Chapter summary and practice

In this chapter, we learned how to work with numbers and amounts. Numbers, dates, and counting is a fairly tricky thing to master with all the various readings and exceptions so it’s something that will require quite a bit of practice to master.

Here is a list of simple questions you can ask or answer to practice various dates and numbers.

  1. 日付 【ひ・づけ】 – date
  2. 何月 【なん・がつ】 – what month
  3. 何日 【なん・にち】 – what date
  4. 誕生日 【たん・じょう・び】 – birthday
  5. いくつ – how many; how old (often used with honorific 「お」 prefix)
  6. 何時 【なん・じ】 – what time
  7. 店 【みせ】 – store
  8. ~から (particle) – from ~
  9. ~まで (particle) – until ~
  10. 開く 【あ・く】(u-verb) – to open
  11. 家族 【か・ぞく】 – family
  12. 何人 【なん・にん】 – how many people
  1. 今日の日付は何ですか。
    What is today’s date?
  2. 明日は何月何日ですか。
    What month, what day is tomorrow?
  3. 誕生日はいつですか。
    When is (your) birthday?
  4. おいくつですか。
    How old (are you)?
  5. 今、何時ですか。
    What time is it now?
  6. 店は、何時から何時まで開いていますか。
    From what time to what time is (the) store open?
  7. ご家族は何人ですか。
    As for (your) family, how many people?

Shopping and other activities involving amounts

All the work we did in this chapter to learn how to use numbers, count, and compare amounts will come in handy when dealing with money in Japan. If you are planning to visit Japan, you’ll be able to get a lot of practice for this chapter by shopping, dining, and generally getting around.

Yen, the Japanese currency, is roughly equivalent to a penny so 100 yen is around one US dollar.


  1. 電子【でん・し】 – electronic
  2. 辞書【じ・しょ】 – dictionary
  3. いくら – how much?
  4. 円【えん】 – Japanese currency counter
  5. ちょっと – a little (casual)
  6. 高い【たか・い】(i-adj) – high; expensive
  7. 安い【やす・い】(i-adj) – cheap
  8. こちら – this way
  9. モデル – model
  10. どう – how
  11. 違う【ちが・う】(u-verb) – to be different
  12. 中国語【ちゅう・ごく・ご】 – Chinese (language)
  13. 勉強【べん・きょう】 – study
  14. 入る【はい・る】(u-verb) – to enter

Alice: How much is this electronic dictionary?

店員: 3万円です。
Store clerk: (It’s) 30,000 yen.

アリス: ちょっと高すぎますね。もう少し安いのは、ありますか?
Alice: (It’s a) little too expensive, isn’t it? Is there (one) that is a little more cheap?

店員: こちらのモデルは、2万5千円です。
Store clerk: This model is 25,000 yen.

アリス: これとどう違いますか?
Alice: How is (it) different with this?

店員: 中国語を勉強していますか?それは、中国語も入っていますから、もう少し高いです。
Store clerk: (Are you) studying Chinese? That also has Chinese (in it) so (it’s a) little more expensive.

アリス: 日本語を勉強するためには、どちらの方がいいと思いますか?
Alice: For the purpose of studying Japanese, which (do you) think is better?

店員: そうですね。こちらのモデルは、英語しかありませんが、そのモデルより例文や単語数が多いですから、こちらの方がいいと思います。
Store clerk: Let’s see. This model has only English but (there’s) more example sentences and words so (I) think this model is better.

アリス: そうですか。じゃ、これにします。
Alice: Is that so? Then (I) will go with this one.


  1. 成田 【なり・た】 – Narita (city name)
  2. 空港 【くう・こう】 – airport
  3. 切符 【きっ・ぷ】 – ticket
  4. いくら – how much
  5. 駅 【えき】 – station
  6. 人 【ひと】 – person
  7. エクスプレス – express
  8. 円【えん】 – Japanese currency counter
  9. もう – already; more
  10. 少し 【すこ・し】 – a little
  11. 安い【やす・い】(i-adj) – cheap
  12. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  13. 普通 【ふ・つう】 – normal
  14. 電車 【でん・しゃ】 – train
  15. どちら – which way
  16. 方 【ほう】 – direction
  17. 早い 【はや・い】 – early; fast
  18. もちろん – of course
  19. どれぐらい – about how much
  20. ぐらい – approximately, around
  21. 学生 【がく・せい】 – student
  22. 割引 【わり・びき】 – discount
  23. 残念 【ざん・ねん】 – unfortunate
  24. ~にする (exp) – to decide on something (lit: to do toward)

Lee: How much is (a) ticket until Narita airport.

