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Ultimate Guide to Counting in Japanese

By Chu Thi Anh | Revised by HeiKin Wong | January 11th 2022

Learning how to count is one of the first basics of any foreign language. In Japanese, it is easy to count from one to ten. However, counting in Japanese starts to become more complicated when you want to count different types of objects or express large quantities. Memorizing Japanese counters can be frustrating at first because there are so many of them and it can be confusing to know when to use each one precisely. Not to mention, in Japan, kanji is sometimes used when writing numbers, which might probably take your eyes and brains a little more time to get used to. 

So, do you find counting in Japanese too complicated to understand and use? Or, are you looking for some helpful tips to help make your daily conversation that involves Japanese counting more understandable? You have come to the right place! With this article, let us help you gain an overview of the most commonly used Japanese counters and Japanese expressions with numbers. You will also find many handy tips that we believe will ease your concerns in daily life and work in Japan. Let's take a look and become educated with us! 

This article is a part of our series of articles on Self-studying Japanese

Since we will focus on the reading by Hiragana and Katakana in this article instead of Romaji, it’s important for you to have already mastered these two Japanese syllabaries (or alphabets, in essence). If you’re not quite there yet, check out our Ultimate Guide to Hiragana and Katakana. Without any further adieu, let’s dive in!  

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    Counting in Japanese from 1 to 10

    Some quick notes on counting in Japanese

    Like any other language, learning how to count is fundamental. In Japanese, it is not only about knowing how numbers are pronounced, but also about knowing how they are written because of the unique writing system. (Pro tip: Be sure to memorize how to write basic words! It will be your gateway into identifying patterns in the language and learning how to count in Japanese)   

    In Japanese, counter words (助数詞・じょすうし・josushi) are the measure words used depending on the objects, actions, and events we are counting. To some extent, they are used in the same way as a bag of sugar, a bar of candy, a pinch of pepper, or a packet of ketchup in English. For instance, the word 猫 (ねこ・neko) in Japanese can be translated a cat, the cats, some cats, or cats in general. Therefore, counters are applied to indicate how many to clear up the ambiguity. For example:

    匹の猫 (にひきのねこ ・Nihiki no neko), indicates there are two cats. While 匹 (ひき・Hiki) in general is the counter for small animals, not all cats are counted using hiki. In other words:

    The meaning is not clear when the counter is missing

    If you just said something like 二猫 (ni neko) or 二の猫 (ni no neko), this might mean like two’s cat or two’s cats, the second cat, or (what you intended to say) two cats. Confusing, I know.  猫 (neko)  already has its potential meanings, but in Japanese, the degrees of specificity implied based on different contexts are not immediately built by using articles and plural forms like English. 

    But don’t worry! Even without counters, Japanese people will still likely understand what you mean. It’s a highly contextual language which means they’ll figure out what you’re trying to say based on the context or situation. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to learn how to express quantities correctly (especially if you’re thinking about working in Japan). While you can still make a friendly impression in Japanese without knowing the counters, it still indirectly shows that you care and respect their language and culture.

    Looking to deep dive into Japanese culture and its rich history? Take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Japanese Culture

    Counting in Japanese: Why are there so many types of counters?

    We know from historical records that the Japanese language was heavily influenced by Chinese words. It is no different when it comes to Japanese counters.  However, Japanese counters are also unique from the Chinese counters because it was built upon and added to by Japanese people’s particular mindset, creativity, and the evolution of the Japanese language.   

    Modern Japanese is a mix of three different sources. The first source is the original Japanese language called wago (和語・わご), or yamato-kotoba (大和言葉・やまとことば). The second source is kango (漢語・かんご), which originates from Chinese. The final source is foreign words that have been incorporated into the Japanese language over time, called gairaigo (外来語・がいらいご). Japanese people use the number names system to indicate their numerals and use their kanji system to write numbers. Therefore, there are two primary types of pronunciations used to count in Japanese: The on-yomi readings of the Chinese characters and the kun-yomi readings, which are used to read Japanese native words. Finally, each counter also has its own kanji

    If you’re struggling to remember all that kanji, you can learn more about kanji in our guide to the Top 15 Japanese Kanji Tips.

