Basic counting in Japanese!

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Today we’ll be talking about how to do all-purpose counting in Japanese.

Normally, to count things, you will need to use the (NUMBER + COUNTER) pattern. But you don’t need to worry about that. You can use this all-purpose counting to count almost anything!

There’s a downside to it though. You can only count to 10. Beyond that, you need to use the standard number + counter pattern. And it’s also unnatural to use these all-purpose counting to count people too! So be careful~

All purpose counter 1-10

一つ :ひとつ : hitotsu : one
二つ : ふたつ : futatsu : two
三つ : みっつ : mittsu : three
四つ : よっつ : yottsu : four
五つ : いつつ : itsutsu : five
六つ : むっつ : muttsu : six
七つ : ななつ : nanatsu : seven
八つ : やっつ : yattsu : eight
九つ : ここのつ : kokonotsu : nine
十 : とお : too : ten

How to use

You don’t have to add any counter after this word, so they are so useful and easy to use. For example:

二つ, お願いします
futatsu, onegaishimasu
Give me two please

But what if I would like to count above 10?

You will need to use the number + counter pattern then.
For example, if it’s an apple you are counting, you will need to use 個 (ko)

ni juu ichi ko, onegaishimasu
Give me 21 pieces please

What if I want to count people?

Then you can memorize these below 😀 The most important and useful words are hitori and futari. As you might have notice, the counter is 人. This word itself means people and sometimes read as じん (jin) or read as ひと (hito). As a counter it’s read as にん (nin).

一人 :ひとり : hitori : one people
二人 : ふたり : futari : two people
三人 : さんにん : san nin : three people
四人 : よにん : yo nin : four people
五人 : ごにん : go nin : five people
六人 : ろくにん : roku nin : six people
七人 : しちにん : shichi nin : seven people
八人 : はちにん : hachi nin : eight people
九人 : きゅうにん : kyuu nin : nine people
十人 : じゅうにん : juu nin : ten people

Remember that counting things is different than mentioning a numbers in Japan. For numbers, check out this article about numbers here.


  1. I think there is a small mistake here.
    Counting people you have ひとつ and ふたつ instead of ひとり and ふたり. Although the Romanji is correct

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