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Japanese Grammar

How To Count People In Japanese


By on January 27, 2011 in Japanese Grammar

人 Hito is  the Japanese counter for people.

When counting people in Japanese we use the counter for person or hito 人 (ひと). Hito also has the reading of nin or にん. The first two counters or words for 1 person and 2 persons are exceptions and are irregular. The word for 1 person is hitori, and the word for 2 people is futari.

When at a fine gourmet restaurant in Japan, the first thing the maitre d will ask is, “ how many people in your group,” to which you could reply any of the following. If two people, then say “futari”. You will most likely hear the maitre d saying “ O- futari san desu ka?”, which means, “Table for two?” to which you could reply, “Hai so^ desu”, “Yes that is correct, 2.”

Nin 人 is the counter for people or persons so that we will have from 1-10 people the following:

hitori – 一人, 1 person
futari – 二人, 2 people
sannin – 三人, 3 people
yonnin – 四人, 4 people
gonin – 五人, 5 people
rokunin – 六人, 6 people
shichinin – 七人, 7 people
hachinin – 八人, 8 people
kyu^nin – 九人, 9 people
ju^nin – 十人, 10 people

If you can count to 100 in Japanese, then just add nin 人 to say how many people you are talking about. This is the same for any number up to infinity. The word for everyone or everybody is minna, and depending on how polite you wish to address everyone by, you either add the polite san さん or sama 様 to minna 皆making it minnasan 皆さん or minnasama 皆様.

More advanced examples:
hachiju^hachinin – 八十八人, 88 people
sennin – 千人,1000 people etc.

So what do you think?

  • Takamura Sawada

    四人 is read as “yonin” and not “yonnin”.

    • Bob

      Thanks for the correction Takamura!

  • Phil

    Minna changes to *Minasan*(only 1 ‘n’), not Minnasan :)