Station person: Narita Express is 3,000 yen.

Lee: Is there none that is a little more cheap?

Station person: Regular train ticket is 1,500 yen.

Lee: Which is faster?

Station person: Of course, (the) express is faster.

Lee: By about how much faster?

Station person: About 30 minutes.

Lee: …Is there (a) student discount?

Station person: It’s unfortunate, but there isn’t.

Lee: Then, (I) will do regular train.


Using 「方」(かた) for directions

In the last section, we learned how to use 「方」 to make comparison. We can also use 「方」 to describe how to do something. This is done by attaching 「方」 to the verb stem. However, in this usage, the reading is 「かた」 not 「ほう」. The result is used as a regular noun (it may help to translate it as “way of doing…”).

In addition, 「方」(かた) is also used to refer to a person politely.


  1. 方 【かた】 – person (honorific)
  2. ~方 【~かた】 – way of doing ~
  3. ホテル – hotel
  4. 教える 【おし・える】 (ru-verb) – to teach; to inform
  5. 駅 【えき】 – (train) station
  6. 分かる 【わ・かる】 (u-verb) – to understand
  7. (お)すし – sushi
  8. 中華料理 【ちゅう・か・りょう・り】 – Chinese food
  9. はやる (u-verb) – to be popular, to come into fashion;
  10. 今 【いま】 – now
  11. (お)はし – chopsticks
  12. 使う 【つか・う】 (u-verb) – to use
  13. アメリカ人 【あめりか・じん】 – American (person)
  14. 少ない 【すく・ない】 (i-adj) – few (in numbers)
  1. あの方にホテルの行き方を教えないんですか。
    (Are you) not going to teach (tell) that person the way to go to the hotel?
  2. 駅までの行き方は分かりますか。
    Do (you) know the way to the train station?
  3. おすしや中華料理がはやっている今では、おはしの使い方が分かるアメリカ人は少なくない。
    Given now where things like sushi and Chinese food is common, Americans who know how to use chopsticks is not few (in number).

Using 「どうやって」 for instructions

Another way to describe how to do something is by using the phrase 「どうやって」. 「やる」 is a more casual version of the verb 「する」 (“to do”) so the phrase literally means “how do and”. It’s used just like the regular te-form to express a sequence of actions as we learned in the last chapter. Because 「どうして」 also means “why”, 「どうやって」 is more common.


  1. カレーはどうやって作りますか。
    How do (you) go about making curry?
    (lit: You do curry how and then make?)
  2. 日本の住所はどうやって書きますか。
    How do (you) write (a) Japanese address?
  3. 東京駅から新宿駅までどうやって行きますか。
    How do (you) go from Tokyo station to Shinjuku station?

Comic 10: 日本語でも大丈夫です

  1. すみません – sorry; pardon me
  2. ここ – here
  3. 一番 【いち・ばん】 – the best; no. 1
  4. 近い 【ちか・い】(i-adj) – close
  5. 駅 【えき】 – train station
  6. 行く 【い・く】(u-verb) – to go
  7. ~方 【~かた】 – way of doing ~
  8. 分かる 【わ・かる】(u-verb) – to understand
  9. 日本人 【に・ほん・じん】 – Japanese (person)
  10. 日本語 【に・ほん・ご】 – Japanese (language)
  11. 大丈夫 【だい・じょう・ぶ】(na-adj) – ok
  12. この – this (abbr. of これの)
  13. 地図 【ち・ず】 – map
  14. ~ヶ所 【~か・しょ】 – counter for number of places
  15. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  16. どちら – which way
  17. 方 【ほう】 – direction
  18. 発音 【はつ・おん】 – pronunciation
  19. 悪い 【わる・い】(i-adj) – bad

John: Excuse me, do you know the way to go to (the) station closest from here?

