Post Reply Kanji Lesson #1: Let's Count the Days!
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Posted 5/16/09 , edited 5/18/09
Lesson #1: Let's Count the Days!


ICHI, ITSU, hito(tsu), hito- one
e.g. 一 ~ ichi ~ one
一つ ~ hitotsu ~ one


NI, futa(tsu), futa- two
e.g. 二つ ~ futatsu ~ two


SAN, mit(tsu), mi- three
e.g. 三つ ~ mittsu ~ three
一二三 ~ ichi ni san ~ one two three

Comment: "mittsu" (with a double consonant) may sometimes be pronounced as "mitsu" (without a double consonant).


SHI, yot(tsu), yo-, yon- four
e.g. 四つ ~ yottsu ~ four


GO, itsu(tsu), itsu- five
e.g. 五つ ~ itsutsu ~ five

Comment: Some people pronounce the Onyomi of this kanji with a long "o" vowel, making it "gô". Keep in mind, as well, that the pronunciation of the Kunyomi sounds like i-ts-tsu due to the muting of the "u" sound.


ROKU, mut(tsu), six
e.g. 六つ ~ muttsu ~ six


SHICHI, nana(tsu), nana- seven
e.g. 七つ ~ nanatsu ~ seven


HACHI, HATSU, yat(tsu), ya- eight
e.g. 八つ ~ yattsu ~ eight

Comment: The kanji for "eight" is easily mistaken for the kanji for "person" (which will be taught in a bit) and "enter". Eight is usually differentiated in handwriting by making a bigger gap between the two strokes. This, however, mistakes it for the katakana "ハ". It's for this reason that it is usually written larger than the katakana, or context can simply take over to figure out which is which. In typewritten or typeface fonts, eight looks like it has a "dash" connecting the two strokes together, giving it a "Mt. Fuji-like" appearance.


KYŪ, KU, kokono(tsu), kokono- nine
e.g. 九つ ~ kokonotsu ~ nine


JŪ, ten
e.g. 十 ~ ~ ten

Comment: The hiragana form of "十" is written as "とお" instead of "とう". Despite this, the "o" vowel is still a long vowel.


JIN, NIN, hito person
e.g. 一人 ~ hitori (ir.) ~ one person
二人 ~ futari (ir.) ~ two people

Comment: As mentioned earlier, this kanji may be easily mistaken for "eight" or "enter". The two strokes of this kanji are connected, and the first stroke is written above or on top of the second stroke. The two examples show irregular combinations with previously learned kanji.


NICHI, JITSU, hi day, sun; -ka suffix for counting days
e.g. あの日 ~ ano hi ~ that day
一日 ~ ichinichi, ichijitsu ~ one day; tsuitachi (ir.) ~ 1st day (of the month)
二日 ~ futsuka (ir.) ~ 2nd day (of the month)

Comment: Again, the kanji for "1" and "2" tend to have irregular combinations with other kanji, as shown in the examples. This kanji was an ideograph of the sun with a "ray" emanating from its center.


GETSU, tsuki moon, month; GATSU month
e.g. 一ヵ月 ~ ikkagetsu ~ one month
四月 ~ shigatsu ~ April


YŌ day of the week [R: Sun]
e.g. 月曜[日] ~ getsuyô(bi) ~ Monday
日曜[日] ~ nichiyô(bi) ~ Sunday

Comment: "日" may be omitted in both cases. "Getsu" means "moon", so think of it as "moon"sday. "Nichi" means "sun", so similarly, "Sun"day. Note that this kanji has a variant. This character also has the "sun" radical on the left.
78167 cr points
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30 / M / Japan
Posted 5/18/09 , edited 5/18/09

Counting, in general, uses the following basic readings:

> ichi > one
> ni > two
> san > three
> yon/shi > four
> go > five
> roku > six
> nana/shichi > seven
> hachi > eight
> kyû > nine
> > ten

When we say "in general", we're referring to instances similar to how a child would count with their fingers. Otherwise, different readings are used depending on what is being counted.

