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Friday, February 29, 2008

Classifying When You Count in Japanese

日本語で数える

Counting in Japanese is tricky enough as it is.

Making things even worse (or more fun?) is that you will need to alter the classifier depending upon what you count.

In English, there are "pods" and "prides" that indicate that you are counting or talking about whales and lions. In daily life, though, one is generally spared having to know this. Not so in Japanese.

This blog will go over just several of the more common ways of classifying what is being counted.

Counting people, for example, you use "nin" (人). Naturally, though, there are exceptions to this rule:

One person = "hitori" (一人)
Two people= "futari" (二人)
Three people="san nin" (三人)

When counting non-human creatures, "hiki" (匹)is used. One cat/dog/insect/fish becomes: "ippiki" (一匹). Two are "ni hiki" (二匹).

Books and magazines use "satsu" (冊). One book or magazine is: "issatsu" (一冊). Two are "nisatsu" (二冊).

For shoes and socks, one needs "soku" (足). One pair of socks = "kutsushita issoku" (靴下一足).

For flat shapes, "mai" (枚)is what you need. Paper, cards, and money use this.

Our last example is "kai" (回). This is used to show how many times an action has taken place. "Three times" = "san kai" (三回).


There are many others. When in doubt, you can always fall back on "hitotsu" (one), "futatsu" (two), etc.; not elegant, perhaps, but your meaning will be conveyed.

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