Japanese person: Sorry, no English

John: Japanese is ok so there’s two train stations on this map, right? Which is closer?

Japanese person: I’m sorry.

John: (I) wonder, is my pronunciation bad?


Alice: Teacher, (I) heard that in Japan street(s) don’t have street names attached but is (it) true?

Teacher: Yes. In Japan, only large roads have names attached (to them).

Alice: With that, how do (you) find (an) address?

Teacher: Most people use (places like) train station(s) and convenience store(s), make places that become landmark(s) into clue(s) and find (it).

Alice: With that way of doing (things), don’t (you) get lost a lot?

Teacher: (You’ll) soon get used to (it), so (it’s) ok.

Alice: (By) saying “get used to”, (you mean) to what?

Teacher: To getting lost.

Alice: Huh?


In order to make a comparison, you have to define either side of the comparison using 「方」(ほう) and/or 「より」. 「方」 defines the direction the comparison is leaning toward while 「より」 defines the side it’s leaning away from. The important thing to remember is that 「方」 is a noun while 「より」 is a particle. Another particle often used in making comparisons is 「ほど」, which describes the extent of something.


  1. 方 【ほう】 – direction; side
  2. ~より (particle) – rather than ~
  3. ~ほど (particle) – extent of ~
  4. どちら – which way
  5. 犬 【いぬ】 – dog
  6. 猫 【ねこ】 – cat
  7. 英語 【えい・ご】 – English (language)
  8. 日本語 【に・ほん・ご】 – Japanese (language)
  9. 難しい 【むずか・しい】(i-adj) – difficult
  10. 思う 【おも・う】(u-verb) – to think
  1. 犬と猫、どちらのが好き?
    Which do (you) like more, dog or cat? (lit: Dog and cat, which side is (the) one (you like)?)
  2. 犬のが猫より好き。
    Like dog more than cat. (lit: Like the side of dog rather than cat.)
  3. 犬のが猫より嫌い。
    Hate dog more than cat. (lit: Hate the side of dog rather than cat.)
  4. 猫は、犬ほど好きじゃない。
    Don’t like cat as much as dog. (lit: Don’t like cat to extent of dog.)
  5. 英語と日本語、どちらの方が難しいと思いますか?
    Which do (you) think is harder, English or Japanese? (lit: English and Japanese, which side is harder (you) think?)

Cats or Dogs

Alice: Which do (you) like more, dog or cat

Lee: I like both. (lit: Like either way also.)

John: Isn’t dog better. Because (they’re) smarter than cats.

Alice: But dog(s) are tougher to take care of and don’t (you) think cat(s) are cuter?

John: (I) think both are tough to take care of and as for me, I think dogs are much more cute.

Alice: Why do (you) hate cat(s) that much?

John: (I’m) not saying (I) hate (them)!

Alice: (I’m) sure, when (you) were a child, something bad occurred with a cat, huh?

John: No, not really…

Alice: Anyway, (I) have never met a person that hates cat(s) to the extent of John-san.

John: Like I said, (I) don’t hate (them).

Various amounts

Now that we learned how to use numbers and express date and time, it would be a good time to review how to express various amounts. Most amounts can be expressed with just vocabulary, many of which we’ve already seen. Below is a list of just some of the vocabulary used to describe various amounts.

  1. 少し 【すこ・し】 - a little
  2. ちょっと – a little (casual)
  3. たくさん – a lot
  4. 少ない 【すく・ない】 (i-adj) – few
  5. 多い 【おお・い】 (i-adj) – many
  6. まだ – not yet
  7. もう – already; more
  8. もう少し 【もう・すこ・し】 – a little more
  9. もっと – a lot more
  10. ずっと – a long time
  11. こんなに – this much
  12. そんなに – that much
  13. あんなに – that much (over there)
  14. ~くらい/~ぐらい – about ~

Expectation of more

There are two particles that are used to express the word “only”: 「だけ」 and 「しか」. Just like every other particle, these particles attach to the end of the word that they apply to. The primary difference with 「しか」 is that it must be used with the negative and emphasizes the lack of something.


