There are many different ways to count things in Japanese, which can be a little difficult to understand. In this article, we will introduce some of the most common ways to count things in daily life, along with example sentences. It may be a good idea to review them when ordering at a restaurant or when you suddenly forget them at work.
1. “人” (nin) and “名” (mei) used to count the number of people
The word “人” (nin) is used after a number to count the number of people. Basically, you can express the number of people just by adding “人” (nin) to a number, but be aware that the pronunciation is different when saying one person and two people.
1人 (hitori)：1 person
2人 (futari)：2 people
3人 (san-nin)：3 people
4人 (yo-nin)：4 people
5人 (go-nin)：5 people
6人 (roku-nin)：6 people
7人 (nana-nin /shichi-nin)：7 people
8人 (hachi-nin)：8 people
9人 (kyū-nin)：9 people
10人 (jū-nin)：10 people
11人 (jūichi-nin)：11 people
12人 (jūni-nin)：12 people
You can also use “名” (mei) to count the number of people. The term “名” (mei) is used when the number of people is known, or when it is used in formal situations to express politeness. For this reason, “名” (mei) is mainly used by people who provide services to customers. When a waiter confirms the number of people in a restaurant, or a concierge in a hotel confirms the number of reservations, “名” (mei) is used.
Tō hoteru wa, honjitsu manshitsu no tame 2-mei sama de no go yoyaku wo uketamawaru koto ga dekimasen.
Our hotel is fully booked today and cannot accept reservations for 2 people.
Irasshaimase. 3-mei de ranchi wo go yoyaku no Tanaka-sama desu ne.
May I help you? Mr. Tanaka, you have a reservation for lunch for 3 people.
In business, it is appropriate to convey the number of people to the customer politely, so we use “名” (mei) in conversations and communications with customers, as well as in conversations within the company.
Ashita no kaigi desuga, heisha kara wa watashi ni kuwaete 3-mei no sutaffu wo dōseki sa sete itadakimasu.
For tomorrow's meeting, three staff members will be joining me from our company.
２. “枚” (mai) and “部” (bu) used to count the number of documents and papers
When you work in a company, there is a lot of paperwork exchanged, and the Japanese language has a different way of counting different types of documents. It's easy to use because the pronunciation doesn't change depending on the number like the number of people. When counting a sheet of paper, you use “枚” (mai). In the case of letters, a single sheet of paper, like a postcard, and everything that comes in an envelope is counted using “通” (tsu).
Shorui wo 1-mai kopī suru.
I make a copy of the document.
Buchō-ate no seikyū-sho ga sokutatsu de 3-tsū todoita.
I received three invoices addressed to the director by express delivery.
For documents that are bound together, such as documents and pamphlets, “部” (bu) is used. For thicker documents such as books, use “冊” (satsu).
Shiryō wo ichibu zutsu kubatte oite kudasai.
Please hand out one set of materials.
100 shurui ijō no seihin wo shōkai shite iru katarogu wo 1-satsu sashiagemasu.
We will give you one catalog that introduces more than 100 kinds of products.
You can tell the number of things to the other person without using each counting method carefully. However, if you make a mistake in counting one sheet and one set, it may affect your work, so please be careful as much as possible.
3. ”社” (sha) used to count the number of companies
If you're counting the number of companies you do business with, or if you want to share the number of companies in a job interview, add “社” (sha) after the number. We sometimes say “行” (kou) when the client is a bank.
Waga sha no sābisu wo riyō shite iru kigyō wa 500-sha ijō ni noborimasu.
There are more than 500 companies using our services.
Gyōmu itaku no kōho kigyō wo 5-sha, ashita made ni sagashite oite kudasai.
Find 5 candidate companies for outsourcing by tomorrow.
4. ”件” (ken) useful when counting the number of cases and projects
Use ”件” (ken) to count the number of cases you are in charge of or agenda items for a meeting. You can use ”件” (ken) to count matters or cases.
Kyō wa kaigi ga 3-ken renzoku de aru kara isogashī.
I'm busy today because there are 3 meetings in a row.
For example, the number of inquiries can be counted by ”件” (ken) since ”件” (ken) means cases.
Shōhin ni kansuru fuguai ga, 2-ken hōkoku sa rete imasu.
Two product defects have been reported.
5. ”冊” (satsu) and “巻” (kan) used to count the number of books
It is common to use “冊” (satsu) to count books. You should count single books using “冊” (satsu).
Kotoshi no mokuhyō wa hon wo maitsuki 2-satsu yomu koto desu.
This year's goal is to read two books each month.
Toshokan ni itte hon wo 4-satsu karita.
I went to the library and borrowed four books.
When counting the number of volumes of popular Japanese manga, we sometimes use “巻” (kan) in addition to “冊” (satsu). If you use “巻” (kan), you can tell the other person that the book is not complete in one volume and that the story is continuing.
Daisukina bōken monogatari no manga wo 13-kan made yonda.
I read up to 13 volumes of my favorite adventure story manga.
Kono monogatari no gekan wa kandō no amari namida wo nagasazu ni wa ira renai.
The second volume of this story is so moving that I cannot help but shed tears.
In this article, I introduced some counting expressions that are often used in the workplace, such as number of people, number of papers, and number of books. By the way, do you know that there are more than 500 ways to count things in Japanese?
If you can count things that even Japanese people don't know, your Japanese friends will be amazed! If you are interested in the Japanese language, why don't you sign up for a free membership to Human Academy Japanese Language School Plus. You can experience practical Japanese lessons by experienced teachers for free.
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