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Lesson 71: Introduction to counters

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.

English Japanese
one person; alone ひと
two people ふた
three people さんにん
four people にん
five people にん
six people ろくにん
seven people しちにん
eight people はちにん
nine people きゅうにん
ten people じゅうにん

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

English Japanese
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? なんにんがいましたか?
nannin ga 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.