Difference between 二 and 二つ

Just learned my first pieces of vocabulary, but, as far as my limited knowledge goes, I can’t seem to understand the examples because they both are talking about things.
Does it have to do with the subject or is it abou some obscure grammar element I’m not aware of? Do animals count as things? When do you use 二つ?

二ひき is also a counter, for small animals.
While 二つ is for counting general stuff.

So the first sentence is, “My uncle has two cats.”
And the second sentence is, “Please put in two apples in this basket.”


You can read more about counters here.


It’s a good idea to just accept at the beginning that you will never learn everything there is to learn about counters. Even when you learn one way to count something, there’s probably 3 or 4 more ways that are also acceptable for that thing, so you might still encounter those.


I accepted this early on, when I saw there were 4 or 5 counters alone in my first Japanese book. The only ones I use on a daily basis are the general counter, the day counter, and the person counter because they’re critical. I also know the counter for machines, but anything past that can screw right off. I just don’t retain the knowledge.

See: small animals, cylindrical objects…

Said Leebo, resignedly. :joy:

(me: cosigned)

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Addendum: I realize that I also know the counters for minutes 分, years 年, times 回, stories 階, hours 時間, age 才, and of course money 円.

Still, there are what, hundreds of counters? I can’t absorb it all. My dumb English-minded brain has decades of “number + plural noun” to fight through.

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Your English-minded brain does have the hang of counters, too. Ten head of cattle. Sixteen sheets of paper. Forty-two rolls of tape. Six pairs of scissors. And so forth.


If you’re a native English speaker, then you’ve already learned the more difficult way. English has countable and non-countable nouns. The latter may or may not have an accompanying counter word. Don’t get started on irregular plurals either :rofl:


3 loaves of bread
2 glasses of water
7 geese
10 fish

Consider it a blessing that we get to learn a more logical system! :wink:




I think my watershed moment for this was when you posted about a specific means of counting planetariums. That was it for me. Native counting it is.


I had forgotten that I knew all of this already. It’s unconscious knowledge at this point.

Unlike months of the year. Ever since I first learned the LOGICAL way with Japanese, I sometimes have to stop and think about what month is when in English. Especially with September on. Thanks Julius and Augustus, ya pricks.

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Like the importance of not confusing counters for alive squids with counters for dead ones.


I never even learned these.

I say ten cows (actually, I’ve never heard heads of cattle used off of tv).

I say scissors, one scissors, two scissors.

I admit that I do use sheets of paper, and although I’m not sure I’ve ever needed to, I would probably say rolls of tape.

If you’ve heard it you learned it, no?



And quite right. I would understand it’s usage, so I have learned it.

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