Suppose I want to ask for two pairs of chopsticks for myself and someone I'm with.

Does お箸【はし】を二【ふた】つください mean I'm asking for two chopsticks or two sets of chopsticks? (Also, am I using the right counter? I'm learning from Duolingo here..)

Can it change for other objects and their respective counters? Are there maybe other words often used to avoid confusion about some x quantities of a thing? I see this misunderstanding in English a bit too much, and I'm wondering if it happens in Japanese too.

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    Interesting about English. I suspect that certain phrases have fallen out of fashion. Kids and young adults will often say, "I'm gonna buy three pants" instead of "three pair of pants", and if you say "a pair of pants", you might just get two pair. And, scissors is frequently counted without "pair". I suppose that's because there isn't an apparent pair since they'll still say "a pair of socks" for a pair of socks. But, I don't know of many other situations in English where much confusion arises. I don't know. What are some examples you were thinking of in English? – A.Ellett Jul 28 '17 at 23:44
  • @A.Ellett you hit it on the nose pretty much. I didn't necessarily mean that I see it all the time, but that it can happen in English like you just listed, and well, I know some people who don't care at all what you meant to say. It's only what they think you said. – Joshua Detwiler Jul 28 '17 at 23:50

In your sentence お[箸]{はし}を[二]{ふた}つください, you're not using any counter.

ぜん is the counter for a set (or pair) of chopsticks. So, you can make clear your meaning by using this counter. Alternatively, let's say you want three chopsticks (for whatever reason), then you can use the counter ほん for long slender things. Though I imagine if you ask, "はしを三本ください" you'll probably get quizzical looks--perhaps they'll even think you mean three sets and just got the counter wrong.

Nevertheless, if you say "はしをにほんください", you'll probably be given two chopsticks (assuming they're not the 割{わ}り箸{ばし}). Definitely, if you ask "はしをにぜんください" you'll get two pair of chopsticks.

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    それがですね・・日常会話では結構、コンビニとかで弁当買うときなどに「お箸2膳ください」「お箸3膳ください」の代わりに「お箸ふたつください」とか「お箸みっつください」って言う人多いんですよ・・誤用かもしれませんが。 – Chocolate Jul 29 '17 at 0:08
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    @ǝʇɐןoɔoɥƆ as always, I love your input. – A.Ellett Jul 29 '17 at 0:14
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    ǝʇɐןoɔoɥƆさんの言{い}うとおりです。それ以前{いぜん}に、お店{みせ}の人{ひと}が「お箸{はし}いくつ [要]{い} りますか?」あるいは「お箸はいくつ?」と尋{たず}ねますので、「ふたつ」とか「みっつ」とか答{こた}えます。[正式]{せいしき}に「二膳{にぜん}」とか「[三膳]{さんぜん}」とかで答{こた}えると [何]{なん} だか違和{いわ}感{かん}がありますね。しかし、「二本」とか「三本」とかはcounterとして変{へん}なので [誤解]{ごかい} を避{さけ}けるために私{わたし}は使{つか}いません。 – mackygoo Jul 29 '17 at 2:08

Does お箸を二つください mean I'm asking for two chopsticks or two sets of chopsticks? (Also, am I using the right counter? I'm learning from Duolingo here..)

When we need to specify how many, お箸ふたつ ください/もらえますか/いただけますか is the common way to ask for two pairs of chopsticks.

It's possible to say 六本のおはしはみっつのおはし though we probably never need to say it.

In Japanese, we take a pair of things that are usually used together as one object.

We call a pair of shoes 一足{いっそく}のくつ.
We have the word, 片方{かたほう} to mean one of a pair of something.
We say 一対{いっつい}の, 一組{ひとくみ}の when we want to especially describe a pair of something as a pair (actually 一組 means a group, and can include any numbers of things or people).

The whole pair of scissors is one はさみ to us. The whole pair of eyeglasses is one めがね to us.

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    "two pair of chopsticks" would actually be "four chopsticks" since pair refers to two to begin with. – A.Ellett Jul 29 '17 at 17:12

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