  1. 肉 【にく】 – meat
  2. 今夜 【こん・や】 – tonight
  1. だけ食べる
    Eat only meat.
  2. しか食べない
    Not eat anything but meat.
  3. 今夜は、二人だけで行きましょう。
    Let’s go just the two of us tonight. (lit: As for tonight, let’s go by way of only two people.)
  4. 500円しか持っていません。
    (I) only have 500 yen.

Too much of something

An excess of something is expressed with the ru-verb 「過ぎる」(す・ぎる) which means, “to pass” or “to exceed”. There are several rules for attaching this verb to adjectives and other verbs. As 「すぎる」 is a regular ru-verb, all subsequent conjugations are the same as any other ru-verb.

Using 「すぎる」 to indicate it’s too much

  • Verbs: Change the verb to the stem and attach 「すぎる」

    1. 食べすぎる = 食べすぎる
    2. → 太すぎる = 太りすぎる
  • Na-adjectives: Attach 「すぎる」

    1. 静か+すぎる = 静かすぎる
    2. きれい+すぎる = きれいすぎる
  • I-adjectives: Remove the last 「い」 and attach 「すぎる」
    As always, 「いい」 conjugates from 「よい」

    1. 大きすぎる = 大きすぎる
    2. すぎる = 高すぎる
    3. いい → よすぎる = よすぎる
  • Negative verbs and adjectives: Replace the last 「い」 from 「ない」 with 「さ」 and then attach 「すぎる」

    1. 食べな → 食べなすぎる = 食べなさすぎる
    2. 面白くな → 面白くなすぎる = 面白くなさすぎる


  1. 昨日 【き・のう】 – yesterday
  2. 飲む 【の・む】(u-verb) – to drink
  3. 二日酔い 【ふつ・か・よい】 – hangover
  4. 頭 【あたま】 – head
  5. 痛い 【いた・い】(i-adj) – painful
  6. 量 【りょう】 – amount
  7. 多い 【おお・い】 (i-adj) – many
  8. もっと – a lot more
  9. 小さい 【ちい・さい】(i-adj) – small
  10. サイズ – size
  11. 頼む 【たの・む】(u-verb) – to request; to order
  12. ダイエット – diet
  13. する – to do
  14. いい(i-adj) – good
  15. 食べる 【たべ・る】(ru-verb) – to eat
  1. 昨日は飲みすぎて、二日酔いで頭が痛いです。
    (I) drank too much yesterday and (my) head hurts with hangover.
  2. 量が多すぎるから、もっと小さいサイズを頼んだ。
    The amount is too much so (I) ordered a much smaller size.
  3. ダイエットをするのはいいけど、食べなさすぎているよ。
    Doing (a) diet is fine but (you’re) not eating too much (too much of not eating).
Women's clothing store

Comic 9: 日本の婦人服売場で

  1. 日本 【に・ほん】 – Japan
  2. 婦人服 【ふ・じん・ふく】 – women’s clothing
  3. 売場 【うり・ば】(also 売り場) – place where things are sold
  4. あのう/あの – say; well; errr
  5. これ – this
  6. いくら – how much
  7. 今日 【きょう】 – today
  8. 特別 【とく・べつ】(na-adj) – special
  9. セール – sale
  10. ~円 【~えん】 – counter for yen (Japanese currency)
  11. なる (u-verb) – to become
  12. もう – already; further
  13. 少し 【すこ・し】 - a little
  14. 大きい 【おお・きい】(i-adj) – big
  15. サイズ – size
  16. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  17. すみません – sorry (polite)
  18. 私 【わたし】 – me; myself; I
  19. あまり – not very (when used with negative)
  20. ~階 【~かい】 – counter for story/floor
  21. 子供服 【こ・ども・ふく】 – children’s clothing
  22. 一応 【いち・おう】 – for the time being; just in case
  23. 大人 【おとな】 – adult

Teacher: Excuse me, how much is this?