    In short, all Japanese nouns must go with a counter to express the quantities because the Japanese language does not have singular and plural morphology; as with 猫 (ねこ・neko), this can represent one or several cats. While there exist more than 500 counters, not all of them are commonly used. No need to worry and stress yourself out! You only need to learn some of the most common ones and memorize the basic numbers to use them in daily life. We will help you to figure them out. Let’s get started! 

    Child learning how to count in Japanese

    Counting in Japanese: Where do I start?

    How to count from 1-10 

    Knowing how to count from 1 to 10 is the cornerstone to learning a new language. The great thing about this first set is that you can use it to count just about anything if you’re not sure of the right counter. Don’t forget to practice your kanji writing as well! 

    Arabic

    Kanji

    Reading

    音読み (Onyomi)

    (Kango)

    訓読み (Kunyomi)

    (Wago)

    1

    ichi / いち

    Hito (tsu) / ひと・つ

    2

    ni / に

    Futa (tsu) / ふた・つ

    3

    san / さん

    Mit (tsu) / みっ・つ

    4

    shi / し

    yon, yot (tsu) / よん、よっ・つ

    5

    go / ご

    Itsu (tsu) / いつ・つ

    6

    roku / ろく

    Mut (tsu) / むっ・つ

    7

    shichi / しち

    Nana (tsu) / なな・つ

    8

    hachi / はち

    Yat (tsu) / やっ・つ

    9

    ku, kyū / く, きゅう

    Kokono (tsu) / ここの・つ

    10

    / じゅう

    / とお

    Although that might seem like a lot to remember at first, the Kango side is by far more commonly used than Wago when counting in Japanese. In modern Japanese, the Wago version is usually reserved for the first ten numbers and only in special cases (such as days). However, we recommend you learn these cases by heart because they are used fixed. In general, Kango can be used from 1 to... forever and is a lot more flexible. 

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    How do I count beyond 10 in Japanese?

    Note: From here on out, to help you practice your Japanese reading - we’re 86’ing (or はちじゅうろく’ing) the romaji! Good luck!

    Basically, multiples of ten (20 to 90) are simply the combinations of one number (from 2 to 9) and 10. For example, 20 (にじゅう) is a combination of 2 (に) and 10 (じゅう) while 50 (ごじゅう) is 5 (ご) combined with 10 (じゅう).

    Arabic

    Kanji

    音読み (Onyomi)

    (Kango)

    20

    二十

    ni-jū / にじゅう

    30

    三十

    san-jū / さんじゅ

    40

    四十

    shi-jū / しじゅう

    yon-jū/よんじゅう (more common)

    50

    五十

    go-jū / ごじゅ

    60

    六十

    roku-jū / ろくじゅ

    70

    七十

    shichi-jū / しちじゅう

    nana-jū/ななじゅう (more common)

    80

    八十

    hachi-jū / はちじゅ

    90

    九十

    ku-jū / くじゅう

    kyū-jū/ きゅうじゅう

    From 10 to 19, 20 to 29, 30 to 39, 40 to 49, and on, you only need to combine numbers to make bigger ones and say them in Kango. For example: 

    • 10 (じゅう)and 1 (いち) would make 11 (じゅういち) 
    • 30 (さんじゅう) 
    • 5 (ご) would make 35 (さんじゅうご) 
    • 70 (しちじゅう/ななじゅう) and 8(はち) would make 78 (しちじゅうはち/ななじゅうはち)

    Get Smart Counting in Japanese: Counting above 99 and beyond

    Counting beyond 99 in Japanese will get just a little bit complicated. Similar to English, the unit’s name changes with each decimal. However, Japanese uses a new word on every fourth exponent on a base of 10, whereas English does every third exponent instead. I promise it’s less frightening when you see it - let’s take a look!

    Arabic

    Kanji

    音読み (Onyomi)

    (Kango)

    English

    100

    hyaku / ひゃく

    hundred

    1000

    sen / せん

    thousand

    1,0000 (Japanese)

    10,000 (English)

    man / まん

    Ten thousand

    1,0000,0000 (Japanese)

    100,000,000 (English)

    ichioku / いちおく

    Million

    1,0000,0000,0000 (Japanese)

    1,000,000,000,000 (English)

    icchō /いっ ちょう

    Billion

    1,0000,0000,0000,0000 (Japanese) 10,000,000,000,000,000 (English)

    ikkyo / いっきょう

    Trillion 

    Special rules for bigger numbers when counting in Japanese

    In general, there are a few counting rules for big numbers that are worth remembering. 

