Counters “count” things. English doesn’t have counters. We just say the number to count objects, people, animals, e.g. “four people”, “four books”, “four cars”—it’s all really quite simple. Unfortunately, Japanese is a little awkward here. Welcome to the world of the counter. What makes counters awkward is that the counter word changes depending on the thing you’re counting, e.g. a long object, a person, a sheet of paper, a dog. Here are the most common counters with the objects they count.
|本||ほん||Long, thin objects, e.g. a pen, a bottle|
|台||だい||Large objects, e.g. a car, a bicycle|
|枚||まい||Flat, thin objects, e.g. a sheet of paper|
|冊||さつ||Books, magazines, etc.|
|回||かい||Times, e.g. I’ve been here three times before|
|目||め||Time, e.g. I passed the test on the third attempt|
|階||かい||Floors in a building|
|個||こ||Small objects, e.g. an apple|
|杯||はい||Glasses, e.g. three glasses of beer|
And, as we saw when the number system was introduced, the pronunciation of the counter can change depending on the number that precedes it.
There is one notable exception where the correct reading is entirely different.
Natural use of these counters takes a bit of time. Fortunately, in the meantime, there is a generic counter which has you covered in most cases.
When we tell the time we are “counting” the hours, so times have there own counters as well (second, minutes, hours, days, etc.).
Days of the Week
Days each get their own name like in English.
Months don’t get such special naming treatment and are signified only by a number. Just make a note of the syllables in bold which may not be obvious.
Dates (e.g. 15th) take the counter にち; however, for 1-10th, 14th, 20th, and 24th of the month the pronunciation is irregular.
When writing the date in full the order is YEAR MONTH DAY.
|19 October, 2015|