中庭 / 庭院

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by kyrintethron, Jul 7, 2013.

  1. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    I'm having trouble tracking down the appropriate measure word(s) for 中庭 and 庭院. I learned both of these words as definitions for "courtyard", but am I perhaps not finding the information I need because these are not the most common ways of saying "courtyard"?

    Like a beginner, I just assigned 个 to both words, and then as I learned more about measure words, I thought that maybe 处 would make more sense. But now that I'm attempting to be as exact as possible, I can't seem to find measure words for either one. Actually, YellowBridge recommends 家 for 庭院.

    So which of these is correct?

    一个中庭 / 一个庭院
    一处中庭 / 一出庭院
    一家中庭 / 一个庭院

    Or is there something more appropriate?

  2. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Since these words, 中庭 and 庭院, are rarely used, their occurences with a measureword would be even much rarer, and in cases like this, 个 can alsways be a good candidate (But if you want a more learned alternative, I would suggest 处 for them). Also, wait and see what native speakers would suggest :)

    This must be a mis-type.
  3. tarlou Senior Member

    I think 一个院子 is the most common.
    一个庭院 is also fine, but it appears mostly in written language.

    中庭 is probably used only in some places/dialects. At least I'm not sure what it is without a context.
  4. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    Thanks xiaolijie and tarlou. It figures that every dictionary that I used would steer me towards the least common words, lol. I'll try to be more mindful when learning vocabulary.

    I looked up "courtyard" in one of my dictionaries again, and 院子 and 院 were the only two entires out of ten that had suggested measure words. So I'll try to use that as a gauge for commonness in the future.

    While we're on the topic of measure words, though, I was wondering what either of you would suggest when a measure word is not listed. Is it fine to just attach 个 and hope for the best? or should I use whatever measure word seems most appropriate? (E.g. I chose 处 on my own, because I knew it could apply to places. Is this a good idea? or do I risk sounding very silly? lol)


    p.s. 一庭院 was definitely a typo, lol.
  5. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    A rule I have for myself is: if a noun is so rarely seen, I'd use 个 when a measureword is needed. This is because even native speakers may have problems with finding the right measureword for it :), and so 个 tends to be the default measureword.
    Yes, I'd also consider what would be the most appropriate first. Your choice of 处 above is very good, as I've seen its use in at least one dictionary.
  6. 维尼爱蜂蜜 Member

    中庭and 庭院 are not the same.
    中庭 is like the center court in a several-floor building, commonly seen in large shopping centers and office buildings in China and often has tall windows or glass roofs. It's rarely connected to a measure word I think. However, it the occasion occurs, you will never be too wrong with 个. Colloquially you can replace a lot of measure words with 个。
    庭院 is the courtyard of residences. It's the space outside the buildings. The measure word is 所 and/or 个。 所sounds more formal and elegant.

  7. tarlou Senior Member

    The measure word may vary from place to place. I don't use 所 for courtyard. To me 个 is the most common one, and 座 might be an alternative (but it's formal and rare). I think 一处庭院 sounds like an isolated courtyard (without a house), and this is a bit strange because most courtyards are "affiliated" to houses.
  8. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    Thanks, 维尼爱蜂蜜, for that clarification. I definitely needed to know that.

    Meanwhile, this measure word system is getting more and more convoluted. I'm inclined to just stick to 个 (and 处) for 院子, 中庭, and 庭院. But I can't help feeling that this is going to be a long and endless battle in my pursuit of learning Chinese. For instance, ChineseTools.eu, which I was led to believe as being reliable, offers no measure word for 庭院, and YellowBridge, which I perceived as being equally reputable, suggests 家, which from my very limited understanding seems...odd, to say the least.

    So, this drives me to ask the questions:

    1) Is 家 sensible/natural as a measure word for 庭院?

    2) Should I trust my instincts? Surely, I can't come back and pester you guys every time I encounter new and confusing vocabulary. My gut tells me 家 is no good, or at least, odd. In such situations, is it good practice to go with 个?

    Thank you so much! Your input has been invaluable!

  9. Ghabi

    Ghabi AL/OL/Ar/Zh mod

    Hong Kong
    Hi! For what it's worth, in contemporary usage 中庭 is often translated as "atrium".
    As others say above, the usage of measure words is highly region-dependent, so I don't think we can write off the use of 家 for 庭院, although it sounds rather "off" to my ears.
    I think you can't be wrong with 个, as some speakers actually use 个 for practically all things that can be measured (and in many cases those that can't).
  10. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    Thanks Ghabi! And I'd agree that "atrium" is dead on. Definitely a better translation that "courtyard", lol.

