I'm learning the counter for minutes, which is 分. I know, there are several exceptions in when it comes to pronunciation.

  • 1 min = いっぷん
  • 2 min = にふん
  • 3 min = さんぷん
  • 4 min = よんぷん
  • 5 min = ごふん
  • 6 min = ろっぷん
  • 7 min = ななふん
  • 8 min = はっぷん
  • 9 min = きゅうふん
  • 10 min = じゅうっぷん

But on some sites they stated that 3分 is さんぶん, or that 4分 is よんふん...

So I'd like to know which are correct. Thanks

  • 4
    じゅうっぷん is incorrect. It should be じゅっぷん or じっぷん.
    – Earthliŋ
    Aug 30, 2014 at 11:21
  • 2
    "Exceptions" might not be the right word here.
    – virmaior
    Aug 30, 2014 at 16:22
  • @virmaior Ok and how would you express that?
    – Kazarp
    Aug 31, 2014 at 16:27
  • 1
    @Kazarp I might go with "sound changes" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_phonology#Sound_change). As an experiment, try saying いちふん 10x vs. いっふん vs. いっぷん. And similar for the other changed ones. Not always but generally, these changes happen because it makes them easier to say.
    – virmaior
    Sep 1, 2014 at 1:43

1 Answer 1


分 meaning "minute(s)"

When 分 is used as a counter with the meaning "minute(s)", it is read as follows:

1分 = いっぷん
2分 = にふん
3分 = さんぷん
4分 = よんぷん
5分 = ごふん
6分 = ろっぷん
7分 = ななふん
8分 = はちふん・はっぷん
9分 = きゅうふん
10分 = じゅっぷん・じっぷん

These "irregularities" are due to sound changes. The above sound changes are particular to 分【ふん】, but gemination is often triggered by ち・く (as in い or ろ) and they somewhat explain the readings here. (Note that っ+ふ becomes っぷ, and similarly for はひへほ, and compare also [1個]【いっこ】 from い+こ or [6個]【ろっこ】 from ろ+こ.)

分 meaning "part(s)"

But 分 can also be used be used as a counter meaning "parts", in which case it is always read ぶん. For example when reading fractions:

さんぶん の いち
lit. one of three parts

So, when 3分 means "three parts", it is always read さんぶん, not さんぷん.

When 3分 means "three minutes", it is always read さんぷん, not さんぶん.

Similarly, よんぷん = "four minutes" and よんぶん = "four parts".

さんふん and よんふん are non-standard readings.

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