    • 四十 (forty),四百 (four-hundred), 四千 (four-thousand) and 四万 (forty-thousand) are always read with よん for 4 
    • 七十 (seventy),七百(seven-hundred), 七千(seven-thousand) and 七万 (seventy-thousand) are always read with なな for 7
    • 九十 (ninety),九百 (nine-hundred), 九千 (nine-thousand), and 九万 (ninety-thousand) are always read with きゅう for 9. 
    • When a 0 appears in the number, you normally don't have to read it out loud. For instance "503" would be ごひゃくさん, not ごひゃくれいさん or ごひゃくゼロさん.

    It’s also important to remember phonetic modifications when reading numbers. Basically, there are special exceptions when it comes to certain numbers. For example, 600 is not expressed as ろくひゃく but instead as ろっぴゃく. See the handy chart below to get a handle on some of the different phonetic modifications for certain numbers. 

     

    百 (ひゃく)

    千 (せん)

    兆 (ちょう)

    京(きょう)

    1

       

    いっちょう

    いっきょう

    3

    さんびゃく

    さんぜん

       

    6

    ろっぴゃく

       

    ろっきょう

    8

    はっぴゃく

    はっせん

    はっちょう

    はっきょう

    はちきょう

    10

       

    じゅっちょう

    じゅっきょう

    Tips on tackling big numbers in Japanese

    You might find it challenging to understand the Japanese numeral system, especially when reading a long number because it differs from country to country. Try not to overthink or feel nervous when you see a very long number. The first step is to break them into identifiable groups of four and add the basic rules we’ve covered thus far to them. 

    For example, if you win the lottery and you’re taking home 108,758,000,090,000円, you can figure out how much it is like this:

    Break them into groups of 4: 

    108, 7580, 0009, 0000

    兆 (ちょう)・億 (きょう)・万 (まん) 

    → 108, then 兆7580, then 億9万 

    This works out to be ひゃくはっちょう ななせんごひゃくはちじゅうおく きゅうまん

    You can check out this article for more examples and learn How to count all Japanese numbers. Also now you’re rich (in terms of counting in Japanese, at least)!

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    Japanese counting in small numbers

    How do I count time, months, and dates? Are there any exceptions?

    The following table tells you everything you need to know about expressing time in Japanese. Be careful with some of the phonetic modifications!

    Hour ~時 (~じ)

    Minute ~分

    1

    一時 (いちじ)

    1

    一分 (いっぷん)

    2

    二時 (にじ)

    2

    二分 (にふん) 

    3

    三時 (さんじ)

    3

    三分 (さんふん)

    4

    四時 (よじ)*

    4

    四分 (よんぷん)

    5

    五時 (ごじ)

    5

    五分 (ごふん)

    6

    六時 (ろくじ)

    6

    六分 (ろっぷん)*

    7

    七時 (しちじ)*

    7

    七分 (ななふん)*

    8

    八時 (はちじ)

    8

    八分 (はっぷん)

    9

    九時 (くじ)*

    9

    九分 (きゅうふん)*

    10

    十時 (じゅうじ)

    10

    十分 (じゅっぷん、じっぷん)

    11

    十一時 (じゅういちじ)

    15

    十五分 (じゅうごふん)

    12

    十二時 (じゅうにじ)

    30

    三十分・半 (さんじゅっぷん、さんじっぷん、はん)

    Ques

    何時 (なんじ)

    Ques

    何分 (なんぷん)

    There are two special cases that you should note down: 4 o’clock is always read as よじ and 9 o’clock is always くじ. To make it easier, we’ve indicated the ones you should pay special attention to with an *.

    Examples of expressing time in Japanese

    Now that you know how to express time in Japanese. Let's try asking what time it is.

       Q:  今、何時ですか。(いまなんじですか。)(What time is it?). 

    In some cases when you want to be very specific, the question might be: 今、何時何分ですか。(いま、なんじなんぷんですか。)

    A: 四時半です。(よじはんです。)(It's half past four)

    At its core, 分 (ぷん) is a unit for minutes, and 時 (じ)is translated as o’clock in this context. You can also use the words 午前 (ごぜん) for a.m. and 午後 (ごご) for p.m. by putting them right before the hour.

