Home / Learn Japanese / Counters in Japanese

Counters in Japanese

Counters in Japanese

In English, we just take a number (1,2,3…), add a noun, and an “s” to count items. But in Japanese different types of objects have different counters.

Counters both make Japanese difficult and fun to learn. Let’s emphasize the “fun” part. Here are two very useful counters:

Counter: nin | Usage: people

一人 hitori – one person [irregular].
二人 futari – two people [irregular].
三人 san nin – three people [now we simply add the “Chinese” numbers to にん].
四人 yonin – [“shi nin” is NOT used. Probably because “shi” can mean death… Also notice the dropped “n” from “yon”] four people
五人 gonin – five people
六人 rokunin – six people
七人 shichinin or nananin [shichinin is used more often, but nannin is also used] – seven people
八人 hachi nin – eight people
九人 kyuunin or kunin – nine people
十人 juunin – ten people
十一人 juuichinin – eleven people
etc…

Counter: hiki | Usage: most animals

一匹 ippiki [notice the H changes to a P] – one animal
二匹 nihiki – two animals
三匹 sanbiki [notice the H changes to a B this time.].
四匹 yonhiki
五匹 gohiki
六匹 roppiki [ろっぴき notice the H changes to a P AND the く becomes a small っ].
七匹 nanahiki or shichihiki[probably nanahiki is most used].
八匹 happiki or hachihiki
九匹 kyuuhiki
十匹 juppiki [じゅっぴき notice the small っ- this occurs when there is a soft sound after like H].

Counter: ko | Usage: a generic counter for just about anything

一個 ikko [This is “ichi” plus “ko.” The “chi” is replaced by a slight pause. Listen to the audio.] – one thing
二個 niko – two things
三個 sanko
四個 yonko
五個 goko
六個 rokko
七個 nanako
八個 hachiko
九個 kyuuko
十個 juko or jiko (TV announcers regulary say “jiko.”)