Counting

How to count people and general objects.

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Outline

VocabularyCounting

Vocabulary

トイレ

Toilet, Restroom, Bathroom

兄弟

Sibling

男の子

Boy, Son

一人

One person, By oneself

二人

Two people, Two persons

四人

Four people

三つ

Three things

四つ

Four things

五つ

Five things

Counting

Counting items in Japanese is a large topic. Japanese requires that you use specific counting words depending on the item or living creature that you are counting. For example, ひき is used to count small animals and ほん is used for long and thin objects. So if you wanted to say "There are two dogs" in Japanese you could say "いぬ二匹にひきいます". We aren't going to cover all of the different ways to count items here but will introduce two basic counting words for people and objects.

People

The counter for people is にん. The table below shows how to count between 1 and 10 people:

Number of peopleJapaneseReading
1一人ひとり
2二人ふたり
3三人さんにん
4四人よにん
5五人ごにん
6六人ろくにん
7七人ななにん
8八人はちにん
9九人きゅうにん
10十人じゅうにん

Notice the reading for 一人ひとり and 二人ふたり have special readings which are different from the normal pattern of the others, and 四人 is read as よにん instead of しにん or よんにん.

General objects

The counter for general objects is . When you are not sure what counter to use, you can count nearly any kind of non-living object with this counter. The readings for this counter are a little bit tricky.

NumberJapaneseReading
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とお

There is another counter for general objects: . This will be introduced later on along with an explanation of the differences between the two.

Counters in a sentence

The following shows some examples of how to add a number of objects in います/あります sentences.

  • おとこ四人よにんいます。
  • There are four boys.
  • トイレがみっつあります。
  • There are three toilets.
  • 兄弟きょうだい二人ふたりいます。
  • I have two siblings.

Notice the words to describe the number/amount come after the subject, which is the opposite to English. Native English speakers tend to say 四人よにんおとこがいます or みっつトイレがあります from the English sentence ordering “four boys or “three toilets”. While it is grammatically correct, it is more natural to say it like the above examples.

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