Lesson 6
Japanese Numbers & Describing Nouns

Today, let's look at Japanese numbers and how to describe things. In earlier lessons, we've learned how to say things like 'It's a book' and 'It's red'. Today we'll bring both these patterns together by modifying a noun (book) with an adjective (red) When you want to describe something, below is the order for how to do it with "i" ending adjectives.

You'll see that in the English translations there are a lot of words in ( ), this is done to make sense of the English translation. So in the sentence below because 'a' isn't used in Japanese, in the translation 'It's a book', 'a' is in parenthesis .

In Japanese translations if there is a ( ) it means that word can be omitted. So in the example below 'wa' can be omitted - although the nuance of the sentence will change. (See lesson 3 for more info.) There's a test at the end of the lesson. Try it out!

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Sore (wa) akai hon (desu)
It (is) (a) red book

From this example you can notice that English particles like "the" "a" or "an" aren't used in Japanese. (This makes things quite a bit simpler!)

You should also come away with this lesson: Direct translations don't work.

Another Example...

Kanojo (wa) kawaii onna no ko (desu)
She (is a) cute girl

One More From a Prior Lesson...

Kore (wa) muzukashii nihongo
This (is) difficult Japanese

Again, 'desu' doesn't mean 'is', 'am' or 'are'. There is no parallel between desu and common b-verbs. It also doesn't change the meaning of the sentence one bit. Although it does create emotional distance between the speaker and the listener. It makes things more polite.

Also in the first example sentence 'wa' is used to indicate that at least this book is red. The speaker isn't commenting on other things.

Although this grammar is quite basic, you can see how you can very rapidly expand your vocabulary within just a few short lessons.

The Japanese particle 'yo'

In Lesson 4 we studied "ne" which courts confirmation. Meaning 'isn't it' or 'right?'. In contrast to this particle there is 'yo'. 'Yo' is quite different from 'ne' in that it creates emphasis. It asserts something and is often used to to introduce what the speaker believes to be new information to the listener. Because it is considerably more forceful than 'ne' one needs to be a bit more careful with its use when politeness is at stake.

So for example, if I knew someone who looked like they were only 14 years old but I new they were in college, assuming the listener doesn't know this I could say...

daigakusei (desu) yo
(He/she) (is) (a) college student (I assure you!)

Another Example of 'yo'

If I saw someone doing something dangerous I could warn them this way...

abunai (desu) yo
(That's) dangerous (I assure you!)

Vocabulary Pumper-Japanese Numbers

ichi 1 hyaku 100 issen 1000
ni 2 nijuu 20 nihyaku 200 nisen 2000
san 3 sanjuu 30 sanbyaku 300 sanzen 3000
shi /yon 4 youjuu 40 yon hyaku 400 yonzen 4000
go 5 gojuu 50 gohyaku 500 gosen 5000
roku 6 rokujuu 60 roppyaku 600 rokusen 6000
nana 7 nanajuu 70 nanhyaku 700 nansen 7000
hachi 8 hachijuu 80 happyaku 800 hassen 8000
kyuu 9 kyujuu 90 kyuuhyaku 900 kyuusen 9000
ju 10

So when looking at the chart, you'll notice then that a unit of 10 in Japanese numbers is referred to as 'ju', 100 is 'hyaku' and a base unit of 1000 is 'sen'. So if you want to say 200, you use 'ni' meaning 2 and the base unit 'hyaku', put them together and you have nihyaku.

Watch Out for These Irregular Pronunciations

However there are some irregular pronunciations of Japanese numbers. We'll get into them a little further down the page in our counting money section. The next step in Japanese numbers are combinations. If you want to say 450, how do you say this? Simply grab the first set of digits in the hundreds 'yonhyaku' or 400 then add 50...'gojuu'. Put it together and you have yonhyaku-gojuu.

If you want to say 21 grab a 20 'niju' then add 1 'ichi' and you got ...nijuu-ichi.

Lastly, if you want to say 9999. Grab a 9000 'kyuusen' then add 900 'kyuuhyaku' then add 90 'kyuuju' and tack on 9 'kyuu'. Snap it all together and you have kyuusen-kyuuhyaku-kyuujuu-kyuu. Just like the metric system everything works off of a base of 10.

Japanese Numbers and Money

Now that we have the basic counting table for Japanese numbers, counting money is pretty easy. 'en' is used to count money so take a look at this.

Ikura desu ka How much is it?

Nihyaku-en (It's) 200 yen.

Other Examples...

Yonsen-en desu (It's) 4000 yen.

Gosen-en desu (It's) 5000 yen.

Japanese Numbers and Some Irregulars

As listed in the chart, there are some forms that don't follow the standard pattern. If 200 is 'nihyaku', you'd think 300 would be sanhyaku right? Just when you're getting comfortable with numbers along come the irregulars...

The 'h' in hyaku changes to 'b' after the number 3.

Sanbyakugoju-en desu (It's) 350 yen.

Yet Another irregular for Japanse numbers, money and counting.
'Roku' (6) changes to 'rop' and 'hyaku' changes to '-pyaku'

Roppyaku hachijuni-en desu (It's) 682 yen.

And one more...
'Hachi' (8) just like its cousin 6 changes with a 'p' to 'hap' and 'hyaku changes to -'pyaku'

Happyaku yonju-en desu (It's) 840 yen.

There are 2 more irregulars that you'll run into when you count Japanese numbers in the thousands. 8000 is not 'hachisen'. It is 'hassen' and 1000 is not 'ichisen' it's 'issen'.

Let's Try to Translate the Following

1. She’s a cute girl.
2. This is difficult Japanese.
3. How much is it?
4. It’s dangerous ( I assure you).
5. It’s a blue magazine.
6. 20
7. 45
8. 322
9. 1,489
10. When you want to increase the emphasis in a sentence do you use ‘yo’ or ‘ne’?

Lesson 6 Test Answers

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