Japanese Measure Words

Coffee 2 cups or a double order

In Japanese, there are many different words used for counting, depending on the objects being counted, for example, ippon (a pencil), nidai (two cars), and sansatsu (three books). What about coffee? A cup of coffee is counted as ippai, nihai. Well then, what about spaghetti? Spaghetti noodles are counted as ippon, nihon, but if they are prepared as a meal then hitosara, futasara is used. However…

Say Mr. A and Mr. B are going to a restaurant together. If Mr. A orders coffee for both of them by saying, “Koohii nihai” the waitress may place two cups of coffee in front of Mr. A. Ordinarily, when ordering for two at a restaurant or coffee shop one would say “Koohii futatsu” as the generic counting form ~tsu is used regardless of the proper counting word. However, if Mr. A really wanted to drink two cups of coffee at one time, then it would be all right to say “Koohii nihai“.


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