    Ex: 午後四時にテレビを見ます。/ ごごよじにテレビをみます 。(I will watch television at 4 p.m)

    Another related counter is the word 時間 (じかん・jikan), which literally means "time". This counter is used to refer to the number of hours or the amount of time in hours, as in "three hours" or "twenty-four hours." When 時間 is used, it means someone is talking about a certain interval of time in hours. This one is simple and all you need to do is to replace 時 with 時間. 

    Ex: 二時間後に会いましょう。/ にじかんごにあいましょう。 (Let's meet up in two hours.)

    How do I count months and days in Japanese?

    To say months, you only need to add a number between 1 to 12 before the counter ~月 (がつ)

    Let’s take a look at some examples: 

    February: にがつ (Nigatsu, 2月)

    November: じゅういちがつ (Juuichigatsu, 11月)

    Also note that 4月 is always read しがつ (Shigatsu)、7月 is しちがつ (Shichigatsu) and 9月 is くがつ (kugatsu).

    For days, you will need to remember the following special cases and ways to say them:

    Days ~日

    1

    一日 (ついたち)

    2

    二日 (ふつか)

    3

    三日 (みっか)

    4

    四日  (よっか)

    5

    五日 (いつか)

    6

    六日 (むいか)

    7

    七日 (なのか)

    8

    八日 (ようか)

    9

    九日 (ここのか)

    10

    十日 (とおか)

    11

    十一日 (じゅういちにち)

    14

    十四日 (じゅうよっか)

    19

    十九日 (じゅうくにち)

    24

    二十四日 (にじゅうよっか)

    29

    二十九日 (にじゅうくにち)

    Apart from the numbers provided above, you only need to add a number before 日 (にち) to specify a date, such as じゅうさんにち (the 13th)、or にじゅうろくにち (the 26th).

    To ask for a day, people usually say: 何日ですか or (to be more specific) 何月何日ですか。 

    Ex: 

    A: 明日は何日ですか。 / あしたはなんにちですが。 (What day is tomorrow?)

    B: 四月六日です。(しがつむいかです。)(It’s April 6th)

    For an even more in-depth look at this system, you can find more useful information here on counting days.

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    How do I count ages?

    The 歳 (さい) counter is used to count and say ages. It is used for people, animals, and even more. There is another (simpler) kanji for the same thing, which is 才 (also read さい). Technically they both make sense, but 歳 is more commonly used. 

    ~歳

    1

    一歳 (いっさい)

    2

    二歳 (にさい)

    3

    三歳 (さんさい)

    4

    四歳 (よんさい)

    5

    五歳 (ごさい)

    6

    六歳 (ろくさい)

    7

    七歳 (ななさい)

    8

    八歳 (はっさい)

    9

    九歳 (きゅうさい)

    10

    十歳 (じゅっさい、じっさい)

    20

    二十歳 (はたち)*

    Question

    何歳ですか。(なんさい)(informal)

    おいくつですか。(formal)

    The table above includes basic readings of how to express age in Japanese. To express any other age, simply add a number before 歳 (さい). 

    Ex: A Japanese friend may ask you: おいくつですか。 (How old are you?)

    Your answer might be: 二十一歳です。(にじゅういっさいです。)(I am 21 years old) 

    Much like in English, asking for ages can be considered impolite at times and should be generally treated with care. Still, learning this counter is necessary for your self-introduction or 自己紹介(じこしょうかい・jikoshokai) in Japanese. 

    Not sure how to give a self-introduction in Japanese? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Japanese Conversation for how to introduce yourself and keep the conversation rolling!

    How to use numbers in sentences and structure them properly

    In order to apply numerals and counters into sentences, you need to carefully follow the rules of word order. Remember these orders and you can apply them to nearly every case. 

    • Numeral + Counter + の + Noun + others (verbs)

    Ex: 私は三冊の本を買いました。/ わたしわさんさつのほんをかいました(I bought three books.)

    In this order, the numerals and counters have been included to become a part of the noun. 

    •  Noun + Particle + Numeral + Counter + others (verbs)

    Ex: 私は本を三冊買いました。/ わたしわほんをさんさつかいました。(I bought three books)

    With this order, numerals and counters are always placed after particles and they only work to specify the amount.

