Components

Grammar detail: counters for objects and other things

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JLPT:
counters for objects and other things
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For counting actual objects as opposed to just expressing a number, Japanese uses a unique system of 'counters', terms which are placed after the number and which partially describe the object being counted.
For example,
まい
is the counter for flat objects such as sheets of paper, so to say 'five sheets of paper' in Japanese, you would say
かみごまい
which literally means 'paper 5 flat objects'.
While this seems unusual at first, and is often touted as a difficult feature of Japanese, we are actually doing exactly the same thing in English (five *sheets* of paper), but English is much less regular than Japanese.
Dates and times use counters in the same way - see dates and time for details.
Japanese has many counters, and the most common ones are:
 
まい flat objects such as paper or books
ほん cylindrical or long objects such as bottles or chopsticks (note: this is a little confusing, since ほん means 'book' - it is *not* used to count books)
さつbooks
じんpeople
ひきsmall animals
かいnumber of times something happens
ふんminutes - see Telling the time in Japanese
small round objects
/ヶかしょplaces
birds
さい years old / age (note that '20 years old' is irregular: is not read にじゅっさい as you would expect, but instead はたち)
| さい years old (note: this is commonly used, but not technically correct: is the correct counter)
じょう tatami mats (the typical way to measure the area of a room)
だい cars and machines
めい people (polite alternative to , used by businesses and restaurants etc.)
words
かこくご languages
かげつ months
けん buildings
つう letters, telegrams etc
ぎょう rows (in a document etc)
ばん platforms (in a railway station etc)
かい floors (in a building)
便 びん (plane) flights
さつ banknotes
きゃく chairs, tables, legs (of chairs and tables etc)
こう items (in a checklist); paragraphs
はく nights (eg of a stay in a hotel)
せい generations; monarchs (Elizabeth I etc)
とう large animals, cattle
かん volumes (eg books); reels (eg film)
copies (eg of a publication)
きれ pieces of sashimi (literally 'cuts') ひときれ、 ふたきれ、 みきれ、 よきれ、 ごきれ、 ろっきれ、 ななきれ、 はちきれ、 きゅうきれ、 じっきれ
ちゃく suits of clothing
そく pairs of shoes etc.
わり tenths; lots of 10%
children
つぶ pills, tablets etc
In Japanese, counters are known as
じょすうし
助数詞
.
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See also:
  • Japanese numbers and counting

Words used in this grammar

noun
1. piece; slice; strip; scrap
2. cloth  (also written as 布, 裂)
(click the word to view an additional 2 meanings)
3
5
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Kanji used in this grammar

マイ   sheet
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シ   かみ paper   
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2
ゴ   いつ-    いつ five   
1
ホン   book   もと origin   
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1
サツ   サク    volume   
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4
ジン   ニン   ひと man   
1
ヒツ   ひき counter for animals   
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4
カイ   エ   まわ to revolve   まわ to make turn   
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3
ブン   ブ   フン   わける to divide, to distinguish   わかる to understand   わかれる to be divided   わかつ to share, distribute   
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1
コ    individual   
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4
カ    item; counter for months, places, provisions   
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5
ショ   ところ place   
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3
ウ   はね feather   は counter for birds   
4
サイ   セイ    X years old, year-end   
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3
ニ   ふた    ふた two   
1
ジュウ   ジッ   と    とお ten   
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1
サイ    genius   
3
ジョウ   たた to fold up   たたみ tatami   
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4
ダイ   タイ    pedestal   
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2
メイ   ミョウ   な name   
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1
ゴ   かた to talk, relate   かたらう to talk together, chat   
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1
コク   くに country   
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1
ガツ   ゲツ   つき month; moon   
1
ケン    building   のき eaves   
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4
ツ   ツウ   とお to pass through   とお to let pass   かよ to commute   
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2
コウ   ギョウ   アン   ゆ    い to go   おこな to take place   
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1
バン    turn   
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3
カイ    floor   
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4
便
convenience; tidings   ビン tidings   ベン convenience   たよ tidings, news   
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3
サツ   ふだ label, tag   
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4
キャク   キャ   あし leg   
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5
コウ    paragraph, item   
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5
ハク   とまる to stay, to lodge overnight   とめる to give lodgings   
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4
セ   セイ   よ the world   
2
トウ   ト   ズ   あたま    かしら head   
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3
カン   roll up   ま to roll (up)   まき roll, reel, volume   
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4
ブ   part
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セツ   サイ   き to cut   きれる to break, to snap   
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2
チャク   ジャク   つ to arrive   つける to attach   き to wear   きせる to make wear   
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2
ソク   あし foot; leg   た to add   た    たりる to be sufficient   
2
カツ   わ to separate, to divide   われる to split apart, to crack   わり proportion, 10%   さ to cut up   
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3
ジ   ニ    newborn babe   
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4
リュウ   つぶ a grain   
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4
ジョ   すけ help   たすける to help, save   たすかる to be helped   
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3
スウ   ス   かず number   かぞえる to count   
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3
シ    part of speech, words, poetry   
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4
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