Store Clerk: (It) is 4,800 yen by sale today only.

Teacher: Is there size that a little smaller?

Store Clerk: Sorry, there is no other size but this.

Teacher: (It’s a) little too big, isn’t it? As for my size, there isn’t much, is there?

Store Clerk: There is (a) children’s clothing section on the 4th floor but…

Teacher: Just so you know, (I AM an) adult so…

On a diet

  1. お腹 【お・なか】 – stomach
  2. 空く 【す・く】(u-verb) – to empty
  3. なんで – why
  4. まだ – yet; still
  5. ~時 【~じ】 – hour counter
  6. 今日 【きょう】 – today
  7. 朝ご飯 【あさ・ご・はん】 – breakfast
  8. 食べる 【たべ・る】(ru-verb) – to eat
  9. 昼ご飯 【ひる・ご・はん】 – lunch
  10. 昨日 【きのう】 – yesterday
  11. 夜 【よる】 – evening
  12. 晩ご飯 【ばん・ご・はん】 – dinner
  13. ダイエット – diet
  14. する – to do
  15. たくさん – a lot
  16. 普通 【ふ・つう】 – normal
  17. 言う 【い・う】(u-verb) – to say
  18. 始める 【はじ・める】 (ru-verb) – to begin
  19. いつ – when
  20. ~まで (particle) – until ~
  21. つもり – intention
  22. もう – already
  23. 明日 【あした】 – tomorrow
  24. やめる (ru-verb) – to stop; to quit
  25. 一日 【いち・にち】 – span of one day
  26. 聞く 【き・く】 – to ask; to listen
  27. 事 【こと】 – event, matter, generic happening
  28. 痩せる 【や・せる】(ru-verb) – to get skinny
  29. 当たり前 【あ・たり・まえ】 – obvious

Alice: (I’m) hungry. (lit: stomach has emptied)

John: Why? It’s still 2 o’clock, you know.

Alice: (I) didn’t eat anything but breakfast today.

John: Why didn’t (you) eat lunch?

Alice: Last night, (I) ate too much dinner so (I’m) on a diet.

John: Normally, (you) don’t say you’re on a diet after you ate a lot yesterday.

Alice: That’s why I just started.

John: (You) intend to be on a diet until when?

Alice: (It’s) no good already. (I) will quit from tomorrow.

John: (I’ve) never heard of a one day only diet.

Alice: (I) wonder if that’s why (I) don’t lose weight?

John: Obviously.

Dates and Time


Dates are similar to using counters, one each for year, month, and day.

  • ~年 【~ねん】 – year counter
  • ~月 【~がつ】 – month counter
  • ~日 【~にち】 – day counter

The year counter is pretty straight-forward, as there are no reading variations. However, there are variations for months and a whole bunch of exceptions for days of the month. The two lists below show all the months in a year and the days of the month. Special readings or variations are appropriately marked.

Months of the year
Month Kanji Reading
What month 何月 なん・がつ
January 一月 いち・がつ
February 二月 に・がつ
March 三月 さん・がつ
April 四月 し・がつ
May 五月 ご・がつ
June 六月 ろく・がつ
July 七月 しち・がつ
August 八月 はち・がつ
September 九月 く・がつ
October 十月 じゅう・がつ
November 十一月 じゅう・いち・がつ
December 十二月 じゅう・に・がつ
Days of the month
Day Kanji Reading
What day 何日 なん・にち
1st 一日 ついたち
2nd 二日 ふつ・か
3rd 三日 みっ・か
4th 四日 よっ・か
5th 五日 いつ・か
6th 六日 むい・か
7th 七日 なの・か
8th 八日 よう・か
9th 九日 ここの・か
10th 十日 とお・か
11th 十一日 じゅう・いち・にち
12th 十二日 じゅう・に・にち
13th 十三日 じゅう・さん・にち
14th 十四日 じゅう・よっ・か
15th 十五日 じゅう・ご・にち
16th 十六日 じゅう・ろく・にち
17th 十七日 じゅう・しち・にち
18th 十八日 じゅう・はち・にち
19th 十九日 じゅう・く・にち
20th 二十日 はつ・か
21st 二十一日 に・じゅう・いち・にち
22nd 二十二日 に・じゅう・に・にち
23rd 二十三日 に・じゅう・さん・にち
24th 二十四日 に・じゅう・よっ・か
25th 二十五日 に・じゅう・ご・にち
26th 二十六日 に・じゅう・ろく・にち
27th 二十七日 に・じゅう・しち・にち
28th 二十八日 に・じゅう・はち・にち
29th 二十九日 に・じゅう・く・にち
30th 三十日 さん・じゅう・にち
31st 三十一日 さん・じゅう・いち・にち

