sci.lang.japan FAQ / 12. Numbers, counting, and dates

12.3. What is the counter for ...?

Here is a short list of some of the various Japanese counting words, josuushi (助数詞). These words and the method of counting originate from Chinese.
Japanese counting words
Kanji Counter word One Two Three Used to count
Animals, birds and people
hiki ippiki nihiki sanbiki Small animals, fish
nin hitori futari sannin People
mei ichimei nimei sanmei People
wa ichiwa niwa sanwa Birds and rabbits (because the ears of the rabbit resemble wings)
tou ittou nitou santou Large animals and farmyard animals such as cows
bi ichibi nibi sanbi Fish
Shapes
hon ippon nihon sanbon Long thin objects such as pencils. Also station platforms.
mai ichimai nimai sanmai Flat objects such as pieces of paper.

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sci.lang.japan FAQ / 12. Numbers, counting, and dates

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