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    Pro Level Counting in Japanese: Counters worth learning

    Counting people in Japanese

    The kanji 人 (にん) is used to count people. Japanese people also use this counter to count things they treat like people, such as fairies or elves. You only need to add a number in front of 人 and read it as にん.

    Ex: 教室には5人がいます。(きょうしつにはごにんがいます。)

     (There are 5 people in the classroom) 

    But there are a few exceptions. When expressing 'one person' or 'two people,' you use a different rule:

    一人: ひとり (a person)

    二人: ふたり (two people)

    Apart from that, If you want to go deeper, you can visit this article on counting people

    But that’s it. Counting people in Japanese is probably the second-easiest counter of them all!

    The most basic and easy-to-remember Japanese Counters for Objects

    These two counters can be used to count almost anything and are the most commonly used in restaurants, convenience stores, etc.

     

    Things in common

    Small objects  ~個 (こ)

     Ex: fruits, erasers, clips, etc. 

    1

    ひとつ

    いっこ

    2

    ふたつ

    にこ

    3

    みっつ

    さんこ

    4

    よっつ

    よんこ

    5

    いつつ

    ごこ

    6

    むっつ

    ろっこ

    7

    ななつ

    ななこ

    8

    やっつ

    はっこ

    9

    ここのつ

    きゅうこ

    10

    とお

    じゅっこ、じっこ

    Ques

    いくつ?

    何個?(なんこ?)

     Ex: りんごが七個 (ななこ)/ななつ あります。(There are seven apples.)

    *This counter does not have kanji and is only represented using kana.

    Japanese counters for Long Objects, Mechanical Objects and Flat Objects

     

    Long Objects (~本)

    (Used for pens, folding fans, eels, tails, nail clippers, etc.)

    Mechanical Objects (~台)

    (Used for beds, tables, couches, harps, pianos, cellos, cars, etc.)

    Flat Objects

    (~枚)

    (Used for paper, photos, rafts, shells, cards, T-shirts, plastic bags, etc.)

    1

    いっぽん

    いちだい

    いちまい

    2

    にほん

    にだい

    にまい

    3

    さんぼん

    さんだい

    さんまい

    4

    よんほん

    よんだい

    よんまい

    5

    ごほん

    ごだい

    ごまい

    6

    ろっぽん

    ろくだい

    ろくまい

    7

    ななほん

    ななだい

    ななまい

    8

    はっぽん

    はちだい

    はちまい

    9

    きゅうほん

    きゅうだい

    きゅうまい

    10

    じゅっぽん、じっぽん

    じゅうだい

    じゅうまい

    Ques?

    何本? (なんぼん)

    何台?(なんだい)

    何枚?(なんまい)

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    Japanese counters for animals

    ~匹(ひき)

    This counter is used to count small or medium-sized animals such as fish, birds, dogs, cats, rabbits, shellfish, etc. Some notable exceptions are: 1 (いっぴき), 6 (ろっぴき), 8(はっぴき)  and 10 (じゅっぴき、じっぴき).

    Ex: この池には三匹のカメがいます。(このいけにはさんびきのかねがいます)

    There are three turtles in this pond.

    ~頭(とう)

    This counter is used for large animals like cows, horses, elephants, etc. With this one, you only need to take note of the following exceptions:  一頭 (いっとう), and 十頭 (じゅっとう、じっとう)

    Ex: 象が二頭見えます。(ぞうがにとうみえます。)

    (I saw two elephants.)

    Other things you will count in Japanese in daily life

    Floors ~階 (かい)

    This is the counter for floors in a building/structure. Counting floors in Japanese can be a little tricky so you may find this numeral note helpful: 

    1st / Ground floor: 一階 (いっかい)

    3rd floor: 三階 (さんがい)

    4th floor: 六階 (ろっかい)

    10th floor: 十階 (じゅっかいじっかい)

    100th floor: 百階 (ひゃっかい)

    Basement 1 /  B1: 地下一階 (ちかいっかい)

    Basement 2 / B2: 地下二階(ちかにかい)

    Items of clothing ~着(ちゃく)

    Japanese people use this counter to count clothes, usually are coats, cloaks, kimono, suits, dresses, jackets, etc. 一着 (いっちゃく), 八着 (はっちゃく) and 十着 (じゅっちゃく、じっちゃく) are the cases worth remembering. 