For completeness, here are all the days in the week.

  1. 何曜日 【なん・よう・び】 – What day of week
  2. 月曜日 【げつ・よう・び】 – Monday
  3. 火曜日 【か・よう・び】 – Tuesday
  4. 水曜日 【すい・よう・び】 – Wednesday
  5. 木曜日 【もく・よう・び】 – Thursday
  6. 金曜日 【きん・よう・び】 – Friday
  7. 土曜日 【ど・よう・び】 – Saturday
  8. 日曜日 【にち・よう・び】 – Sunday

Date formats

The date format employed in Japan is the same international date format used in many other parts of the word: year, month, day in that order. Once again, it is common to use numerals to make it easier to read.

You may encounter another calendar native to Japan based on the reign of each emperor when filling out public documents. Basically, the year starts over from 1 (called 元年【がん・ねん】) at the beginning of each new reign along with the name of the era. For example, the 「平成」 era began in 1989, therefore, the year 2009 would be 平成21年. If you live in Japan, it would be beneficial to remember the current year and your birthday in the Japanese calendar. Below are the eras going back about 100 years. You can also search online for convenient converters or charts with each year.

  1. 平成 【へい・せい】 – Heisei era (1989/1/8-)
  2. 昭和 【しょう・わ】 – Showa era (1926/12/25-1989/1/7)
  3. 大正 【たい・しょう】 – Taishou era (1912/7/30 – 1926/12/25)
  4. 元年 【がん・ねん】 – The first year of an era until the end of that year (12/31)


  1. 2009年12月24日【に・せん・きゅう・ねん・じゅう・に・がつ・に・じゅう・よっ・か】
  2. 2010年4月1日(木曜日) 【に・せん・じゅう・ねん・し・がつ・ついたち(もく・よう・び)】
    Thursday, April 1st, 2010
  3. 昭和56年11月30日【しょうわ・ご・じゅう・ろく・ねん・じゅう・いち・がつ・さん・じゅう・にち】
  4. 平成元年9月9日【へい・せい・がん・ねん・く・がつ・ここのか】


We already covered how to tell time in a previous chapter so here’s a brief review.

  1. ~時 【~じ】 – hour counter
  2. ~分 【~ふん】 – minute counter
  3. 午前 【ご・ぜん】 – AM
  4. 午後 【ご・ご】 – PM
  5. 半 【はん】 – half
Hour reading variations
Hour 4 o’clock 7 o’clock 9 o’clock
Kanji 四時 七時 九時
Reading よ・じ しち・じ く・じ
Minute reading variations
Minutes How many minutes 1 min 3 min 4 min 6 min 8 min 10 min
Kanji 何分 一分 三分 四分 六分 八分 十分
Reading なん・ぷん いっ・ぷん さん・ぷん よん・ぷん ろっ・ぷん はっ・ぷん じゅっ・ぷん


  1. 1時1分 【いち・じ・いっ・ぷん】 – 1:01
  2. 午後4時44分 【ご・ご・よ・じ・よん・じゅう・よん・ぷん】 – 4:44 PM
  3. 午前10時半 【ご・ぜん・じゅう・じ・はん】 – 10:30 AM

Time spans

We need to learn a couple more counters to express a span of time versus a fixed date or time. This counter is attached to a date or time to express a length of that time.

