Counters

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For example 人(にん) ''nin'' is a counter for people.  Counting down we have ...
For example 人(にん) ''nin'' is a counter for people.  Counting down we have ...
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Five people : 五人 (ごにん) ''gonin'<br>
+
Five people : 五人 (ごにん) ''gonin''<br>
-
Four people : 四人 (よんにん) ''yonnin' (N.B. NOT ''shinin''!)<br>
+
Four people : 四人 (よにん) ''yonin'' (N.B. NEITHER ''shinin'' NOR ''yonnin''!)<br>
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Three people : 三人 (さんにん) ''sannin'
+
Three people : 三人 (さんにん) ''sannin''
You've seen the pattern so far - what do you suppose "Two people" and "One person" would be?
You've seen the pattern so far - what do you suppose "Two people" and "One person" would be?
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Two people : 二人 (ふたり) ''futari'<br>
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Two people : 二人 (ふたり) ''futari''<br>
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One person : 一人;独り (ひとり) ''hitori'
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One person : 一人;独り (ひとり) ''hitori''
==Generic Counters==
==Generic Counters==

Revision as of 09:54, 22 August 2006

Contents

Introduction

Counters are a special form of suffix used in Japanese when counting. They often have sound changes or irregular words in the series.

For example 人(にん) nin is a counter for people. Counting down we have ...

Five people : 五人 (ごにん) gonin
Four people : 四人 (よにん) yonin (N.B. NEITHER shinin NOR yonnin!)
Three people : 三人 (さんにん) sannin

You've seen the pattern so far - what do you suppose "Two people" and "One person" would be?

Two people : 二人 (ふたり) futari
One person : 一人;独り (ひとり) hitori

Generic Counters

Japanese has counters for almost everything but there are two 'generic' ways of counting.

Counting with つ

These are the old Japanese counting numbers.

1 一つ (ひとつ) 2 二つ (ふたつ) 3 三つ (みっつ) 4 四つ (よっつ) 5 五つ (いつつ) 6 六つ (むっつ) 7 七つ (ななつ) 8 八つ (やっつ) 9 九つ (ここのつ) 10 十 (とお)

Unfortunately that's where they stop (actually there are some higher numbers but they are for specific circumstances not for general use).

These numbers can be used with nearly any category of object (You can't, however, say ひとつのイギリス人がいました One Englishman was present. It would have to be ひとり).

リンゴをふたつください。ringo o futatsu kudasai.
Two apples, please.

Counting objects with こ

ko is a general counter for objects. If you can't remember what the proper counter is you will at least be understood with こ.

リンゴを二個ください。ringo o niko kudasai.
Two apples please.


Overview of some different counting words

 

Counting word

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Asking word

General

ひとつ

ふたつ

みっつ

よっつ

いつつ

むっつ

ななつ

やっつ

ここのつ

とお

いくつ

Humans

人 (にん)

ひとり

ふたり

さんにん

よにん

ごにん

ろくにん

しちにん

はちにん

きゅうにん

じゅうにん

なんにん

General

個 (こ)

いっこ

にこ

さんこ

よんこ

ごこ

ろっこ

ななこ

はっこ

きゅうこ

じゅっこ

なんこ

Long things

本 (ほん)

いっぽん

にほん

さんぼん

よんほん

ごほん

ろっぽん

ななほん

はっぽん

きゅうほん

じゅっぽん

なんぼん

Flat things

枚 (まい)

いちまい

にまい

さんまい

よんまい

ごまい

ろくまい

ななまい

はちまい

きゅうまい

じゅうまい

なんまい

Books, Tacked things

冊 (さつ)

いっさつ

にさつ

さんさつ

よんさつ

ごさつ

ろくさつ

ななさつ

はっさつ

きゅうさつ

じゅっさつ

なんさつ

Machines

台 (だい)

いちだい

にだい

さんだい

よんだい

ごだい

ろくだい

なんだい

はちだい

きゅうだい

じゅうだい

なんだい

Animals (small)

匹 (ひき)

いっぴき

にひき

さんびき

よんひき

ごひき

ろっぴき

ななひき

はっぴき

きゅうひき

じゅっぴき

なんびき

Containers (full)

杯 (はい)

いっぱい

にはい

さんばい

よんはい

ごはい

ろっぱい

ななはい

はっぱい

きゅうはい

じゅっぱい

なんばい

Shoes, socks

足 (そく)

いっそく

にそく

さんぞく

よんそく

ごそく

ろくそく

ななそく

はっそく

きゅうそく

じゅっそく

なんぞく

Stories

階 (かい)

いっかい

にかい

さんかい

よんかい

ごかい

ろっかい

ななかい

はっかい

きゅうかい

じゅっかい

なんかい

Age

歳, 才(さい)

いっさい

にさい

さんさい

よんさい

ごさい

ろくさい

ななさい

はっさい

きゅうさい

じゅっさい

なんさい

long things i.e. rulers
flat things i.e. paper
tacked things i.e. books or magazines
containers i.e. a cup of tea

Unusual and surprising counters

本(ほん) is the counter for "long things" but it is also the counter for films. This is because films were long strips of film (stored in reels).

羽(わ) is the counter for birds, but it is also the official counter for rabbits (for which there are a few explanations). Although it is the official counter 匹(ひき) is also correct, and probably used more frequently.

足(そこ) counts things in pairs. 一足(いっそく) is one pair of shoes, or socks.

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