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U2L9 Quantitative determinatives(數量性定詞)

Introduction

In this Cantonese grammar lesson, quantitative determinatives(數量性定詞)will be introduced.  Quantitative determinatives are used to represent a vague estimation or an unspecific number, instead of an exact number.  Similar with other determinatives, you have to attach them to other words in order to use them in a sentence, and these determinatives are mostly added to counters(量詞)by following the structure of subordination(偏正式).

Structure
Modifiers+Head
Quantitative determinativesNoun

 

Quantitative determinatives

[sing4/ seng4][jat1]
[cyun4][bun3]
滿[mun5][gei2]
[leng1/leng2/leng4]好多[hou2 do1]
好多[hou2 siu2]

Throughout the whole period or all over the place(成)

If 成[sing4/seng4] is used with a time word(時間詞), it means “throughout that whole period”; if it is used with a word that related with location, it means “all over the place/ the whole”.

Ngo5 sing4 jat6 dou1 mou5 ceot1 gwo3 gaai1

我成日都冇出過街。

I did not go out whole day.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speechNounNoun; adverbVerbClause
Words in sentence成日; 都出過街

 

Predicate of that sentence
Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicatePredicative suffixObject
Part of speechNounVerbPredicative suffixNoun
Words in sentence/

 

Adverbial of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head

 

sing4 nin4 keoi5 dou1 mou5 wan2 gung1

成年佢都冇搵工。

He/She did not find a job whole year.

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicate
Part of speechNounSentence
Words in sentence成年佢都冇搵工

 

Subject of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head

 

Predicate of that sentence
Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAdverbAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence搵工

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence/

 

Keoi5 dei6 sik6 zo2 sing4 go3 daan6 gou1

佢哋食咗成個蛋糕。

They ate the whole cake.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicatePredicative suffixObject
Part of speechNounVerbPredicative suffixNoun
Words in sentence佢哋成個蛋糕

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head蛋糕

 

Aa3 baa4 cing1 git3 zo2 sing4 gaan1 fong4

阿爸清潔咗成間房。

My dad tidy up the whole room.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicatePredicative suffixObject
Part of speechNounVerbPredicative suffixNoun
Words in sentence阿爸清潔成間房

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head

 

Throughout the whole period or over the whole place(全)

The meaning of 全[cyun4] is identical with 成[sing4/seng4] and they are mostly interchangeable.

cyun4 sai3 gaai3 ge3 jan4 dou1 zung1 ji3 daa2 gei1

界嘅人都中意打機。

All human beings like playing games.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAdverbAuxiliary verbClause
Words in sentence界嘅人中意打機

 

Subject of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence/

 

cyun4 baan1 dou1 caam1 gaa1 zo2 go2 go3 bei2 coi3

全班都參加咗嗰個比賽。

The whole class participated in the competition.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicatePredicative suffixObject
Part of speechNounAdverbVerbPredicative suffixNoun
Words in sentence全班參加嗰個比賽

 

Subject of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier嗰個
Head比賽

 

cyun4 hoeng1 gong2 dou1 sik1 ni1 go3 neoi5 ming4 sing1

全香港都識呢個女明星。

Everyone in Hong Kong knows this female actress.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicateObject
Part of speechNounAdverbVerbNoun
Words in sentence香港呢個女明星

 

Subject of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head香港

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier呢個
Head女明星

To be in a state of full(滿)

When 滿[mun5] is used as an adjective, its meaning is “full”.  When 滿 is used as a quantitative determinative, that meaning is carried over and it means “all over the place”, which again is overlapped with 成.  Nevertheless, 滿 cannot be used to modify noun related with time like 成.

keoi5 gaan1 uk1 mun5 uk1 laap6 saap3

佢間屋滿屋垃圾。(佢間屋成屋垃圾。)

His/Her house is full of rubbish.

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicate
Part of speechNounNounNoun
Words in sentence佢間屋滿屋垃圾

 

Subject of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier佢間
Head

 

Adverbial of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier滿
Head

 

ngo5 mun5 san1 nai4

我滿身泥。(我滿身泥。)

I’m covered in mud.

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicate
Part of speechNounNounNoun
Words in sentence滿身

 

Adverbial of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier滿
Head

All over the place(一)

Although 一[jat1] means one, when it is used as a quantitative determinative, its meaning is overlapped with 成 and means “all over the place”.  Similar with 滿, 一 cannot be used to modify noun related with time like 成.

