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I have encountered many grammatical structures used when describing things made of many parts, each one corresponding to a single grammatical structure in English: [numeral] [thing counted] [thing described]

  1. 3階建て 3 storey building
  2. 3ページ本 3 page book
  3. 3本の椅子 3 legged chair
  4. 3人女性会社 3 woman company
  5. 3匹の犬囲い 3 dog enclosure

I would like to know if there are rules to know which pattern to use.

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The basic pattern is fairly simple also in Japanese: number + counter + の + noun. 3ページの本 follows this pattern pretty straightforwardly.

  • You can think -階建て and -本足 are basically counters on their own (although I don't know if they are true counters; some dictionaries may classify them as suffixes). Note that you have to say 3階建ての建物 to say "3-storey building". There are a few long and specific "counters" like these, which you have to remember along with the meanings. Other examples include -人組, -人乗り, -人前, -本撮り and -枚落ち. These types of expression are small in number and are rarely coined.
  • 3人の女性会社 literally means "three-person woman-company", but I'm not sure what 女性会社 refers to. 女性会社 sounds like this is a compound word with some special meaning. If you want to say "a company consisting of three women", use 女性3人の会社.
  • As for 3匹の犬の囲い, 3匹の犬 perfectly follows the pattern above. ~の囲い means something like "the fence for ~", but this part has nothing to do with counting things.

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