Japanese/Numbers

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Native Japanese numbers[edit]

There are two sets of counter words in Japanese. The older is the native Japanese reading and is appended with "〜つ" when counting things without counters.

  1. ひとつ
  2. ふたつ
  3. みっつ
  4. よっつ
  5. いつつ
  6. むっつ
  7. ななつ
  8. やっつ
  9. ここのつ
  10. とお (sometimes とを or even とう)

Note that there are three pairs of similar pronunciation: 1 (ひとつ) and 2 (ふたつ), 3 (みっつ) and 6 (むっつ), 4 (よっつ) and 8 (やっつ). Also note that there is no "つ" ending for the number 10.

Related lesson

Japanese/Lessons/Days

These numbers are used for counting days and general objects (without counters) of numbers ten or less. Dates mix these with the chinese numbers below and have an extra word for twenty: "はつ". Sometimes these counters are also used without the suffix ( ひと (rarely, ひ),ふた (rarely, ふ),み,よ,いつ,む,なな,や,ここの,とお).

Chinese numbers[edit]

With the large number of Chinese words adopted and integrated into Japanese, came the Chinese numbers. Their reading is called onyomi (音読み, おんよみ) and they are used for numbering most things, such as time, months, and counting. There are still four numbers where the native kunyomi pops up: ひ, ふ, よん and なな.

  1. (一) いち
  2. (二) に
  3. (三) さん
  4. (四) し
  5. (五) ご
  6. (六) ろく
  7. (七) しち
  8. (八) はち
  9. (九) きゅう or く
  10. (十) じゅう

Note that the "く" reading of "9" is just a contraction of きゅう and both can be used when counting. The "きゅう" reading is usually preferred in telephone numbers and when counting "90", "900", etc. (such as for prices, distances, altitude) In telephone numbers usually きゅう (kyū) is used. Also for 90, 900, 9000 etc. (in e.g. price, distance, altitude) that is the prefered reading. For September (lit: "9th month") and for the time 9:00 the く (ku) reading is used (9月:くがつ and 9時:くじ).

When counting people, the kunyomi readings "ひとり" and "ふたり" are used for one and two people (written "1人" and "2人"), but higher numbers of people use the onyomi with the suffix "〜にん" (written "〜人"; e.g. (ろく)(にん))[1]

It is highly irregular which reading is used four and seven. For situations including normal counting and the months, the onyomi readings are used. The kunyomi readings "よん" and "なな" are used in many other situations for (over "し" and "しち") for the numbers "4" and "7".

Note finally that the kunyomi reading "よん" is somewhat irregular with the "ん" being omitted in "four o'clock" (よじ) and "4 years" (よねん).

For larger numbers, prepend the number to the words for tens, hundreds, etc.

English Japanese Reading Notes
10 じゅう
100 ひゃく
1000 せん
10,000 まん
108 おく 108 = 10.0002
1012 ちょう 1012 = 10.0003
1016 けい 1016 = 10.0004

Japanese counts the decimals up to ten-thousand and then in powers of that.

Tens, hundreds and thousands don't get a "one" preceding them (i.e. "hundred" not "one-hundred"). Ten thousand, however, is "いちまん" and for numbers, ten thousand or larger, one thousand becomes "いっせん".

16 (十六)  じゅうろく
24 (二十四) にじゅうよん
87 (八十七) はちじゅうなな
625 (六百二十五) ろっぴゃくにじゅうご: 625 (note that ろく and ひゃく are combined into ろっぴゃく.
800.049 (八十万四十九) はちじゅうまんよんじゅうきゅう: 800.049 (note how じゅう and まん are put together to say a hundred thousand, litteraly: 80x10.000+49).
21.000 (二万一千) にまんいっせん

Scoring[edit]

Here is the East Asian scoring method to count up to five and more. You will repeat writing the kanji 正 as many fives as you count.

Tally marks 3.svg

Notes[edit]

  1. When emphasising the number of people (such as when inquiring for the number of customers at a restaurant) the "〜名" counter is used (with which "two people" takes the kunyomi reading: ()(めい)).