Two (に) vs. Two things (二つ)

Sssooo, I have a kun’yomi and on’yomi confusion. I have read the tofugu article and a few threads, and I was going good until I saw the lesson for 二つ.
Do I understand correctly that if you want just to say two, you say に, but “two” in “2 things” is ふた? Or you’re not using に as a word? Can you give an example of 二 being read as に in a word?

Save for seven, btw. If “しち” is bad and death and stuff, where are you even supposed to use that reading?
Thank you!

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If you’re just counting up to ten, you simply count いち、に、さん and so forth.

If you’re counting actual things, you need to use a counter word. The つ in 二つ is a counter word, but it’s the generic counter word that you use when no other counter word is particularly needed. For most counter words, you use the on’yomi reading, so 二本 = にほん, 二枚 = にまい, 二匹 = にひき and so forth. If you just want to buy, like, two little knick-knacks in a shop, you’d use 二つ.

し is bad and death and stuff, which is why 4 is often read as よん instead. しち for 7 tends to be fairly interchangeable with なな. There are some counters which basically always use one or the other, though - for example, 四月 = しがつ, 七月 = しちがつ, while 四人 = よにん (because しにん = 死人 = corpse), but 七人 can be either しちにん or ななにん. And so on.


To add to Belthazar’s excellent answer, people often get confused by the whole concept of ‘counters’ in Japanese. However, English does have a similar concept for certain nouns, even if it’s not used universally for counting objects.

We say things like “two sheets of paper” or “three slices of ham”.

It sounds like you’re a little confused by how on’yomi works? I might be reading too much into what you’ve written, but just because ニ is used to mean “two” in 二つ doesn’t mean it should be read the same as in the word ニ. It’s not like two words jammed together - 二つ is one word.


Than you a lot! That was very helpful:) I didn’t know anything about counter words, will definitely go and read up on it.

I still need to wrap my head about this:( For English and my first language you’d expect the word for “two things” to kinda sound like the word “two”, but it doesn’t x’D


But you’re probably also comfortable with saying “a couple of”, or “a pair of”, and let’s not forget all the other counting systems in English (first, second, third; primary, secondary, tertiary; uni, bi/di, tri etc)


Ah, my bad - I thought when you said you’d read the Tofugu article, you meant the article on counters. Try reading this:


It does… but it’s the old Japanese way of counting from before kanji came from China.


I am curious what is your first language ?

Russian (and Armenian, sort of)^^

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Well i kind had this problem a couple level ago. And my first language is arabic.

Ohh, that’s pretty cool! I mean the language. I guess when you study a language for a long time, you get used to its differences.

Yeah kinda. Wanikani tought me words i didn’t know about in english too. So not just japanese

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I have a question. If someone were to ask you: “How many bags of chips do you want?” in Japanese, can you just say “二” back to them or would you have to answer “二つ”?

You’d say 二つ rather than 二. (Specifically for bags of chips though, you could say 二袋 (ふたふくろ). 〜袋 is the counter for bags.)


I’m glad you posted this, as I would’ve assumed the pronunciation of 二袋 would be にふくろ. Upon reflection, I realized that while most counter words are on’yomi, ふくろ is a kun’yomi and as such would take the corresponding reading for 二 (ふた).


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