Basic numbers and age

1 to 10

Learning the first ten numbers is a one good way to get started in learning any language. For Japanese, it also allows us to get familiar with some basic and important Kanji. One thing to pay attention to is the fact that 4 and 7 have two possible pronunciations. The more common ones are bolded.

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

11 to 99

As an added bonus, we don’t need to learn any more numbers to count up to 99. The tens digit is simply the number and ten. For example, two-ten is twenty, three-ten is thirty, etc. We will learn higher numbers past 99 in a later chapter.


  1. 十一 【じゅう・いち】 – 11
  2. 二十 【に・じゅう】 – 20
  3. 二十一 【に・じゅう・いち】 – 21
  4. 三十九 【さん・じゅう・きゅう】 – 39
  5. 四十 【よん・じゅう】 – 40
  6. 七十四 【なな・じゅう・よん】 – 74
  7. 九十九 【きゅう・じゅう・きゅう】 – 99

Counters and Age

Let’s use the numbers we just learned to talk about our age. In Japanese, we must use counters to count different types of things. The counter for counting age is 「~歳」(さい). Because the Kanji is rather difficult, it is also written as 「才」 (though it’s actually a completely different character)

Counters are simply attached to the end of the number. However, as we saw in the last section, Kanji readings can often go through small changes to aid pronunciation. The following digits are read slightly differently when used with the age counter. The age 20 is also a completely irregular reading.

Irregular readings

  1. 一歳 【いっ・さい】 – 1 year old
  2. 八歳 【はっ・さい】 – 8 years old
  3. 十歳 【じゅっ・さい】 – 10 years old
  4. 二十歳 【はたち】 – 20 years old


  1. 二十歳 【はたち】 – 20 years old
  2. 二十一歳 【に・じゅう・いっ・さい】 – 21 years old
  3. 四十八歳 【よん・じゅう・はっ・さい】 – 48 years old
  4. 七十歳 【なな・じゅっ・さい】 – 70 years old

We will learn many more counters in a later chapter.

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