A number of sources say that there are two patterns in which counters are used.

  1. Numeral + Counter + の + Noun
  2. Noun + Particle + Numeral + Counter

I’ve just come across:


(although I think I’ve seen the pattern on other occasions).

How is this pattern best explained? Is it simply casual usage? Is it best considered as a 3rd pattern?

  • Hint: I've just removed the spaces from your sentence. Commented Apr 7 at 8:20
  • 四本足 is a noun / no-adjective. But even if we consider 本足 to be a counter, then that example sentence would match pattern 2. What is it that you do not understand?
    – Arfrever
    Commented Apr 7 at 11:03
  • @Arfrever I was trying to hint at 四本足 being a noun (probably too subtle), but I don't understand how you see this as matching pattern 2. If anything it looks more like pattern one with an omitted の. I think for option 2 the OP was expecting something like 犬は足が四本である. Commented Apr 7 at 11:09
  • @user3856370 There are matches for e.g. "六本足" "蜘蛛", "八本足" "虫", so probably it makes sense to consider 本足 to be a counter... Anyway numeral+counter can be used alone without additional noun.
    – Arfrever
    Commented Apr 7 at 11:22
  • 1
    @justerman Article Japanese counter word lists few multi-kanji counters like 時間, 箇月, 段落, 学級, 拍子, 箇国, 種類, 通話.
    – Arfrever
    Commented Apr 8 at 8:57

1 Answer 1


You can think 四本足 is a fixed noun (or no-adjective) meaning "quadrupedal", or you can think of 本足 as a counter on its own. Either way, it has little to do with how you usually count the number of apples or pencils in an ordinary sentence. To express "Dogs have four legs" (rather than "Dogs are quadrupedal") as an ordinary sentence, you can say either of these:

  1. 犬には足が4本ある。
  2. 犬には4本の足がある。

(To be precise, I think 四本足 is not as technical-sounding as "quadrupedal", but it's still a fixed compound.)

There are a few fixed terms that look like 四本足, including 一本槍, 二人羽織, 三羽烏 and 五人囃子. But these are essentially to be memorized as compound words, and they are not common enough to be rightfully called a "3rd pattern".

  • 1
    "four-legged" as in "dogs are our four-legged friends" would be an informal translation of 四本足. Commented Apr 7 at 13:57
  • Thanks for responding. I hadn’t considered that 四本足 could be a noun. You’ve also helped me understand structures such as 二週間
    – justerman
    Commented Apr 8 at 7:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .