Numbers are important. How would you otherwise order 2 matcha frappé’s for yourself in fluent Japanese? In this lesson you will learn how to count from 1 to over 1 million. But first things first, let’s start with zero to twenty.
So zero can be pronounced in two ways. You can simply say ゼロ, the katakana-version of the English word, or you can say れい. Both are commonly used.
For numbers above 10, you have probably noticed the pattern. 11 (じゅういち) is just 10 (じゅう) plus 1 (いち), twelve (じゅうにち) is 10 (じゅう) plus 2 (にち), etc.
What you have probably noticed also is that some numbers have multiple readings. For example when you want to simply say ‘4’ you say よん, but when you use it with month you say しがつ (April). The same goes for 7 and 9. The number 7 is normally pronounced as なな but when you want to say ‘7 o’clock’ you say しちじ and the basic number 9 is きゅう, but when it’s used in ‘9 o’clock’ it becomes くじ.
So when do you use what? This can be tricky and often it’s just best to learn what reading is used per subject. For this lesson we’re focusing on just the numbers on itself. In later lessons there will be more on how to tell time or counting objects.
Here are some higher numbers:
Japanese Numbers 11-20
Japanese Numbers 21-100
Japanese Numbers 101-1000
This is where the first irregularities start to show up. 200 (にひゃく) is still quite simple. It’s just 2 and 100 put together just like in English.
But with 300, 600 and 800 something strange happens. You would expect 300 to be さんひゃく(sanhyaku), but this is not easy to say for Japanese native speakers, so it’s changed to さんびゃく (sanbyaku). This is just a slightly different pronunciation.
Furthermore, you can see that the Japanese word for a thousand is せん.
Japanese Numbers 1001-10000
Again you can see irregularities with 3.000 and 8.000. Also, there is the Japanese word for 10.000, まん. While in English you just put 10 and 1.000 together to get 10.000, in Japanese there is a whole new word for this.
Higher than 10.000
As you can see, from 10.000 till 100.000.000 you add onto まん. So a million does not have its own word, but is a hundred times まん.
So when dealing with larger numbers, for example when large amounts of money are involved, you will often see some number with the kanji-sign for 万 behind it, indicating you have to put four zero’s behind the number. This makes translating higher numbers between Japanese and English a little more difficult.
Pronouncing complex numbers
So with all of the above information you should be able to pronounce more complex numbers. For example if you want to say 5.936 in Japanese.
- You start out with ごせん (5.000)
- And add きゅうひゃく (900)
- さんじゅう (30)
- and ろく (6)
So the answer would be ごせんきゅうひゃくさんじゅうろく. Some other examples.
316 = さんひゃくじゅうろく
8800 = はっせんはっぴゃく
583 = ごひゃくはちじゅうさん
Let’s see if you can translate some numbers on your own. Translate the first 5 numbers from English to Japanese and the second 5 from Japanese to English. Click the link below for the answers.
- : 23
- : 68
- : 873
- : 925
- : 7830