There are so many counters that it even causes natives to have headaches. Even if you were to know every counter, which isn't worth the time, you would have to know just as impressive amount of information to read all the number-counter combinations. To complicate things, there are many set phrases that require a particular number variant, and there are many combinations with multiple correct readings with varying frequencies of use.
The purpose of this lesson is to give you more counters that are relevant to your studies. Before we get to new counters, though, we need to take some time and discuss a bit more about numbers themselves. Below is the rest of the most essential Sino-Japanese numbers.
Remember that large numbers are structured a little differently in Japanese. Instead of being grouped into powers of three, they are grouped into powers of four. This is why the unit changes at 100 million rather than at 1 million. The same phonetic changes from before apply for these large numbers.
|1 Million||百万（ひゃくまん）||10 Million||（一)千万（（いっ）せんまん）||100 Million||一億（いちおく）|
| 1 Billion||十億（じゅうおく）|| 10 Billion||百億（ひゃくおく）||100 Billion||（一）千億（（いっ）せんおく）|
| 1 Trillion||一兆（いっちょう）|| 10 Trillion||十兆（じゅっちょう）||100 Trillion||百兆（ひゃっちょう）|
Consider 4,634,968,349,763,487, which is treated as 4634,9683,4976,3487 with the units changing every fourth power in the order 十, 百, 千, new unit.
よんせん ろっぴゃく さんじゅうよんちょう きゅうせん ろっぴゃく はちじゅうさんおく よんせん きゅうひゃく ななじゅうろくまん さんぜん よんひゃく はちじゅう なな
Finally, you need to understand that variants of numbers that were described as basically never being used may still be used in set phrases. For instance, you shouldn't say しひゃく for 400 itself, but in set phrases like 四百四病, a Buddhist term for every type of disease, you would have to read the phrase as しひゃくしびょう. This is because that's how it's supposed to be read, and there is no other option. Below are more common set expressions.
|四十七士||The 47 ronin||Sino-Japanese counters once required Sino-Japanese numbers.|
|二十四の瞳||Twenty four eyes||Title of a famous novel turned into a movie.|
|二十四節気||The 24 sekki||Sekki are divisions of the solar year.|
Though it's really best to just read up on counter lists such as those found on http://www.benricho.org/kazu/, this chart gives some more important counters to add to your vocabulary.
|～行（ぎょう）||Lines of text||～クラス||Classes|
|～丁・挺（ちょう）||Tools, candles, guns, forks, baskets||～発（はつ）||Shots, blows, engines|
|～俵（ひょう）||Bags of rice/sackfuls||～部（ぶ）||Circulating printed material|
|～服（ふく）||Doses, puffs, rests||～話（わ）||Episodes|
1. Some counters are very limited such as 雨, which is limited to 一雨 (a rainfall).
2. When referring to printed material in circulation, the counter ～部 is used instead. This counter is also used for collected editions. However, editions are generally counted with ～巻.
3. Using the wrong counter may at times be done for humor/insult. Ex. using ～匹 for people.
4. Pairs of clothing can also be ～着（ちゃく). Depending on the article of clothing, this may be replaced with something like ～枚 or ～本 as ～着 is slightly literary.
A pair of pants
It was a single house atop a slope not so far from Inokashira Park. The owners were a German couple, and while on a world round trip they had planned for ten years, they rent it for a surprisingly low place with the promise that [she] would live in it for half of the year so that the house didn't get damaged.
Although it’s a residential street, just even the front yard that faces the slope easily passes 200 tsubo (661.157025 m2).
From 野生の風 by 村山由佳.
Note: The 坪 is a traditional unit for area still used a lot in Japan.
Is there any mail for me?
～代, which is used to show one's age group and not to be confused with ～年代 which equates to "'s" in phrases like the 90's in English, is yet another important counter that you should remember.
A housewife in one's thirties
Phrase Note: There are also weird coined phrases such as アラフォー, which means "around forty."
