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Japanese Counters (助数詞)

The Japanese language uses what are called counters, or measure words, to count nouns. Nouns in Japanese have no number; they are neither singular nor plural except as revealed by context. So whe you want to specify a certain number of something, you have to pair the object with the appropriate counter. The grammar is simple, but knowing all the measure words commonly used in Japanese is troublesome. So here's a list of them, including most of the unusual ones you are likely to come across or need.

Counter Pronunciation Used to Count
ban Noh drama
bi fish
bu copy of a book; newspaper
chaku suit (of clothes)
chō drum; koto; curtains; paper
chō gun; scissors; oar; violin; gun; rickshaw
chō knife; pair of scissors; cake of tofu
dai bicycle; car; camera; computer; piano; machinery; ski; telephone; television; vehicle
dan bullet; projectile
fusa bunch of fruit; lock/tuft of hair; bunch of flowers
gyō line (of text)
hachi bonsai tree
hai drink (in a cup)
haku night (when staying overnight at a hotel)
hari stitch; suture
hatsu bullet; projectile; rocket; missile
hen article; publication; novel
hen poem
hiki small animal; fish
hon bottle; article; publication; fan; pencil; movie; video; tunnel; long objects
ji kanji; letter (character)
ji temple
pill; tablet
kabu share (of a stock)
kai floor (of a building)
kaku stroke (of a Japanese character)
kan set of books
ken crime
ken house
ki airplane
ki elevator; reactor; rocket base
ko default counter, and used when uncertain of the proper counter; egg; model (experimental)
ko household
ku haiku
ku sword
kuchi bank account
kyaku chair
kyoku song
mai comb; plate; flat objects; name card; sheet of paper; leaf; flat, thin objects
maku act of a play; acto
men cello; pool; mirror; page (in a newspaper); ski slope; tennis court
mon cannon
mon question
nin people (n.b.: one person is read "hitori"; two people, "futari")
人前 ninmae food (portion); serving (of food)
retsu queue; row
ryō railroad car; tram car; subway car
sai years (for saying how old someone is)
saku work (musical or literary); opus
san temple
satsu book; bound objects
seki ship; boat
sen game; match
sha shrine (Shinto)
shoku meal
soku shoes (in pairs)
揃い soroi suit (of clothes)
suji cord; rope; river
tama cabbage (head of cabbage)
large animal; cow
tsū document; letter (document)
tsubu egg
wa bird; rabbit
za shrine (Shinto); stage (theater)
zen chopsticks (pair of)

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