    个 Is now my favorite Chinese word; lol. But all joking aside, as a native speaker, do you find it necessary to learn every measure word out there, or is it the kind of thing that in conversation or reading is easy to gloss over yet understand in context?

    (For what it's worth, I'll probably still study as many as I come across, but I'm curious as to the experience of a natural and fluent speaker.)


  11. 维尼爱蜂蜜 Member

    1) 家 is only used for businesses, like 一家工厂、一家餐厅、一家企业
    2)个 is good
  12. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    1) Yeah, that's why I thought it was weird. Thanks for reaffirming my suspicions.

    2) I shall use it egregiously, lol. :-D

  13. goodatchinese Member

    "个" is really good! I just realized it is a good measureword almost for every noun orally even though i'm a native speaker.

    "中庭" is a forgotten word in daily life. But it is used in some TV programmes or literary works about history which means "the center of a great building" or " the hign council".

    "庭院" means courtyard or backyard , etc, a general speaking for yard. "座" and "处" are both nice and graceful measureword for it, and "个" is really ok when you talk to your friends or somebody.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2013
  14. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    It's interesting that you mention that. Ghabi mentioned that it's basically equivalent to the word "atrium" in English. In case you're not familiar with this term, as it's not really used all that often in English either, it basically refers to the really big open-air areas in large buildings like skyscrapers and malls. Here are pictures for reference:


    If 中庭 is basically a forgotten word, what do you usually call these kinds of locations?

    This also is very interesting to me, and raises two new questions.

    1) It's easy for me to generalize Chinese as a more poetic language than English, but I don't want to make assumptions about how people would perceive someone using "graceful" language. Is this something to aspire to? or does it make your speech sound kind of literary, poetic, and "romantic", and perhaps like you take yourself too seriously?

    The only concept that I could think of in English the speech used by academics and grammarians that makes them sound very intelligent but perhaps a bit alien and stuffy to commoners. Does "graceful" language have the same kind of effect on Chinese language?

    2) You say that 个 is okay to use when talking to friends. I've been studying politeness levels and honorifics in Korean and Japanese, and they're very strict about using the correct type of speech when addressing certain types of people, generally those who are older or of higher social standing.

    Your last sentence made me wonder if the use of 个 has the same kind of restrictions. Is it okay ONLY with friends? Should it be avoided when addressing strangers, or with superiors and elders?

  15. goodatchinese Member

    Re: Question On 中庭 and 庭院
    Really interesting questions. I will try my best to answer them with my poor English.
    I'm not familiar with the word "atrium", thank you for the helpful explenation. And yes, "中庭" is something like that.
    Three really interesting pics make me realize why we rarely use "中庭" in our daily life. Let's begin with a conversation happens everyday.
    I will have a date with Jane tomorrow, we are on the phone and discussing about where should me meet, and Jane said "在金茂大厦中庭见面怎么样?"(How about atrium of the JinMao Building?)
    That's a great building, and i got where she want us to meet. But, atrium is something like a broad concept, i can only be sure that we 'll meet inside the building.
    So i may reply, "Sure, but can you be more specific."
    I hope had using 'specific' correctly and you can understand what i'm trying to say.
    Then go back to the pics one by one.
    It looks like a lobby of a hotel or a vacation center.
    I will use the word "大堂".
    Jane might said,"在金茂大厦的大堂见面吧"(How about the lobby of the JinMao Building).

    Really interesting one. Many newly built buildings in my city look like this. We call this kind of buildings "回字形建筑" ,which means buildings look like "回"(hui2).
    I will describe the content of this picture like "回字形建筑 的 中央区域",which means the center area of a "回" like building.
    Jane might said,"Let's meet at the center area of the JinMao Building, ground floor, shall we?"

    I'll just call this "室内小花园" ,which means an indoor garden.

    It reminds me of William Shakespeare. Engish is poetic too! But i don't think you will talk to your friends with sonets.
    It is something aspired to if you are making a speech about literary works,poems,poets. But if you are give a topic like IT techs, you don't need to take serious on the measure word.

    Yes,you got the point. And i think i wrongly used the adj "graceful".Could you tell me which adj will you use?

    My friends in this case means my boss, parents or my relatives, or maybe a stranger. I've been studying Japanses too, and I get those honorifics issues as you do.
    In Chinese its something about mood, or attitude, i'm not sure about the exact word. Speak gentlely, one or two more "please" and "Thank you", is good enough to show your respect.
  16. Ghabi

    Ghabi AL/OL/Ar/Zh mod

    Hong Kong
    Hi again! 中庭 as "courtyard" is indeed archaic/literary, but the word has been revived to translate the contemporary idea of "atrium".
  17. tarlou Senior Member

    To me, 天井 is also possible and is easier than 中庭.
    In real life I would most likely use xxx楼中间的空地 or a similar phrase to refer to that place.