Do not confuse this quantitative determinative 一 with the number 一, in spite of their identical placement before a counter.  Other than relying on context, you can try replacing that 一 with other numbers. If the sentence does not make sense after the replacement, that 一 is a quantitative determinative.

keoi5 gaan1 fong4 jat1 dei6 laap6 saap3

間房一地垃圾。(佢間房成地垃圾)

His/Her room is full of garbage strewn on the floor.

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicate
Part of speechNounNounNoun
Words in sentence間房一地垃圾

 

Subject of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier佢間
Head

 

Adverbial of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head

 

keoi5 jat1 san1 cau3 hon6

佢一身臭汗。(佢成身臭汗。)

He/She smelled of sweat.

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectAdverbialPredicate
Part of speechNounNounNoun
Words in sentence一身臭汗

 

Adverbial of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head

Half(半)

半[bun3] is a quantitative determinative that simply means half.

Ngo5 jam2 zo2 bun3 bui1 seoi2

我飲咗半杯水。

I drank half glass of water.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicatePredicative suffixObject
Part of speechNounVerbPredicative suffixNoun
Words in sentence半杯水

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier半杯
Head

 

aa3 mui2 sik6 zo2 bun3 go3 ping4 gwo2

阿妹食咗半個蘋果。

My sister ate half of the apple.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicatePredicative suffixObject
Part of speechNounVerbPredicative suffixNoun
Words in sentence半個蘋果

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier半個
Head蘋果

 

Ngo5 zou6 zo2 bun3 fan6 gung1 fo3

我做咗半份功課。

I finished half of my homework.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicatePredicative suffixObject
Part of speechNounVerbPredicative suffixNoun
Words in sentence半份功課

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier半份
Head功課

Many(好多)

好多[hou2 do1] is a quantitative determinative that simply means many.

go2 gaan1 hok6 haau6 jau5 hou2 do1 hok6 saang1

嗰間學校有好多學生。

There are many students in that school.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence嗰間學校好多學生

 

Subject of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier嗰間
Head學校

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier好多
Head學生

 

keoi5 nguk1 kei5 hou2 do1 can4

屋企好多塵。

There is a lot of dust in his home.

Type of sentence structureSubject-predicative
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicate
Part of speechNounNoun
Words in sentence屋企好多

 

Subject of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head屋企

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier好多
Head

Very little/ very few(好少)

好少[hou2 siu2] is a quantitative determinative that means very little or very few.  When 好少 is used to modify a noun that functions as the object in a sentence and you want to use 有 as the verb, 得[dak1] has to be used to replace 有 as the verb of the sentence.

hou2 siu2 jan4 sik1 keoi5

好少人識佢。

Very few people know about him.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence好少人

 

Subject of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier好少
Head

 

ngo5 dak1 hou2 siu2 cin2

我得好少錢。

I only have a very little amount of money.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence好少錢

 

Object of that sentence

Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier好少
Head

Several(幾)

As a quantitative determinative, 幾[gei2] can mean several or it can form an interrogative pronoun by modifying the words.  The usage for forming interrogative pronoun will not be discussed here.

keoi5 dei6 sik1 zo2 gei2 nin4

佢哋識咗幾年。

They have known each other for several years.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicatePredicative suffixObject
Part of speechNounVerbPredicative suffixNoun
Words in sentence佢哋幾年

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier
Head

To represent an estimated amount(幾/ 零)

In spite of above meanings, 幾[gei2] can also be used to represent an estimated amount if it is put between number and counter.  For this usage, 幾 can be replaced with 零[leng1/leng2/leng4] without change meaning of the sentence.

ngo5 go2 baan1 jau5 ji6 sap6 leng1 go3 tung4 hok6

我嗰班有二十零個同學。

There are about twenty students in my class.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicateObject
Part of speechNounVerbNoun
Words in sentence我嗰班二十零個同學

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier二十零個
Head同學

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier我嗰
Head

 

keoi5 maai5 zo2 sap6 gei2 bou6 daan1 ce1

佢買咗十幾部單車。

He/She has bought about 10 bikes.

Type of sentence structurePredicative-object
Functions in sentenceSubjectPredicatePredicative suffixObject
Part of speechNounVerbPredicative suffixNoun
Words in sentence十幾部單車

 

Object of that sentence
Type of sentence structureSubordination
Modifier十幾部
Head單車

 

Reference

  1. 張洪年(2007)。香港粤語語法的研究(增訂版)。香港:中文大學出版社,頁 332-337。

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