Japanese Language Blog

Counting Basics in Japanese – Part 2 Posted by on Jun 9, 2014 in Culture, Grammar

The other day, I have introduced “COUNTER WORDS’ in Japanese. COUNTER WORDS are the attachments to the vocabulary when you count things in Japanese. It changes according to what exactly you are counting.

You can read the first article from here for your review.

The last article covered the following things for counting.

  • Smaller animals, insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians – “hiki (ひき) or piki (ぴき)”
  • Larger animals – “tou (とう)”
  • Long, thin objects: rivers, roads, train tracks, ties, pencils, bottles – “pon (本、ぽん) , hon(本、ほん), bon(本、ぼん)
  • Number of floors – “kai (階、かい) “

Let me expand the list a bit more today by introducing you to counting other things in Japanese.

Thin, flat objects: sheets of paper, photographs, plates, articles of clothing  – “mai (まい)”

For example,

1 mai (いちまい), 2 mai (にまい), 3 mai(さんまい), 4 mai(よんまい), 5 mai(ごまい), 6 mai(ろくまい), 7 mai(ななまい), 8 mai(はちまい), 9 mai(きゅうまい), 10 mai(じゅうまい)

I have 10 origami’s here.

Watashiwa 10 mai no origami o kokoni motteimasu. – 私は、10枚の折り紙をここに持っています。(わたしは、10まいのおりがみを ここにもっています。)

 People – “ri (り)” ”nin(にん)”

For example,

1 ri(ひとり), 2 ri (ふたり), 3 nin(さんにん), 4 nin(よにん), 5 nin(ごにん), 6 nin(ろくにん), 7 nin(ななにん), 8 nin(はちにん), 9 nin(きゅうにん), 10 nin(じゅうにん)

There are 10 people lined up before me.

Watashi no mae ni 10 nin narande imasu.– 私の前に10人並んでいます。(わたしのまえに10にん ならんでいます。)


Books – “satsu(さつ)” 

For example,

1 satsu(いっさつ), 2 satsu (にさつ), 3 statsu(さんさつ), 4 satsu(よんさつ), 5 satsu(ごさつ), 6 satsu(ろくさつ), 7 satsu(ななさつ), 8 satsu(はっさつ), 9 satsu(きゅうさつ), 10 satsu(じゅっさつ)

I read 8 books this week.

Watashi wa konshu 8 satsu no hon o yomimashita.– 私は今週、8冊の本を読みました。(わたしは、こんしゅう8さつのほんをよみました。)


Cars, bicycles, machines, mechanical devices – “dai(台、だい)” 


For example,

1 daiいちだい), 2 dai (にだい), 3 dai(さんだい), 4 dai(よんだい), 5 dai(ごだい), 6 dai(ろくだい), 7 dai(ななだい), 8 dai(はちだい), 9 dai(きゅうだい), 10 dai(じゅうだい)

10 cars passed by.

10 dai no kuruma ga tootta– 10台の車が通った。(10だいのくるまがとおった。)

As you can tell above, the COUNTER WORDS change based on what you are counting. This concept might be quite confusing at first when you are first learning Japanese. Smaller children often times use these counter words incorrectly, and even for native Japanese speaking children, this takes time.  So study one counter word at a time and remember to use them correctly.  Good luck!

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About the Author: keiko

Born and raised in Japan. She currently lives in U.S. with her husband and two kids.