Japanese Counter Words

Sentence Pattern 1: Saying Numbers
1. ひとつ, ふたつ…... とお
These words are used to count things up to ten. Eleven and higher are counted by using the numbers themselves.
2. Counter Suffixes
When counting some sorts of things or expressing the quantity of things, counter suffixes are attached after the numbers.
にん [人]
- ひとり and ふたり are used for one and two.
- 4人 (four people) is read よにん

だい [台]
- Number of machines or vehicles like cars, and bicycles

まい [枚]
- Number of thin or flat things such as paper, dishes, shirts, CD’s etc.

かい [回]
- times

ふん [分]
- minutes

じかん [時間]
- hours

ひ [日]
- days

The number of days takes the counter suffix にち. However, from two to ten, the same words as used for dates are used.
(“One say” is 1にち, “two days” is ふつか,…,”ten days” is とおか)

- weeks

かげつ [か月]
- months

ねん [か年]
- years
Details and other counter suffixes are listed in the appendices. Click here for more details
3. Usage
Quantifiers (number with counter suffixes) are usually put before the verbs they modify. However, this is not always the case with length of time.
1.りんご を むいか かいました.
We bought 6 apples.

2. がいこくじん の がくせい が ひとり います.
There are two foreign students.

3. おくに で 2かげつ にほんご を べんきょうしました.
I studied Japanese for two months in my country.
- is used to ask how many about things which are counted as ひとつ, ふたつ.
1. みかん を いくつ かいましたか
...やっつ かいました.
How many mandarin orange did you buy?
...I bought eight.
- is used with a counter suffix to as how many.
1. この かいしゃ に がいこくじん が なんにん います か.
...5にん います
How many foreigners are there in this company?
...There are five

2. まいばん なんじかん にほんご を べんきょうしあんす か.
...2じかん べんきょうします.
How many hours do you study Japanese every night?
...2 hours
- is used to ask the length of time something takes. You can use various units of time in the answer.
1. どのくらい にほんご を べんきょうしましたか.
...3ねん べんきょうしました.
How long did you study Japanese?
...I studied it for three years.

2. おおさか から ときょう まで どのくらい かかりますか.
...しんかんせん で 2じかんはん かかります
How long does it take from Osaka to Tokyo?
...I takes two and a half hour by Shinkansen.
- is added after quantifier to means “about.”
1. がっこう に せんせい が 30にん ぐらい います.
...15ふん ぐらい かかります.
There are about thirty teachers in our school.
...It takes about fifteen minutes.
Sentence Pattern 2: Quantifier (period) に -かい V
With this expression you can say how often you do something.
1. 1かげつ に 2かい えいが を みます.
I go to see movies twice a month.
Sentence Pattern 3: Quantifier だけ/N だけ
だけ means “only”. It is added after quantifiers or nouns to express that there is no more or nothing (no one ) else.
1. パワ-でんき に がいこくじん の しゃいん が ひとり だけ います.
There is only one foreign employee in Power Electric.

2. やすみ は にちようび だけ です.
I only have Sundays off.

Related Articles: List of Japanese Sentence Structure
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