    I basically agree with above discussions. But I think when we classify a word as "uncommon", the context is very important. In daily conversation, I would be confused if someone ask me to go to 中庭 in an unfamiliar building. But with the correct context and description, 中庭 is just "middle" plus "yard". For lyrics like 一阵金风过,落叶满中庭, I didn't notice anything uncommon at all when I heard this (in 郭德纲的《休洗红》).
    Dialects may also matter. For example, a courtyard outside house is called 当院儿 in my hometown. I'm not sure if people in other places can understand such words, or if they have different words in their dialects. People in different places may have different (oral) vocabulary. I wouldn't be too surprised if someone use 中庭 in their oral language (but it seems not).
  18. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    I think you're demonstrating that 中庭 is indeed "uncommon"! ;)
  19. wordjazreference New Member

    The discussion thread is great and I just want to add to this thread from my personal experience.

    Like tarlou said, 中庭 literally means "middle" + "yard", and it is actually quite common in some Chinese-speaking areas.
    I think this term is not rarely used at all in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
    E.g., "到時候中庭見" (Meet you at the atrium then);
    "我通常在中庭打太極拳"(I usually practice Tai-chi at the atrium)

    And goodatchinese provided some good examples with pictures.

    Regarding the measure word, when using "中庭", we rarely use such measure word as 一"x"中庭;
    we say "....的中庭", eg. "xx大廈的中庭" (the atrium of xx Building/Complex"),

    But if you want to specify the number, then you can say "個(个)、處(处)、方".

    Additionally, on tarlou's poetry example, I don't know the context, but in reading it, my personal interpretation would be - "中庭" here is more like "the middle of the yard" ("庭中"的倒裝) or "the yard in the middle (of the house)".

    The usage difference is like British vs. American English - while one term is common in one area, it is rare (and could be considered weird or wrong) in another. :)
  20. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    I suppose this makes perfect sense. Like I said, we also rarely use the word "atrium" either, preferring things instead like "lobby", "ground floor" or even "garden" as well. So I understand the usage of synonyms and/or synonymous phrases.

    But damned if every dictionary I consulted didn't suggest 中庭 for "courtyard". Moreover, 中庭 (なかにわ) (as far as I've learned), is the Japanese word for "courtyard", which further affirmed my belief that 中庭 was the appropriate word in Chinese, lol. It seems to me that I will be learning a lot of words that I will never use, and will subsequently have them replaced by more appropriate ones that I learn down the line.

    I would probably use the adjectives "poetic" or "academic", depending on how I wanted my words to sound and who I was saying them to. We tend to think of "graceful" as a description of physical behavior or perhaps even music, but that speaks to the poetry of the Chinese culture that you would think to use "graceful" to describe someone's speech and choice of language. I would probably only see the word "graceful" describing someone's choice of words in a review of a literary work. Especially one that was intentionally poetic or philosophical or perhaps an older work - we seem to always find old literature "more cultured" for some reason, lol.

    This makes life easier. Though I don't want to be completely basal in my language learning, it's nice that this aspect is culturally familiar to me. Learning Korean politeness was a nightmare for me that took at least two weeks of solid study to decipher, lol.

    I guess this all reinforces my supposition that I will end up learning a ton of words that I barely ever use, and learning their more common counterparts well after I thought I'd learn the words. I suppose that's the adventure in learning a language spoken by over a billion people in a land mass as large and diverse as China.

    I appreciate the input all of you have given. I will take it all to heart and apply it to my studies.

  21. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Were you perhaps thinking of the words "refined", "elegant" (for "文雅" in Chinese) ?
  22. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    "Elegant" could perhaps work in my mind for "beautiful" language, but "refined" gives me an image of a street urchin being washed down, dressed up, and taught to use the proper dinner forks, Beauty & The Beast style, lol. My only problem with "elegant" is that it still implies something that is visually appealing rather than audibly.

    I don't know if 文雅 is less restricting in the way it can be perceived, but for this reason, I'd still prefer to use "poetic" or "academic" to describe speech depending on the context and usage. At least in an English speaking country anyway.

    Though this restriction wouldn't apply to written words since they are, in fact, perceived by the eyes. Just my cultural interpretation.

    What do you think, goodatchinese?
  23. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    I mentioned "文雅" in passing but if it becomes a focus for discussion, goodatchinese will make a separate thread for it (or I can split the thread, if goodatchinese replies here).

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