I have been practicing writing recently where I use counters, but I keep getting corrected by native speakers on there usage.

For example I write

I want to eat 3 apples.

But I keep getting corrected to


I don't really understand why I'm getting corrected though. When asking for an explanation I have only been told the usage is wrong, but it doesn't go deeper than that.

This conflicts with various articles that I have read like this one that say they are the same/have the same meaning. So now I'm just extremely confused overall.

What is the difference between 3個のりんごを食べたいです。 and りんご3個を食べたいです。? Why do I keep getting corrected?

Also where does this put the version where the counter is used as an adverb? For example:


What does it mean or imply? Is there special use-cases for this version too?

Response to broccolifacemask-cloth:

Honestly, I don't think that answers it unfortunately

From my perspective, what I thought or already understood, the article I linked, and the question you linked (including the wiki link in the answer) all seem to have the same understanding. Which is that counter usage comes in 2 different "categories"

Noun based, which has 2 "styles"
A. [Number][Counter]の[Noun] => 3個のりんご
B. [Noun][Number][Counter] => りんご3個

Adverb based:
C. [Number][Counter][Verb] => 3個食べたいです

When it comes to the noun based category it seems that they simply show that there is a count associated with a noun and nothing more. No implied meaning or anything. Just simply there is a X amount of Y noun. However, based on the number of times I keep getting corrected and attempts to get an explanation there seems to be some implied meaning / difference between the 2 styles and that is what I'm trying to understand.

Which then makes me question if I understand the adverb based version. In my current understanding (also what seems to be stated in the links) the adverb based version puts emphasis on the number of times an action occurs where the noun based version puts emphasis on the count or number of the noun.

So I guess a better way to state my question is:

Is there actually an implied meaning / difference between the 2 noun based styles or am I just being corrected because some native speakers prefer one style over the other? Also is my understanding of the adverb based version correct?

  • 1
    Does this answer your question? Questions about counters Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 12:44
  • Please see edit @broccolifacemask-cloth Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 17:52
  • 1
    I'm curious what was the context before the sentence. If I say it out of nothing, I'll definitely choose the third one. The rest are both too unnatural to pop up without context. Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 18:19
  • 2
    By the third one are talking about Option C: [Number][Counter][Verb]? Usually there is no "before" context. But for a hard example something like this 2つのチーズバーガーと1つのエムポテトです。全部を食べました。(2 cheeseburgers and a medium fry. I ate it all.) was corrected to チーズバーガー四つとポテトのmサイズ一つを食べました. Just focusing on the numbers/counters correction part I don't understand why the change from [Number][Counter]の[Noun] to [Noun][Number][Counter] was needed Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 18:55
  • Oh yes, that example (after correction) is natural. Though I'm not sure I have time to write an answer today. Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 23:53

2 Answers 2


Japanese is a topic prominent language and since apple りんご is the topic of the sentence, it should be placed at the start of the sentence.

3個のりんごを食べたいです。and りんご3個を食べたいです。both means the same thing - I want to eat three apples.

Whereas, りんごを3個食べたいです means I would like to eat three apples

Hope you find this helpful!!

  • 2
    How does the meaning of "I want to eat three apples" and "I would like to eat three apples" differ in English? Isn't the second one just a bit more polite?
    – user40476
    Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 12:50

This is kind of a "feeling" answer, but perhaps it will be helpful.

"3個のりんごを" sounds like 1) there are 3 specific apples that you intend to eat, or 2) you want to eat exactly 3 and no more than 3. "りんごを3個" sounds like you really like apples and that you want to (could) eat three.

For example "2杯のビールを飲んだ" vs "ビール2杯を飲んだ". The first puts emphasis on the counter. Perhaps I don't usually drink that much so I want to stress that I drank a lot (for me). The second feels more like a statement of fact, perhaps to explain why I'm not that hungry at the moment.

Further, if I wanted to emphasize that I drank a lot for me, and still place the counter after the noun, I could say "ビール2杯飲んだ"

These are probably questions of usage conventions, and there may not be hard and fast grammar rules that apply. (I'm not that versed in grammar technicalities and terminology.)

I upvoted the "topic first" answer, because it seems to capture a (unwritten?) usage convention as well.

You must log in to answer this question.

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