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Counters are one of the things that English speakers often have a hard time with when learning Japanese. Most words in Japanese do not have a 'plural' form. Instead different types of things have different counters. This type of counter is seen in English as well; it is the equivallent of saying 'three glasses of water' instead of 'three waters.' There are many such counters; only a few of which are listed here.

If you don't know the counter for something, it is usually OK to use the general set (Except for with people!). The general set is made up of the traditional Japanese numbers. Do not confuse this general set with the standard set of numbers, which was actually borrowed from Chinese.

Note: If you go beyond ten of something, the standard set of numbers should be used before the counter listed at the top.

The most basic way to use a counter is as follows:

Item ga counter arimasu/imasu. (Arimasu is for inanimate things and imasu for animate ones.)


Hon ga issatsu arimasu. I have/there is one book.
Neko ga sanbiki imasu. I have/there are three cats.
Imouto ga futari imasu. I have two younger sisters.

Small Animals
Large Animals

Birds and Rabbits

Long Thin Objects
    ~nin ~hiki ~tou ~wa ~hon
1 hitotsu hitori ippiki ittou ichiwa ippon
2 futatsu futari nihiki nitou niwa nihon
3 mittsu sannin sanbiki santou sanba sanbon
4 yottsu yonin yonhiki yontou yonwa yonhon
5 itsutsu gonin gohiki gotou gowa gohon
6 mutsu rokunin roppiki rokutou rokuwa / roppa roppon / rokuhon
7 nanatsu nananin / shichinin nanahiki / shichihiki nanatou nanawa / shichiwa nanahon
8 yattsu hachinin happiki hattou / hachitou hachiwa / happa happon
9 kokonotsu kyuunin kyuuhiki kyuutou kyuuwa kyuuhon
10 too juunin juppiki juttou juuwa / juppa juppon


Small Objects
Machines and Vehicles
Flat Objects
(of a Building)
Glasses (of Liquid)
  ~ko ~dai ~mai ~kai ~hai ~satsu
1 ikko ichidai ichimai ikkai ippai issatsu
2 niko nidai nimai nikai nihai nisatsu
3 sanko sandai
sangai sanbai sansatsu
4 yonko yondai yonmai yonkai yonhai yonsatsu
5 goko godai gomai gokai gohai gosatsu
6 rokko rokudai rokumai rokkai rokuhai / roppai rokusatsu
7 nanako nanadai / shichidai nanamai / shichimai nanakai nanahai nanasatsu
8 hakko hachidai hachimai hakkai / hachikai hachihai / happai hassatsu
9 kyuuko kyuudai kyuumai kyuukai kyuuhai kyuusatsu
10 jukko juudai juumai jukkai juppai juusatsu
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