zhè/nà) combined with 本 (běn) are commonly used. In informal conversations, speakers often omit explicit classifiers and rely on context instead. Additionally, different regional variations may exist due to local dialects, but they do not significantly impact the understanding of “the” in Mandarin.

We hope this comprehensive guide has provided you with a better understanding of how to say “the” in Mandarin. Remember to practice using these methods in context and gradually build your fluency. Happy learning!

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