Requesting for a number of items

The Japanese use counting terms depending on the object being counted. If it's for small items, however, a counter term may not be necessary. Requesting for coffee, for example, may look like this:

コーヒーを一つください。> kôhî o hitotsu kudasai > one coffee, please.

*Note: The kanji "一" in this case shouldn't be confused with the "long vowel" in katakana. Remember that "を" is a hiragana character, and in this case is even a particle, so you should NEVER assume that this is a long vowel.

You can form your request sentence by attaching a kanji number in its Kunyomi along with the polite request phrase "ください":

一つ > hitotsu > one
二つ > futatsu > two
三つ > mittsu > three
四つ > yottsu > four
五つ > itsutsu > five
六つ > muttsu > six
七つ > nanatsu > seven
八つ > yattsu > eight
九つ > kokonotsu > nine
> > ten

Counting People

The kanji "人" can be used as a counter for people when the Onyomi reading NIN is used as a suffix. As was mentioned, "one" and "two" have irregular combinations with this kanji, but they may still be read as "ichinin" and "ninin" depending on context. "Four people" undergoes a sound change, and is said as "yonin" instead of "yonnin":

一人 ~ hitori, ichinin ~ one person, alone
二人 ~ futari, ninin ~ two people, a couple
三人 ~ sannin ~ three people
四人 ~ yonin ~ four people
五人 ~ gonin ~ five people
六人 ~ rokunin ~ six people
七人 ~ shichinin, nananin ~ seven people
八人 ~ hachinin ~ eight people
九人 ~ kyûnin ~ nine people
十人 ~ jûnin ~ ten people

Note that the words "hitori" and "futari" have meanings other than that for counting people. A person can refer to themselves as "alone" (一人で, "hitori de"), and two people can be referred to as a "couple" (二人きり, "futari kiri") in the sense that it's "just the two of them".

The Days of the Month

The kanji "日" can be used as a counting term for days of the month. In this case, the Onyomi reading "NICHI" is used with numbers to indicate dates:

十一日 > jûichinichi > 11th day (of the month)

Note, however, that certain dates are "irregular" in the sense that they use the Kunyomi "-ka" as a suffix, instead. These dates include days 2 to 10, 14, 20, and 24. The first day is also irregular:

一日 > tsuitachi > 1st day (of the month)
二日 > futsuka > 2nd day
三日 > mikka > 3rd day
四日 > yokka > 4th day
五日 > itsuka > 5th day
六日 > muika > 6th day
七日 > nanoka > 7th day
八日 > yôka > 8th day
九日 > kokonoka > 9th day
十日 > tôka > 10th day
十四日 > jûyokka > 14th day
二十日 > hatsuka > 20th day
二十四日 > nijûyokka > 24th day

"一日" can also be read as "ichinichi" to mean "one day" (duration), and not the first day of the month. Context should guide you as to what reading is appropriate.

The Months

The Onyomi reading "GATSU" refers to the month of a year. "GETSU", on the other hand, refers to the duration.

一月 > ichigatsu > January
二月 > nigatsu > February
三月 > sangatsu > March
四月 > shigatsu > April
五月 > gogatsu > May
六月 > rokugatsu > June
七月 > shichigatsu > July
八月 > hachigatsu > August
九月 > kugatsu > September
十月 > jûgatsu > October
十一月 > jûichigatsu > November
十二月 > jûnigatsu > December


You might have noted that there are certain changes regarding the use of "YON" over "shi" for the kanji "四", and "SHICHI" over "nana" for the kanji "七". There are also several transformations in sounds for these particular kanji. I leave it for the student to learn when these readings are chosen, as they are particular for different things being counted. It's a matter of getting used to which one is used in each given context.
78167 cr points
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30 / M / Japan
Posted 5/18/09 , edited 5/25/09
Advanced Learner's Corner





単語 (たんご) ~ Vocabulary
いま ~ now
なん ~ what
かぞく ~ family
なか ~ inside
いる ~ to exist
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