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Learn Japanese Plural Forms?

If you’ve started studying Japanese already, and are wondering how to turn cat into cats, forget about it. In Japanese,

there are basically no plural forms; 猫「ねこ」remains 猫, and so forth.

This is quite the opposite in the case of English, as we can specify within the word whether or not there are multiple of a noun by adding “s”.

In Japanese, there is however, a way to specify plurality not in the word itself, but in a counter.

Let’s take a look at an example using the same topic of cats:

If we want to say “There are three cats sitting on the table” in Japanese, we would say:


We see here that the counter 三匹 「さんびき」is used to express plurality, while the word 猫 does not change. There a number of counters used in Japanese to refer to specific kinds of nouns, but we will not go into those details in this article.

Looking at the English sentence above, we see that the grammar uses a counter “three” and adds an “s” to “cat”, clearly showing the modification of plurality within the word itself.

There are a few rare exceptions to this rule in Japanese, where the word itself is actually changed, and that really only occurs with pronouns referring to people.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

  • 僕「ぼく」      to 僕たち or 僕ら (We)
  • 俺「おれ」   to 俺たち or 俺ら(We)
  • 私「わたし」  to 私たち(We)

We see here that ~たち or ~ら can signify plurality, and actually modify the pronoun itself.

That’s it for today’s lesson. We hope you enjoyed this quick read, and best of luck on the language learning!

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