    Ex: 彼はコートを4着持っています。(かれはコートをよんちゃくもっています。)

    (He has four coats.)

    Order ~番(ばん)

    This counter is used to show one’s order, turn, or rank. It usually goes with 目 (め): 一番目, 二番目, etc. to show the first, second and son on of something.  There are no special modifications to this counter. 

    Ex: マミさんの成績はクラスで2番です。(マミさんのせいせきはクラスでにばんです。)

    (Mami got second place test results in the class.)

    Yes we know that’s a lot of kanji to remember. With so many different words and kanji in the Japanese language, you might find it challenging to remember them all. Fortunately, we have a guide on the Top 1000 Japanese Words You Need to Know to save you some time from remembering words you will never use!

    Here’s why counting in Japanese isn’t all boring

    Japanese wordplay

    As we’ve seen, Japanese words can be read in several ways and thus have different meanings and carry different degrees of  nuance. Japanese people take advantage of the various spellings and pronunciations in a kind of humorous Japanese wordplay or Goroawase (語呂合わせ). They combine homophonous words with a given series of letters, numbers, or symbols to make a new meaning. Sometimes, they are like puns, and sometimes they are purely created to help remember things better. 

    Learning some Goroawase can better your understanding of Japanese culture and language (and make studying just a little more fun).

    Alternatively, you can take it as a secret code for yourself. Here are some examples for you:

    • 093 can be read as okusan (奥さん), meaning ‘wife’. It is used in phone numbers for women or other items used by ladies. Zero can be read as oh, nine as ku, and three as san
    • 39 can be read as sankyu, meaning ‘thank you.’ 
    • 135 can be read as himitsu (秘密), meaning ‘secret’. 

    You can refer to this Goroawase article for more interesting phrases. 

    Some interesting Japanese expressions which contain numbers

    Similar to Chinese, Japanese can utilize kanji to make a new order and meaning of words to express themselves in several ways. Let’s take a look at some intriguing ones!

    • 人生、七転び八起きだよ。(じんせい、ななころびやおきだよ。)

    (Life has its ups and downs)

    • 失敗するかもしれないが一か八かやってみます。(しっぱいするかもしれないがいちかばちか やってみます。)

    (I may fail but I will take a chance and try to do it.)

    • 自転車で学校に行けば、交通費はいらないし健康にもいいから一石二鳥だ。(じてんしゃでがっこうにいけば、こうつうひはいらないしけんこうにいいからいっせきにちょうだ。)

    (If I go to school by bike, I won’t need to pay transportation fees and it is good for my health. So it’s killing two birds with one stone.)

    If you are interested and want to learn more about these kinds of expressions, we’re big fans of Maggie Sensei.  

    Ground Zer-… There is actually no 0 in Japanese

    Did you know that Japan didn't primarily have an expression for 0? The kango word for 0 is れい (零)which is actually borrowed from Chinese. It can also be written as ゼロ, due to the Western influence. Not until the Meiji period (1868–1912) was the English word for 0 imported to Japan, and became more commonly used nowadays.

    Counting in Japanese Textbooks

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    The most common mistakes you should avoid to not look like a noob

    Be careful with  四/4, 九/9, and 七/7

    The kango word for 4 is し, which sounds just like 死 (し), meaning "death."  and 九 originally can be read as く, sounds the same as 苦 (く), which means "suffering." Japanese people thought that they are unlucky readings and have made alternative versions for 4 and 9 to avoid negative associations. [Interestingly, businesses will avoid renting office space on the fourth floor as it is believed to be bad luck!]

    For 7, なな is more prefer using instead of しち which sounds too much like the number 1( いち) or even し. This is similar to the potential confusion in English between the pronunciation of "50" and "15.

    How to say phone number or addresses like a native

    In Japanese, no (の) is often used to read a hyphen when stating phone numbers, address numbers, and so on. You can either use the no or simply pause instead as the same in English. However, in some cases, it may bother others or if a Japanese person is telling you his/her phone number, you might not get the meaning. 

    For example: 0797-385-432.