  • ~間 【~かん】 – span of time
  • ~週間 【~しゅう・かん】 – a span of week(s)
  • ~ヶ月 【か・げつ】 – a span of month(s)

While these counters are pretty straight-forward, there are a number of reading variations. In particular, while 【一日】 usually means the first of the month and read as 「ついたち」, it can also mean a span of one day when read as 「いちにち」.

  • 一日 【ついたち】 – 1st of the month
  • 一日 【いち・にち】 – span of one day
  • 一週間 【いっ・しゅう・かん】 – span of one week
  • 一ヶ月 【いっ・か・げつ】 – span of one month
  • 十ヶ月 【じゅっ・か・げつ】 – span of ten months


  1. 二日間 【ふつ・か・かん】 – span of two days
  2. 三週間 【さん・しゅう・かん】 – span of three weeks
  3. 二ヶ月 【に・か・げつ】- span of two months

Counting and counters


Unfortunately, counting discrete items isn’t as straight-forward as just using the numbers we just learned in the last section. We must use various counters depending on the type of object we’re counting. We already learned the counter for age in the very first chapter. Below are a list of more common counters and when to use them.

Counter When to Use
人 【にん】 To count number of people
円 【えん】 To count money in yen, the Japanese currency
本 【ほん】 To count long, cylindrical objects such as bottles or chopsticks
枚 【まい】 To count thin objects such as paper or shirts
冊 【さつ】 To count bound objects usually books
匹 【ひき】 To count small animals like cats or dogs
歳/才 【さい】 To count the age of a living creatures such as people or animals
個 【こ】 To count small (often round) objects
回 【かい】 To count number of times
ヶ所(箇所) 【か・しょ】 To count number of locations

As usual, the reading may change depending on what makes pronunciation easier as well as a couple of exceptions for 「人」. Fortunately, counters are always attached to the end of the number, so we need only worry about the readings for the first 10 numbers. The higher digits are read the same as any other number. Below, you can see a list of readings for the counters with reading variations (円 and 枚 have no variations). The reading variations are in bold.

Counting with variations
歳/才 ヶ所(箇所)
なんにん なんぼん なんさつ なんびき なんさい なんこ なんかい なんかしょ
1 ひとり いっぽん いっさつ いっぴき いっさい いっこ いっかい いっかしょ
2 ふたり にほん にさつ にひき にさい にこ にかい にかしょ
3 さんにん さんぼん さんさつ さんびき さんさい さんこ さんかい さんかしょ
4 よにん よんほん よんさつ よんひき よんさい よんこ よんかい よんかしょ
5 ごにん ごほん ごさつ ごひき ごさい ごこ ごかい ごかしょ
6 ろくにん ろっぽん ろくさつ ろっぴき ろくさい ろっこ ろっかい ろっかしょ
7 しちにん ななほん ななさつ ななひき ななさい ななこ ななかい ななかしょ
8 はちにん はちほん はっさつ はっぴき はっさい はっこ はちかい はっかしょ
9 きゅうにん きゅうほん きゅうさつ きゅうひき きゅうさい きゅうこ きゅうかい きゅうかしょ
10 じゅうにん じゅっぽん じゅっさつ じゅっぴき じゅっさい じゅっこ じゅっかい じゅっかしょ
20 にじゅうにん にじゅっぽん にじゅっさつ にじゅっぴき はたち にじゅっこ にじゅっかい にじゅっかしょ

There is also a generic counter for when none of the more specific counter applies. This counter goes up to ten

Generic Counter
Numeral How many 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Kanji 幾つ 一つ 二つ 三つ 四つ 五つ 六つ 七つ 八つ 九つ
Reading いくつ ひとつ ふたつ みっつ よっつ いつつ むっつ ななつ やっつ ここのつ とお

You will likely encounter many other types of counters in your studies. In fact, 「一番」, which we have already seen used as a superlative, is yet another counter meaning #1 where #2 is 「二番」, #3 is 「三番」 and so forth.

Other useful counting vocab

There are some additional vocabulary that are useful for counting in certain ways.

