Japanese counters

Counting in Japanese isn't as straightforward as in English.

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In Japanese, to count things, events or actions you need to use special words called counters. The Japanese numerals cannot be used directly with a noun.. 1

There are too many counters and you need to use a different one depending on what you want to count. Using the wrong counter is grammatically incorrect. If you are counting people, you must use the people counter, etc. Sometimes, it is acceptable to use a more generic counter when a less commonly used counter applies. 2

Most common counters

JapaneseUse
To count the number of people
To count long, cylindrical objects such as bottles or chopsticks
To count thin objects such as paper or shirts
To count bound objects usually books
To count small animals like cats or dogs
To count the age of a living creatures such as people
To count small (often round) objects
To count number of times
To count number of locations
To count any generic object that has a rare or no counter

Counting from 1 to 10

  • Special readings appear in bold font.
ヶ所
1ひとりいっぽんいちまい いっさついっぴきいっさいいっこいっかいいっかしょひとつ
2ふたりにほん にまい にさつ にひき にさい にこ にかい にかしょ ふたつ
3さんにん さんぼんさんまい さんさつ さんびきさんさい さんこ さんかい さんかしょ みっつ
4よにんよんほん よんまい よんさつ よんひき よんさい よんこ よんかい よんかしょ よっつ
5ごにん ごほん ごまい ごさつ ごひき ごさい ごこ ごかい ごかしょ いつつ
6ろくにん ろっぽんろくまい ろくさつ ろっぴきろくさい ろっころっかいろっかしょむっつ
7しちにんななほん ななまい ななさつ ななひき ななさい ななこ ななかい ななかしょ ななつ
8はちにん はちほん はちまい はっさつはっぴきはっさいはっこはちかい はっかしょやっつ
9きゅうにん きゅうほん きゅうまい きゅうさつ きゅうひき きゅうさい きゅうこ きゅうかい きゅうかしょ ここのつ
10じゅうにん じゅっぽんじゅうまい じゅっさつじゅっぴきじゅっさいじゅっこじゅっかいじゅっかしょとお

View Wikipedia: Japanese counter word for a comprehensive list of Japanese counters.

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