Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Months in Japanese

In Japanese, months don't have names like January, February, etc., the way we have in English. Instead, February, the second month, for example, is referred to as "month two," ni-gatsu 二月. Its number may also be spelled with an Arabic numeral instead of kanji, as 2月.

Month Name In Japanese romaji Translation
January 一月いちがつ or 1月 ichigatsu Month one.
February 二月にがつ or 2月 nigatsu Month two.
March 三月さんがつ or 3月 sangatsu Month three.
April 四月しがつ or 4月 shigatsu Month four.
May 五月ごがつ or 5月 gogatsu Month five.
June 六月ろくがつ or 6月 rokugatsu Month six.
July 七月しちがつ or 7月 shichigatsu Month seven.
August 八月はちがつ or 8月 hachigatu Month eight.
September 九月くがつ or 9月 kugatsu Month nine.
October 十月じゅうがつ or 10月 juugatsu Month ten.
November 十一月じゅういちがつ or 11月 juuichigatsu Month eleven.
December 十二月じゅうにがつ or 12月 juunigatsu Month twelve.

Likewise, the name of the anime 3-Gatsu no Lion 3月のライオン means literally "The Lion of March."

Counting Months

The words ichigatsu, nigatsu, etc., are only used to refer to a month on the calendar, such as "month number two." In order to say "two months," as in a length of time—e.g. "it takes two months to do this"—we use ~kagetsu ~ヶ月 instead, which is a counter for months.

Time length In Japanese romaji
One month 一ヶ月いっかげつ
or 1ヶ月
Two months 二ヶ月にかげつ
or 2ヶ月
Three months 三ヶ月さんかげつ
or 3ヶ月
Four months 四ヶ月しかげつ
or 4ヶ月
Five months 五ヶ月ごかげつ
or 5ヶ月
Six months 六ヶ月ろっかげつ
or 6ヶ月
Seven months 七ヶ月ななかげつ
or 7ヶ月
Eight months 八ヶ月はちかげつ
or 8ヶ月
Nine months 九ヶ月きゅうかげつ
or 9ヶ月
Ten months 十ヶ月じゅっかげつ
or 10ヶ月
Eleven months 十一ヶ月じゅういっかげつ
or 11ヶ月
Twelve months 十二ヶ月じゅうにかげつ
or 12ヶ月

This counter is mixed with others like this:

  • ikkagetsu isshuukan
    One month and one week long.
  • ichinen ikkagetsu
    One year and one month long.

Referring to halves:

  • hankagetsu
    Half month.
  • ikkagetsu-han
    One month and half.

Since it's a counter, it can be used with the mo も particle to say stuff like this:

  • ikkagetsu mo kakarimasen yo
    It won't take even one month. (it will be really quick.)
  • ikkagetsu mo kakarimashita yo
    It took even one month. (a whole month just for this, it was really slow.)

There's a few things to take note of.

First off, notice that the 月 kanji is read as gatsu がつ when saying "January," but getsu げつ when saying "one month." These are two different readings of the same kanji. When saying calendar months, it's gatsu, when counting lengths of time, it's getsu.

Some numbers also have multiple readings: four (四) can be shi し or yon よん, seven (七) can be shichi しち or nana なな, and nine (九) can be ku く or kyuu きゅう.

Since shi and shichi sound similar, sometimes yongatsu よんがつ and nanagatsu なながつ are used instead to disambiguate.

Names for months in Japanese, and how to count a number of months in Japanese.

In a few words, there's a change of pronunciation at morpheme boundary that merges the number with the counter morpheme: ichi-ka-getsu いちかげつ becomes ikkagetsu いっかげつ, and so on.

This change is called sokuonbin 促音便, which adds a sokuon, a geminate consonant, represented by the small tsu.

Some words that feature sokuonbin always feature it, e.g. you don't say roku-ka-getsu ろくかげつ, you always say rokkagetsu ろっかげつ. Others can be pronounced either way, like hachikagetsu はちかげつ and hakkagetsu はっかげつ.

