Specifically, I am trying to say something like "a semester's length is counted in months" in order to imply how short it is as compared to, say, your whole life. When I tried to look this up in my online dictionary, I could not find anything. There was an entry for "count in" but it was definitely a separate meaning ("count me in!")

  • 「counter word」で数える is how you can translate "is counted in [counter word]".
    – Earthliŋ
    Feb 7, 2013 at 21:23
  • @user1205935 If you'd add this to your answer, I would be more than glad to accept it.
    – atlantiza
    Feb 8, 2013 at 3:03
  • Edited. If you really just want to translate "a semester is counted in months" like a grammar explanation, the straight translation works fine. But if you want to imply that it is short compared to your lifespan (which is counted in years), you should consider the two answers that were given originally.
    – Earthliŋ
    Feb 8, 2013 at 3:23

2 Answers 2


There is also 何ヶ月, as in


which I think fits even better for your purpose. 数ヶ月 is more a specific length in time, although you choose not to specify the length. 何ヶ月 means that you are counting in months, but have no real estimate of how many months.

何 works for "counting in" with other counters, e.g.

I waited for hours.

cf. 数時間待ってた。
I waited for several hours.

I love (Japanese) prawn crackers. I couldn't stop eating.

Getting my visa wasn't a matter of days, but a matter of weeks.

Edit: Since you seemed to be asking something different, the way for translating "is counted in" is で数える, as in

You can count fish with the counter word 尾.

  • 学期の長さは何か月だ is a question, not a statement. Compare it with your other examples, where 何 is used with も or as a quote. If you use 何, an answer to the OP would be 学期の長さは何か月という長さだ by using 何か月 as a quote. Feb 7, 2013 at 13:37
  • I tried to avoid it, but I guess then it's just wrong. Thank you for the comment.
    – Earthliŋ
    Feb 7, 2013 at 20:21
  • @TsuyoshiIto I guess we both answered the wrong question, though...?
    – Earthliŋ
    Feb 7, 2013 at 20:22
  • I agree that …の長さは…という長さだ is awkward. 学期は何か月という長さだ might be better, but I do not like this for some reason. Feb 7, 2013 at 20:32
  • Yes, it seems that both of us answered the question different from what the OP wanted to ask. Feb 7, 2013 at 20:33

If it just means “One semester is a few months long,” it can be 学期の長さは数か月だ. “A few months” in English is probably two or three months, but 数か月 in Japanese can be somewhat longer. See question “Why use 数年 in あれから10数年?” for more about this usage of 数.

A related expression, 月単位の時間, has a similar meaning, but it refers to the abstract notion of time directly. For example:

この作品の完成には月単位の時間がかかる。 It takes months to finish this work.

However, in your case, 学期の長さは月単位の時間だ is probably not incorrect, but it sounds awkward, probably because 長さ and 時間 refer to the same thing.

  • Is an 大文字 acceptable in ヶ月?
    – istrasci
    Feb 7, 2013 at 15:22
  • @istrasci: Yes, both か月 and ヶ月 are used. Even the notation ヵ月 exists. Feb 7, 2013 at 15:23
  • This is helpful information, but not quite what I was looking for. Maybe it would make more sense with this situation: Someone learning Japanese cannot remember what counter word is used for sheets of paper. Of course, you could just say 「枚」 but if you wanted to create a full sentence out of this, how would you say "Sheets of paper are counted in 枚"?
    – atlantiza
    Feb 7, 2013 at 16:39
  • 2
    @atlantiza: That is a completely different question from what you posted as a question. Feb 7, 2013 at 17:07
  • 1
    @TsuyoshiIto It is the same as what I originally asked just with different words. I'm sorry if I created any misunderstanding.
    – atlantiza
    Feb 7, 2013 at 17:14

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