Reading Notes: 数日 ＝ すうじつ; 人数 ＝ にんず（う）.
Punishment points was a means of harassing Shūya-kun, and by reporting to this action what you've done, points are given to you, and every Saturday the points are tallied, and whoever has the least amount of points in the class is seen as being an ally of the murderer starting the next week, and you likewise get punished.
From 告白 by 湊かなえ.
Pronunciation Note: The word 数字 is ambiguous. It can either mean numeral or several characters. The pitch for the first meaning is LHH and the pitch for the second meaning is HLL.
Sometimes voicing occurs when a counter is used with 三 and 何. This is because ん is a voiced sound. So, it's not surprising that making the next consonant voiced would ease pronunciation. Sometimes, though, voicing doesn't happen.
|Meaning||Counter||With 三||With 何|
|A shaku||尺||さんしゃく・さんじゃく (Old-fashioned)||なんしゃく・なんじゃく (Old-fashioned)|
|Loaf; 600 grams||斤||さんきん・さんぎん (Old-fashioned)||なんきん|
|Old currency unit||貫||さんかん・さんがん (Old-fashioned)||なんかん・なんけん (Old-fashioned)|
How many stories is the building?
連濁 Note: 建てshould be read as だて although the previous element is voiced too.
You already learned about the irregularities of ～人. But, just to make sure you know what these irregularities are, they are listed below.
|～人 Irregularities||一人 ＝ ひとり; 二人 ＝ ふたり; 三人 ＝ みたり (Rare/dialectical)|
Etymology Note: The number element and counter element to these exceptions is blurred. In reality, there is a counter change based on plurality of とり → たり. In avoiding repeating the same sound twice, 1 and 2 are seen contracted to just ひ and ふ respectively.
The Days of the Month
Here are the days of the month again to make sure that you still know them all. You wouldn't believe how many people that have studied Japanese for several years that still mess these up a lot.
Rabbits and Birds
Other than that, there is ～羽, which counts rabbits and birds. Birds and rabbits were both meats not prohibited by Buddhist teachings in the past. The reasoning was that birds were not classified as beasts, and because rabbits had ears as big as wings, they became counted like birds. The counter 羽's peculiar irregularity is demonstrated in the chart below. Variants will be listed in order of most to least frequent.
Set Phrase Note: 三羽烏 read as さんばがらす is a set phrase meaning "trio".
All birds can be counted with 羽. Huge birds like ostriches and emus are often counted with 頭, and odd birds like penguins can be counted with 匹. Though these birds are exceptional because they can be counted with something other than 羽, they can still be counted with 羽.
Practice (1): Translate the following.
1. Nine birds 2. 20 rabbits 3. 12 days
4. Three months 5. 4 o' clock 6. Two boxes
7. Three people 8. 1 person 9. How many floors?
10. Three pairs of shoes 11. One step 12. How many thousands?
13. 13 weeks 14. 12 computers 15. How many glassfuls?
More Oddities with Native Numbers
Though the majority of counters that accept native numbers only allow this for 1 and 2 (sometimes also 3 and 4), there is a very rare minority that accepts even more native numbers. However, because they are of the minority, it isn't surprising that even these "exceptional readings" (though they're the original readings) themselves are not widely used. Some speakers may even think certain combinations are unnatural. Reading 3 and 4 is becoming exceedingly problematic.
Nevertheless, we will examine one such counter: 房 (bunches of fruit). Notice how there is fluctuation in how it can be read. When a number has multiple readings, the one primarily used is in bold.
|5|| ごふさ |
|9||きゅうふさ||10|| じゅうふさ |
The mochi slices were small, but he ate six or seven slices, put the last slice inside the bowl, and put down his chopsticks to stop.
From 吾輩は猫である by 夏目漱石.
Reading Note: 六 is read as む.
There is a tea plantation about ten tsubo large behind my house.
From 吾輩は猫である by 夏目漱石.
Reading Note: In this case, 十 is read as と. This is another rare instance in which this reading is used.
Three digit number on the door