Japanese Lesson 23 – Plural noun and how to use number words in sentence

I have introduced the way of counting things in Japanese on several pages.
In this page, I explain how to use number words in sentence.

Plural form of Japanese noun

First, I describe plural form of Japanese noun.

To put it simply,
Japanese nouns have no plural form.

That’s very fortunate thing.
We must learn the plural forms in English or other main languages.
But to learn Japanese, you don’t need to worry about such a thing.

Whether a noun is singular or plural is recognized by adding an expression of number.

However, there are plural words about noun of person.
To express more than one person, the words are often used. Of course, it is OK to use the singular form.
It is very easy to make the word. You have only to add “tachi” at the end of singular form.


“Hitobito” is mainly used to express a large group of people.

Connection of number word and noun

In English, a number word is put before a noun and the noun is plural form.
(e.g. three books)
In Japanese, a number with unit word and noun are connected with a particle “no”.
(e.g. san-satsu no hon)

All number words with unit word I have explained are able to be used with this pattern.

three promises = mittsu no yakusoku
five stones = go-ko no ishi
six pencils = roppon no enpitsu

fourth station = yon-banme no eki
seventh travel = nana-dome no ryokoo

mountain 1,000 meters high = sen-meetoru no yama
300 grams of beef = sanbyaku-guramu no gyuuniku

How to use number word in Japanese sentence

First, let’s use above connected words.

I bought three books.
Watashi wa san-satsu no hon o kai mashita.
Ueno is the fourth station from Tokyo.
Ueno wa Tookyoo kara yon-banme no eki desu.

These are the same structure as English sentence.
Of course, there are natural Japanese.
But, about the first sentence by Frame-A, there is another way that number is used like an adverb without connecting number and noun.

Watashi wa san-satsu no hon o kai mashita.
= Watashi wa hon o san-satsu kai mashita.
= Watashi wa san-satsu hon o kai mashita.

The lowest sentence looks like the top sentence without “no”.
But the structure of sentence is quite different.

Of course, it is also OK to use for subject.

Ten children go to Kyoto.
Juu-nin no kodomotachi ga Kyooto e iki masu.
= Kodomotachi ga juu-nin Kyooto e iki masu.

Asking number of object

I explained question sentence by interrogative in the page of Lesson-13.
I explain the question sentence to ask the number here.

When you ask the number of the object in Japanese, you need to add the unit word to the interrogative.


About countable thing, “ikutsu” is all‐purpose word.
When you ask the price, “ikura” is used.

When you know the unit word of the object, you can make the interrogative by connecting “nan” and the unit word.

When you ask the age, “nan-sai” is the formal form but a little informal “ikutsu” is often used.

How many sushis did you have?
Anata wa sushi o ikutsu tabe mashita ka?
Anata wa sushi o nanko tabe mashita ka?
How old is she?
Kanojo wa nansai desu ka?
Kanojo wa ikutsu desu ka?
How much is this kimono?
Kono kimono wa ikura desu ka?
How many people go to Kyoto?
Nannin ga Kyooto e iku no desu ka?
How many books did you buy?
Anata wa hon o nansatsu kai mashita ka?
How many times have you been to Japan?
Anata wa nankai Nihon e iki mashita ka?
How many kilograms is this baggage? (baggage = nimotsu in Japanese)
Kono nimotsu wa nankiro desu ka?

The words to express irregular number

I have explained how to use the fixed number.
Incidentally, let’s learn the expression by irregular number.


“Takusan” and “ooku” meaning “many” and “much” are often used.
They can be used for both countable and uncountable nouns.

“Subete” and “zenbu” meaning “all” are also used to the same degree.

Japanese words expressing irregular number such as “some” and “several” are also ones based on the unit of number.
As the form, they are the words adding “ka” at the end of above interrogative.

I had much sushis.
Watashi wa takusan no sushi o tabe mashita.
Watashi wa sushi o takusan tabe mashita.
All people go to Kyoto. (people = hito in Japanese)
Subete no hito ga Kyooto e iki masu.
Some people go to Kyoto.
Nannin-ka no hito ga Kyooto e iki masu.
I bought some books.
Watashi wa nansatsu-ka no hon o kai mashita.
Watashi wa hon o nansatsu-ka kai mashita.
I traveled to Japan several times last year.
Watashi wa kyonen Nihon e nando-ka iki mashita.
He ran for some kilometers this morning.
Kare wa kesa nankiro-ka hashiri mashita.

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