  1. ~目 【~め】 – attaches to a counter to indicate order
  2. ~ずつ 【~ずつ】 – attaches to a counter to indicate each
  3. ~おきに – attaches to a counter to indicate repeated intervals


  1. 紙、二枚ずつをホッチキスで留める。
    Staple 2 sheets of paper each.
  2. 店に入った三番目の人は、誰ですか。
    Who is the 3rd person that entered the store?
  3. 一日おきに運動をしています。
    Exercising every other day (spaced 1 day in between).

Beer is fattening

Tanaka: Sorry I’m late.

Yamamoto: It’s ok.

Tanaka: What are (you) drinking?

Yamamoto: Draft beer.

Tanaka: Didn’t (you) say (you) would not drink beer anymore?

Yamamoto: (I) think one bottle every once in a while is fine.

Tanaka: As for beer, (you) get fat soon. Which number bottle is this?

Yamamoto: Isn’t two bottles ok every once in a while as well?

Tanaka: (I) think it’s not ok.

The Numeric System

Numbers starting from 100

We already learned all the numbers up to 99 in the first chapter. We will now learn the numbers 100 up to 10 quadrillion. If you need a quick review, here are the first 10 numbers.

Numerals 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Reading いち さん し/よん ろく しち/なな はち きゅう じゅう

Here are the additional units for numbers starting from 100.

Numerals 100 1,000 10,000 10^8 10^12
Kanji 一万 一億 一兆
Reading ひゃく せん いちまん いちおく いっちょう

Note: Units larger than 「千」 require another preceding number and cannot be used by themselves. For example, 「万」 does not mean 10,000, you need to add a one: 「一万」.

Because the Japanese numeral system is based on units of four not three, the same units get repeated once you get past 10,000 until you get to 100,000,000. In other words, numbers are organized as 1,0000, 1,0000,0000, 10^12, 10^16 and so on.

You’ll need to pay careful attention to reading changes for some sound combinations. The chart below outlines the numbers that are pronounced slightly differently.

Numerals Kanji Reading
300 三百 さんびゃく
600 六百 ろっぴゃく
800 八百 はっぴゃく
3000 三千 さんぜん
8000 八千 はっせん
10^12 一兆 いっちょう


Large numbers are rarely written in all Kanji as you can imagine something like 「二百三十万九千四百三十一」 would be difficult to read. You will usually see a combination of numbers and Kanji or just numerals altogether.

  1. 1,234 【せん・に・ひゃく・さん・じゅう・よん】 – 1,234
  2. 5万3千 【ご・まん・さん・ぜん】 – 53,000

Other numbers

Several ways to say zero and other types of numbers are listed below. 「まる」 meaning “circle” is similar to how we use “O” (the letter) in things like phone numbers, room numbers, and addresses.

  1. 零 【れい】 – zero
  2. ゼロ – zero
  3. まる – circle; zero
  4. ~号室 【~ごう・しつ】 – suffix for room numbers
  5. マイナスX – negative X
  6. 点 【てん】 – period; dot; decimal point
  7. X.Y 「X・てん・Y」 – X.Y
  8. X分のY – Y/X (Y of X parts)


  1. 203号室 【に・まる・さん・ごう・しつ】 – room 203
  2. 23.5 【に・じゅう・さん・てん・ご】 – twenty three point five
  3. 四分の一 【よん・ぶん・の・いち】 - fourth (1/4)
  4. マイナス5 – negative five

It’s so confusing!

John: Oh already! (I) don’t understand Japanese numbers at all!

アリス:確かに難しいよね。日本語では、四単位で数えるから、私は、四を足して、三で割って、英語の数字に変えるよ。例えば、百万は、二足す四で六だから、1 millionになる。
Alice: It’s certainly difficult, isn’t it? Because in Japanese (you) count by units of four, I just add four, divide by three, and change (it) into (the) English number. For example, ひゃくまん is 2 plus 4 and (it’s) six so it becomes 1 million.

John: No, (I) don’t understand at all! Lee-kun, it isn’t difficult?

Lee: Korean is the same as Japanese so (it’s) easy, you know.

John: That’s cheating!

Chapter Overview

We’ve been using numbers here and there but we’ve yet to comprehensively cover how to count or tell the date and time. We will do that here in addition to learning how to express different amounts and make comparisons.