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About “子” in Chinese

Chinese characters, learning Chinese

As we all know, suffix "er" (儿) is very common in Beijing dialect, or more precisely, there are many words with "儿" as a diminutive suffix in Beijing dialect. However, as a matter of fact, there are as many words suffixed with "子" both in Beijing dialect and Mandarin Chinese. There are more than 500 words suffixed with "子" in Chinese. Besides, a large number of such words are often heard in spoken Chinese.



All the words, when suffixed with "子", become nouns. The character "子" can be placed immediately after many nouns, verbs, adjectives and quantifiers to form new nouns.








勺子 (sháo zi )- spoon

刀子 (dāo zi)- knife

杯子 (bēi  zi)- cup

筷子 (kuài zi )- chopsticks

桌子 (zhuō zi)- desk/table

镜子 (jìng zi)- mirror…



鼻子 (bí zi)- nose

嗓子 (sǎng zi)- throat

肘子 (zhǒu zi)- elbow

膀子 (bǎng zi)- arm

肚子 (dù zi)- stomach

脖子 (bó zi)- neck…



儿子 (ér zi)- son

孙子 (sūn zi)- grandson

妻子 (qī zi)- wife

孩子 (hái zi)- child 

侄子 (zhí zi)- nephew

叔子 (shū zi)- husband's younger brother



猴子(hóu zi)- monkey  

兔子 (tù zi)- rabbit 

狮子(shī zi )- lion 

虫子 (chóng zi)- worm/bug

鸭子(yā zi)- duck  

鸽子 (gē zi)- pigeon/dove



房子 (fáng zi)- house

屋子 ( wū zi)- room/house

厂子 (chǎng zi)- factory

村子 (cūn zi)- village

镇子 (zhèn zi)- town 


Furthermore, in spoken Chinese, you can call the younger people by adding "子" to their last names. For example:


赵子 (zhào zi)

余子 (yú zi)

张子 (zhāng zi)…


But this applies only to some single last names. Remember that some Chinese last names cannot be suffixed in this way, for it may cause misunderstandings.



For example:

孙子 (sūn zi)- a polysemy, it also has the meaning of grandson

侯子 (hóu zi)- a homophone of  "猴子 (monkey)"

施子 (shī zi)- a homophone of  "狮子 (lion)"

文子 (wén zi)- a homophone of  "蚊子 (mosquito)"

罗子 (luó zi)- a homophone of  "骡子 (mule)"

麻子 (má zi)- a polysemy, it also refers to a pockmark or a person with pockmarks

龙子 (lóng zi)- a homophone of "聋子 (a deaf person)"




刷子 (shuā zi)- brush

拍子 (pāi zi)- racket

梳子 (shū zi)- comb

骗子 (piàn zi)- cheater/swindler

扣子 (kòu zi)- button

夹子 (jiá zi)- clip

卷子 (juàn zi)- examination paper


The nouns made up of a noun and "子" often refer to tools, people and objects. The verbs in this structure indicates the action implemented on the objects.





呆子 (dāi zi)- dork

傻子 (shǎ zi)- idiot, simpleton

胖子 (pàng zi )- fatty

瘦子 (shòu zi)- skinny people 

疯子 (fēng zi)- lunatic

瘸子 (qué zi)- crippler


Interestingly, the most Chinese nouns in the structure of "adjective+子" are often used to address a certain group of people with disrespect.




个子 (gè zi)- stature

尺子 (chǐ zi)- ruler

句子 (jù zi)- sentence

样子 (yàng zi)- appearance

册子 (cè zi)- brochure

口子 (kǒu zi)- opening   

本子 (běn zi)- notebook 


As quantifiers are often used to modify nouns and many function as nouns themselves, it is easy to understand that they can be transformed into nouns after being suffixed with "子".



In addition, some words that indicate directions and shapes can be suffixed with "子" to form nouns. For example:



面子 (miàn zi)- face 

头子 (tóu zi)- chief

方子 (fāng zi)- prescription 

珠子 (zhū zi)- bead 

粒子 (lì zi)- particle 

轮子 (lún zi)- wheel


Note that not every noun can be suffixed with "子" to form a new noun. For example, some words for organs, such as 肺 (fèi, lung), 肝 (gān, liver), 心 (xīn, heart), 胃 (wèi, stomach) and words for animals, like 虎 (hǔ, tiger), 熊 (xióng, bear), 牛 (niú, bull) and 马 (mǎ, horse), can not be suffixed in this way. It's the same case with most verbs and adjectives.


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