Cardinals and Ordinals in Japanese

I know that the number seven is “shichi” in Japanese- I even found the kanji via the mighty Google. Can I use the same word and character to represent “seventh”? If not, how would I modify it?

“Ichi” goes to “Ichiban” to mean “Number one”, right? So would it be “shichiban”? If so, how could I represent that with my primitive cut-and-paste knowledge of kanji?


七番 and it’s pronounced nana-ban if I remember correctly. Japanese is weird like that.

“Ban” (番, or ばん) is a sort of generic classifier for ordinality. Sometimes you see “me” added (ichibanme, or 一番目), but I think it’s sort of redundant. “Shichi” does mean seven, but that is the on-yomi, or Chinese reading, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used in an ordinal. I’m not sure whether or not it’s actually wrong to use it, and people would probably understand what you were trying to say, but it would be more natural to use the kun-yomi (Japanese reading) for that particular number. So “seventh” = “nanaban” (七番 or ななばん, or alternately 七番目 or ななばんめ if you want to be completely specific).

As with many things Japanese, though, context matters. If you were referring to the seventh day of the month, for instance, you’d use nanoka (七日, or なのか) instead of nanaban.

Ben’s correct in that either Nana-ban/Shichi-ban or Nana-banme/Shichi-banme (the -me can be contextually implied but is required when it’s ambiguous whether nanaban should mean the 7th or the number 7.) What is correct grammatically depends on what you’re trying to say

Do you have an example?

I have a nephew who’s been learning Japanese and is entering the 7th grade. I was hoping to have the kanji put on a cake, or at least on a card I’d put together for him. Is nanoka or nanaban appropriate for that?

七年生 would mean a pupil in the seventh grade.
You can also just use 7 instead of the kanji for the number.

For future reference, is a good resource for looking up words.

As I understand it, Japanese actually has multiple ordinal suffixes. -Ban is I think generic if the others don’t fit, but you use one ordinal suffix for counting long thin things like rolled up newspapers, another for counting big round things, and so on.

This is gonna be a hell of a tattoo.

Yeah, Farsi’s the same way. It’s fun once you get the hang of it though.

Thanks for the help!

Counters are a little different from ordinality, but yeah, there are specific suffixes for counting different types of things. English has them, too, though–nine head of cattle, two sheets of paper, five cups of coffee. The difference is that English uses counters erratically, whereas Japanese has counters for pretty much all nouns.

Although note that grades are numbered differently in Japan–instead of going from K-12, they have K, elementary school 1-6, middle school 1-3, and high school 1-3. So a seventh grader is actually a first grade middle schooler, or chuugakuichinensei (中学一年生).

Although if the recipient of the cake is going to a US school, I’d stick with “seventh grader”.

Alternate suggestion: May be slightly easier.

Back to the OP, I think 七年生 or just 七 would be fine in that case :P

Precisely why I went with the 7!