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 ABOUT: 

■  Japanese is full of counters. These helper words give information about the nature of the thing you are counting. Flat objects, people, small animals, etc have a counter.

Generic Counter: Japanese does allow for counting up to 10 using the kun readings of the numbers. This can be used for counting most things.

Number

Kanji

1

(ひと)

2

(ふた)

3

(みっ)

4

(よっ)

5

(いつ)

6

(むっ)

7

(なな)

8

(やっ)

9

(ここの)

10

(とお)

How many?

いくつ

For more on numbers, see here.

 EXAMPLES: 

(ふた)ありました。
There were two of them.

リンゴを(ひと)(ねが)いします。
Please give me one apple.

 HOW TO USE

As we mentioned earlier, using counters gives us information about the objects we are counting.

(にん) counter for people
(さい) counter for ages of people and animals; this is also written as 才; this is fairly regular except for age 20 which is はたち.
() counter for small or round objects [fruits; eggs]
(ほん) counter for long, cylindrical objects [bottles; pencils; chopsticks]
(まい) counter for flat, thin objects [sheets of paper; stamps; plates; shirts]
(ひき) counter for small animals [cats; dogs; fish—usually up to the size of a dog. For larger animals, (とう) is used.]
(さつ) counter for books

There are many, many more, but these are of the most useful.

Review the chart below and pay special attention to the underlined irregular pronunciations.

■ To ask, how many, simply add 何 before the counter: 何人(なんにん) how many people?; 何枚(なんまい) how many sheets (of paper)?


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