I just recently started to learn Japanese and I am a bit confused with some numbers. For example, what is the difference between 七 (なな) and 七つ (ななつ). Is there no difference? Is it just another way of saying it?

  • Apparently you haven't been told about counter words: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_counter_word
    – Earthliŋ
    Jul 23, 2016 at 9:22
  • @Earthliŋ "Used as part of the indigenous Japanese numbers" Does this mean that it is always used when counting.
    – ZetDude
    Jul 23, 2016 at 9:28
  • When counting objects/days/whatever, yes. Determining the correct counter can be difficult, but つ is a generic counter that may be used to count many inanimate objects, which is why it's usually the first counter for objects people learn. Also see japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/28026/1628.
    – Earthliŋ
    Jul 23, 2016 at 9:36

1 Answer 1


つ is a counter word (for generic inanimate objects), so that

七 (なな) "[the number] seven"
七つ (ななつ) "seven [objects]"

Similarly you have

七日 (なのか) "the seventh [day of the month]"
七本 (ななほん) "seven [longish objects]"

and many many more.

Depending on the counter, the numbers may not be based on the native Japanese numbers (hito, futa, mi, ..., nana, ...), but on the Sino-Japanese numbers (ichi, ni, san, ..., shichi, ...), as in

七時間 (しちじかん) "seven hours"

When the numbers (like 七) count something, you use a counter word. When you talk about the number as a number (e.g. in telephone numbers), you use the number without the counter word.

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