Where do you place the counter in Japanese when you want to specify how many of something there are, especially if you're listing multiple things?

I believe the counter usually goes after the particle associated with the noun:

I bought 3 pencils => 私は鉛筆{えんぴつ}を三本{さんぼん}買{か}いました。

But what do you do when there are multiple things you want to count? Are these sentences correct?

I bought two books and three pencils. => 私は本{ほん}を二冊{にさつ}と鉛筆{えんぴつ}を三本{さんぼん}買{か}いました。 ?

Two books and three pencils are on the desk. => 本{ほん}が二冊{にさつ}と鉛筆{えんぴつ}が三本{さんぼん}机{つくえ}の上{うえ}にあります。

Can you use the の particle to mean the same thing? Would it change the meaning or nuance?

私は二冊{にさつ}の本{ほん}と三本{さんぼん}の鉛筆{えんぴつ}を買{か}いました。 ?


1 Answer 1


In basically all informal daily conversations, the most natural way to express the numbers and items is:

Name of item + (particle) + number + counter + verb phrase

Natural: 「ビッグマック + を + ふたつ + [食]{た}べた。」 = "I ate two Big Macs."

Natural: 「みそラーメン +を + よっつ + [下]{くだ}さい。」 = "(Give us) four miso-ramens, please!"

Not very natural though grammatical: 「ふたつのビッグマックを食べた。」 & 「よっつのみそラーメンを下さい。」

What this means is that in Japanese, "number + counter" is most often used adverbially, modifying the verb that follows.

The not-so-natural versions will be understood by virtually all native speakers, but you will definitely sound foreign if you say those, using the quantity adjectivally as in English.

When you have to express an action involving a list of mutiple things, simply place them one by one.


= "Can we have 2 bottles of beer, 4 orders of ramen and 3 orders of pot stickers, please?"

In informal conversation at eateries, these particles in parentheses above are often omitted.

Finally, even though using the "number + counter + の + item name" is unnatural in everyday conversations as I stated above, it is used in literature, legal papers, business communication, etc. when the number needs to be emphasized for a reason.

You must log in to answer this question.

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