    With the example above, it is better to not read it as: 

    Rei, nana, kyu, nana, pause, san, hachi, go, pause again, yon, san, ni. 

    Instead, add no where the hyphens are so it reads as:  

    Rei nana kyuu nana no san hachi go no yon san ni.

    What are some tips for counting in Japanese for beginners?

    Knuckle down on the basics

    As we stated several times in this article, it is crucial to know how to count in Japanese, and there are some must-remember basics. Although it seems complicated and overwhelming, there still are grammatical rules to avoid confusion. Don’t let the number of counters frighten you away! 

    In most cases, you only need to follow the form numeral + counter and be sure that you read numbers using their proper pronunciation. Keeping in mind the fundamental elements, you might find that you’re counting in Japanese like a native without even realizing it. You can always re-check the previous section of this article for a refresher course. 

    Be careful with phonetic modifications

    In this guide, you have learned the basics of how to count and how to count different objects, animals, and people by using counter words. Along the way, we explored a number of different phonetic modifications for each counter. Typically, the modification occurs in the numbers 3, 6, 8 and 10 which are followed with a counter of さ、か or ぱ. However, the modifications also vary depending on different counters and can be hard to guess (so this is mostly memorization). We recommend looking it up again anytime you are not sure about how to pronounce it correctly. You’ll get the hang of it once you’ve used it meaningfully once or twice.   

    Listen and learn from daily life

    This is very important because it will broaden your mind and be more practical than your standard textbook approach of yesteryear. Sometimes, you might come across a new counter word on the seal of a bento or instant food at supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurants, etc. Make a mental note or take a photo for your study! Or, you can listen and learn from Japanese people that you meet in daily life. You can always repeat the counter they used to ask you as a way to practice yourself.

    For example, when you are going to an Izakaya and order skewers of Yakitori, you might hear people use the counter 本 (ほん). At the supermarket, you will use 枚 (まい) to ask for extra plastic bags, and so on. Finally, if you want more tips on Japanese listening, check out our article on the Top 15 Japanese Listening Tips to see how you can improve your listening!

    When you don’t know which type of counter to use, you can use ko (~個) and tsu (~つ)

    In a situation when you are unable to express the number of a particular object or are not confident with the counters, you can use either ~つ or こ (~個) instead. People will always understand you, but in most cases, they will reply to you with the right appropriate counting word. As we just mentioned, it is great to listen and learn from them immediately so that you will be able to make it perfect next time. It also helps you to make a great impression on others as well. 

    ~つ) and こ (~個) are very convenient counters that can quantify many nouns without help. Nevertheless, it is probably better not to overuse them or rely too much on them because some nouns, including nouns for people and animals, must go with proper counters. 

    Ask your Japanese friends

    It will be great if you have some Japanese friends to support you with your Japanese learning. Counting in Japanese, like kanji, is challenging, even for Japanese people. However, they always are more than happy to help you with the most commonly used ones. Besides, Japanese counters were created based on how Japanese people view their daily life. So, it is a good idea to understand what they actually think and categorize objects into different counters. This not only is helpful to your learning of counting Japanese but leverages your Japanese conversation skills. 

    If you are looking to make Japanese friends and put what you’ve learned into practice, Head over to the  Ultimate Guide to Making Japanese Friends 

    Practice 

    Practice makes perfect! Learning any new thing is never an easy journey. Without practice, you might find it much more difficult to remember and apply to real-life situations. We recommend you to utilize what you learned and try to speak or repeat it from time to time. Moreover, learning kanji is crucial to mastering counting in Japanese. So much so that without it you might have trouble reading the most basic words in Japan. So, be sure to split time to take care of it! 

    While the tips above will certainly help with your Japanese learning progress, it will still take a while before you can speak the language fluently. In the meantime, why not learn some useful Japanese phrases that could help you get by? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Useful Japanese Phrases to see what you can use in your next conversation with a local.

    Conclusion

    Hopefully, we have answered any questions that you might have had about Counting in

    Japanese and help you take your first steps! After thoroughly reading this article, we hope that you have gained a better understanding of the Japanese counting system and that you have gained some useful study tips to help you on your journey to learning Japanese. Good luck with your studies!

    If you want to know more about Japanese, check out our blog homepage. We have several articles to help you out with your Japanese learning journey.

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