Before we learn how to count people we must learn to use counters. Counting quantity in Japanese is different from English because we use counters. Technically speaking there are three different types of counters.

   General counters can be used on any noun, except for people and animals. They are used for items that don't have their own counter, their counter is rarely used, or the speaker doesn't remember the counter for the noun they are trying to count.

   1 - hitotsu (一つ)
   2 - futatsu (二つ)
   3 - mittsu (三つ)
   4 - yottsu (四つ)
   5 - itsutsu (五つ)
   6 - muttsu (六つ)
   7 - nanatsu (七つ)
   8 - yattsu (八つ)
   9 - kokonotsu (九つ)
   10 - too (十)

   The counter 10 is often misspelt as tou, this is incorrect.

   8 pens = pen ga yattsu (ペンが八つ)

   All other items have a different counter depending on the item, shape or form. Another type of counter is the ones that are not used alone as words themselves, instead are only used with a number to count items. From the perspective of an English speaker, it's similar to saying 3 bunches, 2 strokes, 8 scoops.

   Finally we have counters that don't change the pronunciation of the number. These counters are words that can be used alone. From the perspective of an English speaker, these counters are similar to 3 hands, 1 toe, 7 doorknobs.

   It is also becoming more and more common to see the Arabic numbers before Instead of the kanji to show the number.

   One thing that you may find a little difficult, is adding a number to a counter is not very straight forward. There are different rules for each counter. The number that you place in front of it may change its pronunciation.

   First we will look at the counter ko (個). This counter can be used for a wide variety of small and compact objects. It is usually used if there isn't another counter for objects like it and it is used for general items.

   1 item = ikko (一個)
   2 items = niko (二個)
   3 items = sanko (三個)
   4 items = yonko (四個)
   5 items = goko (五個)
   6 items = rokko (六個)
   7 items = nanako (七個)
   8 items = hakko (八個)
   9 items = kyuuko (九個)
   10 items = jukko (十個)

   ● It's also common to see the numbers written in Arabic numbers.

   Nin (人) is the counter that is used for people. People can't be counted with the other set of numbers, they require the proper counter.

   1 person = hitori (一人)
   2 people = futari (二人)
   3 people = sannin (三人)
   4 people = yonin (四人)
   5 people = gonin (五人)
   6 people = rokunin (六人)
   7 people = shichinin (七人)
   8 people = hachinin (八人)
   9 people = kyuunin (九人)
   10 people = juunin (十人)

   ● The formal way to count people is useing the counter mei (名).

   Hiki (匹) is the counter that is used for small animals. It can be used for insects, cats, dogs, fish and other small animals. This counter is not used on birds.

   1 animal = ippiki (一匹)
   2 animals = nihiki (二匹)
   3 animals = sanbiki (三匹)
   4 animals = yonhiki (四匹)
   5 animals = gohiki (五匹)
   6 animals = roppiki (六匹)
   7 animals = shichihiki (七匹)
   8 animals = happiki (八匹)
   9 animals = kyuuhiki (九匹)
   10 animals = juppiki (十匹)

   ● Tou (頭) is the counter for large animals and wa (羽) is the counter for birds.

   There are many counters to learn so we will cover more counters and their pronunciations in other lessons.

List of counters

   Below is a list of counters in alphabetical order.

   bai (倍) - multiples, duplication

   ban (番) - numbers, performances, rounds

   bin (便) - public transport runs or flights

   bu (部) - copies, scriptures, sets of books

   bun (文) - sentences

   byou (秒) - seconds

   chou (挺) - long objects, guns, guitars, candles

   chou (丁) - tools, scissors, pistols

   chou (町) - town blocks

   dai (代) - generations, periods, reigns

   dai (台) - vehicles, appliances, devices

   dan (段) - steps, levels, containers

   do (度) - occurrences, degrees(temp) or angle

   fun (分) - minutes

   go (語) - words, languages

   haku (泊) - nights of a stay

   hai (杯) - cups, bowlful, spoonfuls, crabs

   hai (敗) - defeats, losses

   hiki (匹) - small animals

   hin (品) - parts of meal, courses

   ho (歩) - number of (foot)steps

   hon (本) - long thin objects, rivers, roads, tracks, pencils

   hyou (票) - votes

   ji (時) - hours of the day

   ji (字) - letters, kanji, kana

   jikan (時間) - hour long periods

   ka (課) - lessons

   ka (架) - frames, folding screens

   kai (階) - floors, stories

   kai (回) - number of times, occurrences

   ki (機) - plains , aircraft

   ki (基) - machines, elevators, graves, dams

   ko (戸)- houses, households

   ko (個) - general articles, hats, goods, small items

   ku (区)- city districts

   kumi (組) - pairs, twins

   mai (枚) - thin flat objects, paper, plates

   men (面) - flat surfaces, mirrors, boards, courts

   mon (問) - questions

   nin (人) - people, more than 3 people

   ninmae (人前) - servings of food

   ryou (両) - rail cars

   satsu (冊) - books, magazines

   soku (足) - pairs of footwear, socks

   teki (滴) - drops of small liquid

   tou (頭) - large animals (horse, cow, whales)

   tsuu (通) - mail, letters, cards

   tsuuwa (通話) - telephone calls

   wa (羽) - birds, rabbits

   ya (夜) - evenings