Question about 九つ and一つ

I am new to studying on wanikani/Japanese in general and this is probably the first snag I’ve come across. So I’ve been reviewing early Kanji, and 九つ and 一つ are tripping me up. The breakdown and rules for these kanji state that “This word follows the “number of things” pattern where there’s a kanji for a number plus つ on the end. Whenever you see this, you know the word means “____ things.” Knowing that, as long as you know the kanji (which you do) you can figure out what number of things it is. For this one, it’s the kanji for one plus つ. So, this one is one thing.”
So I would assume that since 一 translates into いち, it would logically follow that it would read as いちつ but it is actually read as ひとつ, why is this? Is there something I’m missing that is making the pronunciation of this vocab into ひとつ and not いちつ? Same goes for 九つ

Thanks !!


Because there are differences between native Japanese numbers and Chinese borrowed numbers, and some counters tend to follow the Japanese ones.

大和言葉の数え方 for more info, but overall the native Japanese way of counting is:
ひい, ふう, み, よ, いつ, むう, なな, や, ここ, とお etc.

The Chinese-borrowed way of counting is:
いち, に, さん, し, ご, ろく, しち, はち, きゅう, じゅう etc.

Now when to use which for which counter? You’ll just have to learn until a pattern is found.


Basically the kanji for the numbers have two different readings (just like almost all other kanji), they are called “Chinese” or on’yomi and “Japanese” or kun’yomi reading. Which reading gets used depends on the counter that follows the number (in this case the つ which is the general counter for things of all sorts). This counter requires the kun’yomi readings of numbers, i.e. ひとつ、ふたつ、みっつ and so on. Most counters ask for the on’yomi reading, though, and some even mix this a little bit, e.g. the counter 人 for people: It is ひとり and ふたり for one and two people (kun’yomi) and then switches to さんにん、よにん and so on for 3, 4, … people.

But don’t freak out about this :slight_smile: You will learn a lot of counters through WaniKani, and it will become quite natural after a while.


These are just things you need to memorise - there is no pattern. When you start learning number-of-day counters, they sound a bit like the number-of-things counters but not really. Most other counters do use the “normal” Japanese numbers though.


Kanji can be pronounced a number of different ways. The one you learned with the Kanji is just one of what is sometimes many. That’s why WaniKani has the vocabulary, to teach you a variety of ways to read each Kanji, even if there are weird ones, like numbers of things :sweat_smile:


aaaah… the counters…
this might help by tofugu

i regularly fail reviews on those… it’s tough!


To generalize this more… it’s important to remember that Japanese is a language that has words, first and foremost. That is, everything in the language can be expressed through speech, without taking writing into consideration. The words have meanings and pronunciations, and then if you write them you can choose to use kanji to do so.

In the case of ひとつ, ふたつ, みっつ, they came from a way of counting that existed before the Japanese language had a writing system at all. They are the native way to count. But they still mean “one thing, two things, three things.” So it is logical to choose 一, 二, and 三 to express them in kanji, so that’s what they did. The other possible readings for those kanji don’t overtake the words as they existed.


By the way, there are similar things in English, too. For example, you’d say first and second and not oneth and twoth since the latter two just aren’t real English words. Still, they could be written as 1st and 2nd. 1 would have a different meaning than 1st and in both instances, it’s pronounced (or read) differently


Sorry to nitpick but shouldn’t this be


If you’re anything like me, you will want to put a fist through the wall with those first two WaniKani levels, and then it will get easier from there. You’ll get used to it after a while.

Aside from WaniKani what other things are part of your Japanese studies? For me, having a grammar workbook and talking about the number of pets, family members, etc. with exercises helped to solidify the counters.


Ye (post must be at least 10 chars)
it’s Hanukkah after all

I thought @cringe was purposefully avoiding the number of death.

Since 7 was before 5 I figured it was some kind of typo or mistake or something. Just wanted to clarify for people who are new to all this.


thank you for this!

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.