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Uki Uki NihonGO! Lesson 41 - Counters

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Uki Uki NihonGO! Lesson 41 - Counters
Today, we’ll focus on counters. In English, when you count something you can simply say how many and what it is: one pen, two photos, three people. But in Japanese, you need to use the right counter matching the thing you’re talking about, e.g. one pen is 1本 (ippon), two photos is 2枚 (ni mai), and 3 people is 3人 (san nin).
Other examples:
#匹 (hiki): small animals and insects
#頭 (tou): large animals
# 羽 (wa) : birds, animals with wings
# 台 (dai): equipment, machinery
# 冊 (satsu): books, bound objects
# 回 (kai): times, rounds
# 杯 (hai): filled glasses, cups
# 滴 (teki): drops of tears, rain, water
...And so many more! 
But don't panic, you don’t need to learn a million different counters to speak Japanese! Luckily, many things that have a similar shape share the same counter. Let's look at several of them:
#本 (ほん: hon) is used to count things that have a long and thin, stick-like shape. This category includes pens, needles, cigarettes, lip sticks, umbrellas, bottles, chopsticks, swords, poles, trees, even beams of light, etc.
Here are 1 to 10 using ほん
Note that the pronunciation of the counter ほん(hon) changes to ぽん(pon) or ぼん(bon) with some of the numbers. 
1本 ippon、2本 ni hon、3本 san bon、4本 yon hon、5本 go hon、6本 roppon、7本 nana hon、8本 happon、9本 kyuu hon、10本 juppon. 11 pens is 11本 (juuippon). And how many pens is 何本 (nan bon)?
Note that counters are usually placed right before the verb.
ボールペンを1本貸してもらえますか? (Booru pen o ippon kashite moraemasuka?) Can I borrow a ballpoint pen?
水、冷蔵庫に何本ある? (Mizu, reizouko ni nan bon aru?) How many water bottles do we have in the fridge?
#枚 (まい: mai) is used to count things that are flat and thin. This covers handkerchiefs, paper, photos, T-shirts, DVDs, pizza, lettuce, map, tissue, leaves, blankets, etc. 
1枚 ichi mai、2枚 ni mai、3枚 san mai、4枚 yon mai、5枚 go mai、6枚 roku mai、7枚 nana mai、8枚 hachi mai、9枚 kyuu mai、10枚 juu mai、何枚 nan mai?
ピザを2枚食べました。 (Piza o ni-mai tabemashita.) I ate 2 slices of pizza.
#人 (にん: nin) is for counting the number of people. The first two have special names, so be sure to memorize them.
1人 hitori、2人 futari、3人 san nin、4人 yo nin、5人 go nin、6人 roku nin、7人 nana nin、8人 hachi nin、9人 kyuu nin、10人 juu nin、何人 nan nin?
パーティーには2、30人くらい来ると思います。 (Paatii niwa ni san juu nin kurai kuru to omoimasu.) I think 20-30 people will come to the party.
I strongly recommend that you memorize those 2 generic counters in Japanese. You can use them to count so many things, including pretty random things.
Generic counter #1: #個 (こ: ko)
1個 ikko、2個 ni ko、3個 san ko、4個 yon ko、5個 go ko、6個 rokko、7個 nana ko、8個 hakko、9個 kyuu ko、10個 jukko、何個 nan ko?
こ can count: ice cream, snacks, cake, eggs, stones, chairs, wallets, bullets, candles, dolls, bags, hats, accessories, jewelry, lamps, snowman, etc.
友達が手作りの指輪を一個くれた。 (Tomodachi ga tezukuri no yubiwa o ikko kureta.) A friend gave me a handmade ring.
アイスクリーム、いくつ欲しい? (Aisu kuriimu, ikutsu hoshii?) How many ice cream do you want?
Generic counter #2: #つ
一つ hitotsu、二つ futatsu、三つ mittsu、四つ yottsu、五つ itsutsu、六つ muttsu、七つ nanatsu、八つ yattsu、九つ kokonotsu、十 too、いくつ ikutsu?
The つ counter only goes up to ten. After that, you can use こ to count more.
つ can count: age up to 10, fruits, stars, typhoons, toilet paper, ideas, stations, class, food or drink orders, etc. 
ビールを三つお願いします。(Biiru o mittsu onegai shimasu.) I’d like three beers, please.
年はいくつ? (Toshi wa ikutsu?) How old are you?  →3つ。 (Mittsu.) Three.
いいアイデアが一つ浮かびました。 (Ii aidea ga hitotsu ukabimashita.) I came up with a good idea.
Some people are overwhelmed with counters and may feel that they don’t see a point. Actually, counters serve an important role of communicating not just the quantity of something but also the shape it comes in very fast. For instance, if I’m going cheese shopping, counters allow me to instantly specify whether I want 5 slices of cheese (5枚 go mai), a string of cheese (1本 ippon), or 2 blocks of cheese (2個 ni ko). 
For my sandwich, I like to have 2 slices of cheese, so I’ll say 2枚 (ni mai).
チーズは2枚お願いします。(Chiizu wa ni mai, onegai shimasu.) 2 cheese slices, please.
Counters may feel a bit difficult at first, but having the ability to count a variety of things in Japanese can be both useful and a lot of fun!
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