A weird one is jukkagetsu じゅっかげつ, the one for "ten months," because normally a juu syllable doesn't result in sokuonbin. However, a similar thing occurs in "ten minutes" being pronounced juppun 十分じゅっぷん).

The small ke between the number and the 月 kanji is an abbreviated way to write ka 箇. It comes from the take 竹, "bamboo," component at the top of that kanji that looks like a ke ケ.

The origin of the small ヶ.

It's possible to spell all the words for counting months with this kanji instead of the small ke ヶ, e.g.: ikkagetsu 一箇月, nikagetsu 二箇月, etc.: 三箇月, 四箇月, 五箇月, 六箇月, 七箇月, 八箇月, 九箇月, 十箇月, 十一箇月, 十二箇月.

Counting Moons

The kanji for "month," getsu 月, is also the kanji for "moon," tsuki 月. Moons and months are kind of related, as it takes around one month for a moon to cycle from new moon, to full moon, to back to new moon.

These are different words spelled with the same kanji. The tsuki reading is kun'yomi 訓読み, while getsu is on'yomi 音読み.

It's possible to count moons, which in effect means you're counting months, but in this case you'll use the kun'yomi readings of the numbers, like in hitotsu 一つ, futatsu 二つ, mittsu 三つ, as opposed to the on'yomi ichi, ni, san.

  • hitotsuki
    One moon = one month.
  • futatsuki
    Two moons = two months.
  • mitsuki
    Three moons = three months.

Confusingly, hitotsuki 一月, "one moon," is spelled the same way as ichigatsu 一月, "January," but the former is a length of time of one month, while the latter is the month in the calendar.

Generally the word will be ichigatsu, not hitotsuki. When it's hitotsuki, it will probably have furigana to disambiguate, e.g. ichigatsu will be written simply as 一月, while hitotsuki will be written 一月ひとつき.

Also be warned that some words related to moon use the getsu reading and have nothing to do with months, e.g. shingetsu 新月, "new moon."

See Moon Phases in Japanese for details.

Asking Questions

To ask "what month" or "how many months" in Japanese, you use the interrogative nan~ 何~ morpheme instead of a number with the words we've seen before. For example:

  • nangatsu?
    What month?
    • This expects an answer like ichigatsu 一月, "month one," "January."
  • nankagetsu?
    How many months?
    • This expects an answer like ikkagetsu 一ヶ月, "one month."

Note that in the answers a number like ichi 一 will replace the interrogative nan~ 何~, as it's the focus of the sentence.

  • anata wa nangatsu ni umareta?
    In what month were [you] born?
    • umu 生む - "to birth."
    • umareru 生まれる - "to be birthed," passive form of umu. "To be born."
  • watashi wa shichigatsu ni umareta
    I was born in the month seven (July).
    • Note: when talking about months in gestation, the counter is ~kagetsu instead, since you're talking about how many months were you in gestation, and not the month in the calendar.
    • watashi wa nanakagetsu de umareta
      I was born in seven months.
    • The de で particle is used here because "in" means "it took" seven months for it to happen.
  • sore wa {nankagetsu φ kakaru}?
    That {will take how many months}?
    How many months will that take?
    (double subject construction.)
    • kakaru - "to take" a resource, like time or money. To cost.
  • sankagetsu
    Three months.
  • sankagetsu φ kakaru
    [It] will take three months.


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  1. Genki shows the pattern as 1,6,8,10 ろっかげつ not ろくかげつ。 tae kim shows the pattern as 1,6,10. Might want to double check.

    1. Thanks. You're right, I had made a mistake.

  2. Japanese dates and months system are pretty logical, which makes me as a learner happy ) Though they had some interesting names for months long before, like "mutsuki" - month of harmony, or "hazuki" - month of laves. Poetic...

    And they had japanese numerals over 10 too. Like, 千まり二十まり四 (1024 - chimarihatamari yottsu). But seems like they were too lazy to pronounce 'mari' everytime, so they prefered chinese instead.