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Lesson 72: Introduction to counters

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Counters are suffixes that combine with numbers when different things are counted. Unlike in English, where the thing you are counting directly follows the number (e.g. 25 pencils), in Japanese there are dozens of different counter words for this purpose. In this lesson we introduce the counter にん used for counting numbers of people. 

Counter words directly follow the number of the thing you are counting. For example, 200 people is written 200にん. Counters tend to contain irregularities in the way they are pronounced for certain numbers. For にん there are four irregularities. They are for the numbers 1, 2, 4, and 7, as shown in the table below.

EnglishJapanese
one person; aloneひと
hitori
two peopleふた
hutari
three peopleさんにん
sannin
four peopleにん
yonin
five peopleにん
gonin
six peopleろくにん
rokunin
seven peopleしちにん
sitinin
eight peopleはちにん
hatinin
nine peopleきゅうにん
kyuunin
ten peopleじゅうにん
zyuunin

Below are some example sentences to show you how counters are used in context.

EnglishJapanese
There are nine of us.わたしたち は きゅうにん です。
watasitati ha kyuunin desu.
How many people were there?なんにん いました か?
nannin imasita ka?
The two of us watched TV together.わたしたち は ふた で テレビ を ました。
watasitati ha hutari de terebi wo mimasita.
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