5.1. Small numbers


5.1.1. Small integers


Being completely decimal, the way of counting numbers ((ka)(zu) "kazu") in Japanese is much easier than in English, considering English has illogical number words (not completely decimal) such as eleven, twelve, and twenty.

NumberJapaneseDescription
0
(re)(i)
rei
The word (ze)(ro) HL "zero" also means zero. The word (ma)(ru) HL "maru", which means a circle, is the same as oh in English and often used for zeros in phone numbers etc.
1
(i)(ti)
iti
-
2
(ni)
ni
-
3
(sa)(n)
san
-
4
(yo)(n)
yon
Another word (si) H "shi" also means four, but you cannot combine it with units. It is less colloquial and less useful.
5
(go)
go
-
6
(ro)(ku)
roku
-
7
(na)(na)
nana
Another word (si)(ti) LH "shichi" also means seven, but you cannot combine it with units. It is less colloquial and less useful.
8
(ha)(ti)
hati
-
9
(ki)(small yu)(u)
kyû
Another word (ku) H "ku" also means nine, but you cannot combine it with units. It is less colloquial and less useful.
10
(zi)(small yu)(u)
zyû
-
11
(zi)(small yu)(u)(i)(ti)
zyûiti
10
(zi)(small yu)(u)
+1
(i)(ti)
12
(zi)(small yu)(u)(ni)
zyûni
10
(zi)(small yu)(u)
+2
(ni)
.........
20
(ni)(zi)(small yu)(u)
nizyû
2
(ni)
×10
(zi)(small yu)(u)
21
(ni)(zi)(small yu)(u)(i)(ti)
nizyûiti
2
(ni)
×10
(zi)(small yu)(u)
+1
(i)(ti)
.........
30
(sa)(n)(zi)(small yu)(u)
sanzyû
3
(sa)(n)
×10
(zi)(small yu)(u)
.........
100
(hi)(small ya)(ku)
hyaku
-
.........
1000
(se)(n)
sen
-

To read numbers in Japanese, just read pairs of digits (2, 3, ...) and units (10, 100, ...). For example, the number 452 is pronounced as (yo)(n) "yon" (hi)(small ya)(ku) "hyaku" (go) "go" (zi)(small yu)(u) "zyû" (ni) "ni", which means 4 × 100 + 5 × 10 + 2.

If a digit is zero, omit both the digit and the unit. If a digit is one, just say only the unit.

Further readings:

5.1.2. Euphonic change


There is some complicated rule to change sounds. The sounds of some combinations of a digit and a unit are modified for ease of pronunciation. This rule is applied only for units which begin with voiceless phonemes (/k/, /s/, /t/, /h/, and /p/). Note that units don't combine with the trailing digit. Pronouncing numbers without using this rule is still understandable.
The rule is listed below. I think using phonemes is easier to understand.

Ending
of number
NumbersBeginning of unitCombination
(ku)
-ku
(ro)(ku) "roku",
(hi)(small ya)(ku) "hyaku" *1
(ka), (ki), (ku), (ke), (ko)
k-
(small tu)(ka), (small tu)(ki), (small tu)(ku), (small tu)(ke), (small tu)(ko)
-kk-
(ha), (hi), (hu), (he), (ho)
h-
(small tu)(pa), (small tu)(pi), (small tu)(pu), (small tu)(pe), (small tu)(po)
-pp-
(ti)
-ti

and

(zi)(small yu)(u)
zyû
(i)(ti) "iti",
(ha)(ti) "hati",
(zi)(small yu)(u) "zyû" *1
(ka), (ki), (ku), (ke), (ko)
k-
(small tu)(ka), (small tu)(ki), (small tu)(ku), (small tu)(ke), (small tu)(ko)
-kk-
(sa), (si), (su), (se), (so)
s-
(small tu)(sa), (small tu)(si), (small tu)(su), (small tu)(se), (small tu)(so)
-ss-
(ta), (ti), (tu), (te), (to)
t-
(small tu)(ta), (small tu)(ti), (small tu)(tu), (small tu)(te), (small tu)(to)
-tt-
(ha), (hi), (hu), (he), (ho)
h-
(small tu)(pa), (small tu)(pi), (small tu)(pu), (small tu)(pe), (small tu)(po)
-pp-
(n)
-n

except

(yo)(n)
yon
(sa)(n) "san",
(se)(n) "sen" *1,
(ma)(n) "man" *2
(ha), (hi), (hu), (he), (ho)
h-
(n)(ba), (n)(bi), (n)(bu), (n)(be), (n)(bo)
-nb-
(sa)(n)
san
(sa)(n) "san" (se)(n)
sen
(se)(n)(ze)(n)
sanzen
(yo)(n)
yon
(yo)(n) "yon" (na), (ni), (nu), (ne), (no)
n-
(yo)(na), (yo)(ni), (yo)(nu), (yo)(ne), (yo)(no)
yon-

*1 Even though they are not digits but units, they can combine with the trailing units when they are the last word in a group. See the chapters of large numbers and counters.
*2 Explained in the chapter of large numbers.


Number examples:
NumbersDigits and unitsDescription
156
100+5 × 10+6
(hi)(small ya)(ku)(go)(zi)(small yu)(u)(ro)(ku)
hyakugozyûroku
Omit the digit of 100.
7008
7 × 1000+8
(na)(na)(se)(n)(ha)(ti)
nanasenhati
Omit the digits and units of 100 and 10.
392
3 × 100+9 × 10+2
(sa)(n)(bi)(small ya)(ku)(ki)(small yu)(u)(zi)(small yu)(u)(ni)
sanbyakukyûzyûni
The euphonic rule changes "san" × "hyaku" to "sanbyaku".
213
2 × 100+10+3
(ni)(hi)(small ya)(ku)(zi)(small yu)(u)(sa)(n)
nihyakuzyûsan
The euphonic rule is applied to a pair of a digit and a unit, not a unit and a digit. The number 10 + 3 is not "jussan".

Further readings:

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Copyright(C) TAKASUGI Shinji (ts@sf.airnet.ne.jp)