Japanese Grammar – TOP 12 Basic Japanese Counters

Welcome to another Japanese grammar lesson! Today we will study an essential concept of the language, the Japanese counters.

In Japanese, there are no words indicating singular or plural. Hence, counters are commonly used in daily conversations.

To help you with it, today we are going to learn 12 basic counters that you might frequently encounter.

The counters are used to indicate the numbers in which specific things are present.

All the objects are divided into different categories, so that specific counters can be used with them.

Japanese grammar bank

Different counters are used to indicate different objects.

Most of the counters use Sino-Japanese reading of the numbers, but there are some exceptions.

Here’s your first lesson:

Every counter has their own question word, and the Kanji ‘何’ is used to represent ‘what’.

This Kanji added to the counter forms, makes the question word. Don’t worry, you will find it at the end of every table so it easier for you to remember it.

Let’s learn these counters one by one:

Basic Japanese Counters | People

Basic Japanese Counters | Thin and flat objects

Basic Japanese Counters | Long and thin objects

Basic Japanese Counters | Frequency

Basic Japanese Counters | General counters

Basic Japanese Counters | FAQ’s

Basic Japanese Counters for Counting People (人)

Here we go for our very first basic Japanese counter. You might need to use this one very often.

Be careful of the numbers indicating one person and two people as they use the Native Japanese reading.

KanjiHiraganaRomaji
一人ひとりHitori*
二人ふたりFutari*
三人さんにんSan-nin
四人よにんYon-nin
五人ごにんGo-nin
六人ろくにんRoku-nin
七人ななにん/しちにんNana-nin / Shichi-nin
八人はちにんHachi-nin
九人きゅうにんKyuu-nin
十人じゅうにんJyuu-nin
何人なんにんNan-nin
*Native Japanese reading. Pay extra attention to these two!

Basic Japanese Counters to Count Thin and Flat Objects (枚)

In a company, you will use this counter whilst making copies of a document or when you go to a movie and want to buy tickets.

This counter is used for things like:

  • きっぷ kippu : Ticket
  • かみ kami : Paper
  • さら sara : Plate
  • ふうとう fūtō : Envelope
  • シーディ shīdi : CD
KanjiHiraganaRomaji
一枚いちまいIchi-mai
二枚にまいNi-mai
三枚さんまいSan-mai
四枚よんまいYon-mai
五枚ごまいGo-mai
六枚ろくまいRoku-mai
七枚ななまい/しちまいNana-mai / Shichi-mai
八枚はちまいHachi-mai
九枚きゅうまいKyuu-mai
十枚じゅうまいJyuu-mai
何枚なんまいNan-mai

Japanese Counters to Count Long and Thin Objects (本)

This is one of the most used counters in Japanese language. It is used to count cylindrical objects which are long and thin.

You can use this counter with:

KanjiHiraganaRomaji
一本いっぽんIp-pon
二本にほんNi-hon
三本さんぼんSan-bon
四本よんほんYon-hon
五本ごほんGo-hon
六本ろっぽんRop-pon
七本ななほんNana-hon
八本はっぽんHap-pon
九本きゅうほんKyuu-hon
十本じゅっぽん/じっぽんJyup-pon / Jip-pon
何本なんぼんNan-bon

Basic Japanese Counter to Count Frequency (回)

This counter is used to indicate the number of times a certain action happened.

It is also used to state how many times a certain event has occurred or will occur.

KanjiHiraganaRomaji
一回いっかいIk-kai
二回にかいNi-kai
三回さんかいSan-kai
四回よんかいYon-kai
五回ごかいGo-kai
六回ろっかいRok-kai
七回ななかい/しちかいNana-kai / Shichi-kai
八回はちかい/はっかいHachi-kai / Hak-kai
九回きゅうかいKyuu-kai
十回じゅっかいJyuk-kai
何回なんかいNan-kai

Basic Japanese Counters – The General Counter

つ is the last counter we are going to study in this article. This one is a bit different from above counters.

For this, you’ll have to recall the Native Japanese Numbers you practised in our Japanese numbers lesson. Even while learning those numbers, we use them with this counter ‘つ’.

This counter can be used for things like:

  • つくえ tsukue : Table
  • いす isu : Chair
  • かぎ khagi : Key

Or for fruits like :

  • りんご ringo : Apple
  • みかん mikan : Orange
KanjiHiraganaRomaji
一つひとつHito-tsu
二つふたつFuta-tsu
三つみっつMit-tsu
四つよっつYot-tsu
五ついつつItsu-tsu
六つよっつYot-tsu
七つななつNana-tsu
八つやっつYat-tsu
九つここのつKokono-tsu
とおToou
幾ついくつIkutsu

Once you have the basic idea, you can create these tables on your own. To practice, some more counters are:

CounterRomajiUsage
だいdaiTo count machinery and vehicles
さつsatsuTo count books and notebooks
そくsokuTo count footwear
ひきhikiTo count small animals
けんkenTo count houses
waTo count birds
さいsaiTo count age

Note:

For 20 years old (二十歳), the counter used is ‘はたち’ (hatachi) instead of ‘にじゅうさい’ ‘ni jyuu sai’.

We will learn to use these counters in a sentence while learning the basic sentence structure. 


You now know how to use some of the most basic Japanese counters!

If you are just starting on your Japanese learning journey, make sure to check out the following lessons:

Don’t forget that we also offer a Free Trial for 3 hours of Japanese classes on our online platform Flexi Classes!


BASIC JAPANESE COUNTERS – FAQ’s

What are Japanese counters?

Japanese counters are used to indicate the numbers in which specific things are present.

All the objects are divided into different categories, so that specific counters can be used with them.

Different Japanese counters are used to indicate different objects.

What is the Japanese counter for people?

The Japanese counter for people is 人.

一人 | ひとり Hitori*

二人 | ふたり Futari*

三人 | さんにん San-nin

四人 | よにん Yon-nin

五人 | ごにん Go-nin

*notice how one person and two people use the Native Japanese reading.

What is the Japanese counter for frequency?

The Japanese counter for frequency is 回.

This counter is used to indicate the number of times a certain action happened.

一回 | いっかい Ik-kai

二回 | にかい Ni-kai

三回 | さんかい San-kai

四回 | よんかい Yon-kai

五回 l ごかい Go-kai

What is the Japanese counter for thin and long objects?

Japanese counter for thing and long objects such as banana, tree or pencil is 本.

一本 | いっぽん Ip-pon

日本 | にほん Ni-hon

三本 | さんぼん San-bon

四本 | よんほん Yon-hon

五本 | ごほん Go-hon

Is there one general Japanese counter?

Yes, there is!

The general Japanese counter is つ.

This counter can be used for things like:

つくえ tsukue : Table

いす isu : Chair

かぎ khagi : Key

りんご ringo : Apple

Examples:

一つ | ひとつ Hito-tsu

二つ | ふたつ Futa-tsu

三つ | みっつ Mit-tsu

四つ | よっつ Yot-tsu

五つ | いつつ Itsu-tsu

Where to learn more about Japanese grammar?

You can learn more about Japanese grammar in our Japanese Grammar Bank, a place we regularly update with new lessons for all levels.

The best way to learn about Japanese grammar would actually be to take classes with a native teacher, so if you were thinking about it make sure to check out our Flexi Classes for 24/7h lessons.

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