Japanese Phrases for Counting and Buying
This hub was written in order to help tourists and travellers count and buy things in Japanese! You might assume that because it's so simple in english to count that it would also be just as easy to do it in japanese.
You must remember that Japan and everything about it will provide endless surprises for you if you compare it to the Western world.
Counting in japanese requires a knowledge of dozens of counters and classifiers and different forms of the same number!
There are two main ways of saying 1-10 in Japanese and they both have different uses.
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Read on to learn how to get around the shops with this useful hub.
If you haven't yet learned how to read japanese transliterated (put into our alphabet so we can read the words without knowing the japanese alphabet), then be sure to check the "pronunciation" section on this hub:
It also features useful key phrases for traveling and so it is recommended that you read it first before this hub if you are a soon-to-be visitor of Japan!
Minutes are actually slightly peculiar and more complex in japanese too.
For 2,5,7 and 9 minutes, you use the word "fun" to describe "minutes" e.g. ni fun (2 minutes)
For 1, 3,4,6,8 and 10 you use the word "pun" or "ppun" (stressed p) for the word "minutes" e.g. yon bun (4 minutes) and ippun (1 minute)
- ni fun
- san pun
- yon pun
- go fun
- nana fun
- happun (note: it's not "hachi pun")
- kyuu fun
- jyuu pun
1. Time, Quantities and Measurements
- Ichi - one
- Ni - two
- San - three
- Shi/yon - four
- Go - five
- Roku - six
- Shichi/nana - seven
- Hachi - eight
- Kyuu/ku - nine
- Jyuu - ten (pronounced as jew)
This first list of numbers is used for time, measurements and quantities. E.g. minutes and yen.
Whenever you want to say "5 minutes" you need to use the number 5 from this list and then the word for minutes ("fun" for number 5) straight after: go fun = 5 minutes
More examples include:
Ichi ji kan mae - an hour ago (mae means before)
gozen shichi ji ni - at 7am (gozen means am)
Kyuu en - 9 yen (en = yen)
Note: As you may have noticed, some numbers have two different forms to them. When quantifying hours, you need to use these forms for these numbers:
yon ji - 4 hours
shichi ji - 7 hours
Ku ji - 9 hours
So when you are in Japan and you need to say "I want to meet here in 10 minutes" you would say "watashi wa (I), koko dewa (at here) jyuu pun (10 minutes) kara (after), aitai desu (want to meet)"
2. Everything Else
When counting everything else that isn't covered in 1. you use the following forms of numbers:
- Hitotsu - one
- Futatsu - two
- Mitsu - three
- Yotsu - four
- Itsutsu - five
- Mutsu - six
- Nanatsu - seven
- Yatsu - eight
- Kokonotsu - nine
- To-o - ten
The numbers follow the noun being counted and don't use anything else like a classifier (see below).
To ask for two beers, it is simply "biru futotsu, onegaishimasu" (onegaishimasu means please). When you want 7 sweets it's "amai mono (sweets) nanatsu (7), onegaishimasu."
Remember to memorise the correct order: Object -> Number -> Counter -> Please
Here are some examples:
Kippu (tickets) go (5) mai (classifier) kudasai/onegaishimasu (please)
Nihongo no hon (japanese books) kyuu (9) satsu (classifier) kudasai (please)
3. In Reality It's Not That Simple
In reality, although using the way of quantifying that 2. describes is acceptable, it is far more common to use things known as counters and the numbers featured in 1.
Therefore, if you are just visiting Japanfor leisure or a work trip and don't have much time, it is sensible to stick to using the technique in 2. and go on to learn other phrases and vocabulary that might make your trip easier and more enjoyable.
If you have enough time however, learning the following way of quantifying will improve your level of Japanese considerably and help you on your way to being proficient.
When counting nouns with particular qualities (commonly a particular shape), a counter is used after the number of things being quantified.
Here are the most frequently used counters:
Hon - cylindrical objects (pens, cigarettes etc.)
Ko - small chunky objects (eggs, cupcakes, fruits...)
Mai - thin and flat objects (sheets of paper, tickets, cards)
Dai - machine related items (cars, bikes, stereos)
Nin - people
Hiki - animals
Satsu - books
Tsuu - letters
Hai - glassfuls, cupfuls
Therefore, when you want 5 eggs it's "tamago go ko o kudasai (or onegaishimasu).
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