To day we are going to study how to indicate days of month in Japanese. Let’s get started!
What day is it?
To ask “What day is it today?” in Japanese, you will say:
Here, the kanji 日 [nichi] is used to indicate day. You may already have spotted this kanji in one of our previous lesson… If I say Monday? Tuesday? You found it? This is the kanji used in 曜日 [-yo~bi] /day of week/, and found twice in 日曜日 [nichiyo~bi], /Sunday/, the day of the Sun. 日 represents the Sun, both as a star and as a time period. You may also have noticed that it has multiple pronounciations: にち [nichi], ひ [hi] (which gives び [bi] when collated to another kanji such as in 曜日 (ようび) [yo~bi]) and soon you will discover the third one: か [ka].
You may also have spotted the kanji 日 in 今日 (きょう) [kyo~]. 今 represents the concept of the present time, now. So attached to日 which represents the notion of day, it gives “the present day”, today. Note that the reading きょう for 今日 is special as it isn’t that concatenation of each kanji reading, but a reading specific to the word itself. Such reading is called jukujikun-yomi. But let’s come back to our subject…
Days of month
As you may now have guessed from the previous lessons, to indicate the day, we will make use of the kanji 日.
To indicate the day of the month, Japanese people do somehow as we do in English, they give the number of the day, followed by 日. But where it becomes a bit more complicated than usual is when you notice:
- First, that the indication of days from the 1st to the 10th, and for the 20th, is using the Japanese reading (kun-yomi) and not the Chinese/sound reading (on-yomi) as in most of the situations we have faced up to now (see Introduction to Japanese Numbers).
- Then, that the pronunciation of 日 changes from か [ka] from the 2nd to the 10th to にち [nichi] afterwards.
- And last that the pronunciation of the 1st and 20th are special.
Let’s have a look at it:
|11th||十一日||じゅういちにち||ju~ ichi nichi|
|12th||十二日||じゅうににち||ju~ ni nichi|
|13th||十三日||じゅうさんにち||ju~ san nichi|
|14th||十四日||じゅうよんにち||ju~ yon nichi|
|15th||十五日||じゅうごにち||ju~ go nichi|
|16th||十六日||じゅうろくにち||ju~ roku nichi|
|17th||十七日||じゅうしちにち||ju~ shichi nichi|
|18th||十八日||じゅうはちにち||ju~ hachi nichi|
|19th||十九日||じゅうくにち||ju~ ku nichi|
|21st||二十一日||にじゅういちにち||ni ju~ ichi nichi|
|22nd||二十二日||にじゅうににち||ni ju~ ni nichi|
|23rd||二十三日||にじゅうさんにち||ni ju~ san nichi|
|24th||二十四日||にじゅうよんにち||ni ju~ yon nichi|
|25th||二十五日||にじゅうごにち||ni ju~go nichi|
|26th||二十六日||にじゅうろくにち||ni ju~ roku nichi|
|27th||二十七日||にじゅうしちにち||ni ju~ shichi nichi|
|28th||二十八日||にじゅうはちにち||ni ju~ hachi nichi|
|29th||二十九日||にじゅうくにち||ni ju~ ku nichi|
|30th||三十日||さんじゅうにち||san ju~ nichi|
|31st||三十一日||さんじゅういちにち||san ju~ ichi nichi|
You may also have noticed that in addition to the 3 points above, when using the Chinese/sound reading, you should pronounce 7s しち [shichi] and not なな [nana], and 9s く [ku] and not きゅう [kyu~].
So now, if we are the 10th, the answer will be:
Today is the 10th.
This may not seem easy at first sight, and you will have to spend some time on it, but once you will have the catch on it then you will be ready to face almost any situation where Japanese numbers are involved.
Ready for some practice?
This is the end of this lesson, I hope you enjoyed it. Go through it again and again as often as you need as it provides good ground to learn the different readings of numbers in Japanese.
Next time will be a synthesis lesson where we will gather and mix everything that we saw around time, dates…