On a news report, I heard the phrase 四五{しご}十{じゅう}メートル and it got me thinking about how to express other number approximations. Are the following correct?

  • 10 or 20 meters じゅうにじゅうメートル
  • 20 or 30 meters にさんじゅうメートル
  • 30 or 40 meters さんよんじゅうメートル
  • 40 or 50 meters しごじゅうメートル
  • 50 or 60 meters ごろくじゅうメートル
  • 60 or 70 meters ろくななじゅうメートル
  • 70 or 80 meters ななはちじゅうメートル
  • 80 or 90 meters はちきゅうじゅうメートル
  • 90 or 100 meters きゅうじゅうひゃくメートル

2 Answers 2


いちに, にさん, さんよん (or さんし), しご, ごろく, ろくしち (or ろくなな) and しちはち (or ななはち) are very common and handy expressions. はちきゅう is understood, but is relatively less common. We don't use よんご for some reason. They are used like this:

  • いちにかい: once or twice
  • にさんにち: 2 or 3 days
  • さんよんまんえん: 30000-40000 yen
  • ごろっぴゃくねん: 500-600 years
  • しちはっぽん: 7 or 8 (e.g. pencils)

It's even possible to say:

  • よんじゅうごろっキロ: 45-46 kg/km
  • せんろくななひゃっかい: 1600-1700 times

But じゅうにじゅうメートル and きゅうじゅうひゃくメートル are wrong. In these cases, you have to use から (or ないし) explicitly and say:

  • じゅう から にじゅうメートル: 10-20 meters
  • きゅうじゅう から ひゃくメートル: 90-100 meters

You also have to use から explicitly when you want to say 50-70, for example.

  • ごじゅう から ななじゅうえん: 50 to 70 yen
    (ご から ななじゅうえん is also acceptable when there is no chance for misunderstanding)

Related: How to read: the "~" (tilde) in "3~4 行"

  • Interesting stuff ! Thanks.
    – kandyman
    Commented May 30, 2019 at 19:06
  • 3
    It’s interesting (though not entirely illogical) that a left-branching language like Japanese uses から/from where a predominantly right-branching language like English would use まで/to as the preposition. After all, the point is to break up the two numbers, so if the preposition is a postposition, it’s the first one that’s needed and the second one is superfluous; whereas if it’s a preposition, it’s the second one that’s needed. I wonder: is Japanese happy to use 四五六十 shi-go-rokujū as well? I’m fairly confident Chinese would be for instance (and ‘four-five-six hundred’ is fine in English too). Commented May 30, 2019 at 22:29
  • Am I correct in my understanding that neither よんご/しご回 nor いちに回 is used? Also as a follow-up, do people say よいつつ?(四五つ) I don't believe I have heard this though. Thank you for your time.
    – Yeti Ape
    Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 23:48
  • 1
    @YetiApe I meant しご回 is used but よんご回 is not. いちに回 is also fine (um, why didn't I include it in my answer?) よいつつ, ふたみっつ and so on are wrong.
    – naruto
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 1:47
  • 2
    よいつつ and ふたみっつ are wrong, but よっついつつ and ふたつみっつ are fine.
    – kaboc
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 2:18

My speculations, but:

Might also be related to the fact that 10-20 is such a rough value that the person asking the question might be expected to know that. On the countrary, 70-80 or 80-90 are too tight tolerances in normal circumstances.

(Naruto-san, watch your speed! I guess the only circumstance you would use 45-46 km/h would, I think, normally only be used if you get caught speeding on a 30 km/h street and the police asks you how fast you were driving).

What does not sound logical (but may be related to similar reason why we have 60 mins in 1 hour) is that for any distance in meters even close to 600m one would use that. (Or say 500-600), but instead of saying "about 500m" one normally chooses to say "about 600m"


  • 1
    I guess the only circumstance you would use 45-46 km/h would, I think, normally only be used if you get caught speeding on a 30 km/h street and the police asks you how fast you were driving <-- "45~46キロ" や "45~6キロ" でググったら、それ以外の文脈で使われてる例しか見当たりませんが? 最も多い文脈は体重で、他は距離とか、自転車の最高速度とか。(なるとさんは「45-46 km/h 」ではなく「よんじゅうごろっキロ: 45-46 kg/km 」て書いてはりますし)
    – chocolate
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 15:32
  • Thank you, Chocolate! Yes, I am sorry, I misread the "kg/km" to km/h....
    – Tuomo
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 23:53

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