Suppose you wanted to count something. You are presented with three objects, let’s say ‘Pens’. How do you count them?
You would probably say ‘Three Pens’, right? Now, you might think that in Nepali, we would say ‘तीन कलम’ (tin kalam) to mean ‘Three Pens’. However, that is wrong! Why?
Nepali uses words called ‘Counters’ (which is known as ’classifiers’ in the fancy world of Linguistics), which are basically words attached to objects to denote quantity. So, instead of saying ‘Three Pens’, you say ‘Three <Counter> (of) Pens’.
If you know Japanese, Chinese etc., you know what these counters are.
In the following Sentence, X is the counter:
Number + X + Object
English doesn’t have counters. Hence, grasping the concept might be a bit difficult for some! However, counters are not difficult at all in Nepali! So, how do we use them?
There are only two counters in Nepali:
जना (jana) for people (alive/ dead/ trance)
वटा (wata) for everything else (other than people of course…)
Hence, you would say ‘Three <jana> people’ instead of ‘Three people’ in Nepali. Similarly, you would say ‘Four <wata> Pens’ instead of ‘Four pens’.
The concept wasn’t that difficult, was it?
Please note that, you do NOT use haru (the pluralizing suffix) when you count objects, even if the quantity is greater than one. That means, you would say ‘दुइटा घर’ instead of ‘दुइटा घरहरु’.
HOW TO USE THEM
जना is used to count people. The formula is very simple, it being:
Number + Jana (write the two conjoined)
1 Person = एकजना (ekjana)
2 People = दुइजना (duijana)
100 People = सयजना (sayjana)
… and so on.
An example of its use:
घरमा दुइजना छन् (ghar ma duijana chan)
= Two people are in house.
Writing ‘मान्छे’ (manche), मानिस (manis) etc., which means ’People’ is entirely optional. You can omit it or not, for example:
सयजना मानिस थियो (sayjana manis thiyo)
= (There) were 100 People.
सयजना थियो (sayjana thiyo)
= (There) were 100 People.
Why can we omit it? Since –jana is only used with people, it already indicates that the count is ‘People’ and not something else. Context, you know.
वटा is used to count everything else (other than people of course). However, we cannot just say ’Number + Wata + Object’ in certain cases, because…it is wrong. There are 3 exceptions to the ‘Number + Counter + Object’ rule, and they are:
1 X = एउटा X (euta)
2 X = दुइटा X (duita)
However, after you get past Two, then you can use the ‘Number + Wata + Object’ formula. For example:
3 X = तीनवटा X (tinwata)
4 X = चारवटा X (charwata)
5 X = पाँचवटा X (pachwata)
100 X = सयवटा X (saywata)
… and so on.
An example of its use in Nepali:
टोकरीमा पाँचवटा आँप छन् (tokri ma pach wata aap chan)
= 5 mangoes are in the basket.
Note that you cannot omit the object when you use wata, because it would not make sense if you do. So:
चारवटा पेन छन् (charwata pen chan)
= (There) are four pens. [Shows there are four pens and not something else]
चारवटा छन् (charwata chan)
= (There) are four. [The quantity Four could denote anything]
Do not mix up jana with wata and vice versa!
GROUPS IN NEPALI
Suppose you wanted to say ’a box of chocolates’ or ’a flock of birds’. You cannot possibly use counters, right? After all, counters specify the quantity while groups don’t. So, how do we ‘a box of chocolates’?
So there is a large mob around your house. You won’t count them and say “42817 <wata> people have surrounded my house!”. You would say “A mob has surrounded my house!”. (Well, depends on you)
Group words are used to describe groups in Nepali too. These words are called ‘समूहवाचक शब्द’ (samuhabachak sabda) in Nepali. समूह (samuha) means ‘Group’.
Herd of X = बथान (bathaan)
Bunch of X = झुप्पो (jhuppo)
Garland of X = माला (mala)
Taft of Hair = गुजुल्टो (gujulto)
Line of People = लहर (lahara)
Crowd of People = हुल (hul)
Thicket of Bushes = घारी (ghaari)
Banana Plantation = घरी (ghari)
Pile of Books =: खात (khaat)
Line of Ants = ताँती (tati)
Hive of Bees = गोलो (golo)
Box of X = बट्टा (batta)
Group of Dried Corns = झुत्तो (jhutto)
Anyway, to make the words, the formula is:
Appropriate Object + को (ko)+ Appropriate Group
Example: A bunch of keys
Appropriate Object + को (ko) + Appropriate Group
or चाबी (chabi) + को (ko) + झुप्पा (jhuppa)
= चाबीको झुप्पा (chabi ko jhuppa /bunch of keys/ )
मेरो चाबीको झुप्पा नै हरायो! (mero chabi ko jhuppa nai haraayo!)
= I lost my bunch of keys!
Making progress, right? Now, you want to say ’Two boxes of chocolate’. How do you say that?
We use the knowledge we gained from earlier! So, as you might have guessed, the formula will be:
Number + Appropriate Counter + Object + Ko + Group Word
दुइटा चकलेटको बट्टा (duita chaklet ko batta)
= Two box(es) of Chocolate
There is also an informal construction, which does away with the rules. Yes, it is informal and should not be used in formal situations:
Number + Group Word + Object
दुइ बट्टा चक्लेट (dui batta chaklet)
= Two Box(es) (of) Chocolate)
As a sidenote, if you don’t know which group name to assign, then you can simply assign ‘समूह’ (samuha) which means ‘group’.
Since Nepali lacks articles, indefinite articles are usually translated into ‘euta’ or just left out:
= एउटा किताब (euta kitab)
= एउटा स्याउ (euta shyau)
So that’s all!
If you are confused, you can ask! I am there!
A. FILL IN THE BLANKS
1. __________ dinuhos! (Give me five books please!)
2. Malai ______ le badhai disakyo. (Two people have congratulated me already)
3. Ekadesh ma __________ thiyo. (Once upon a time, there used to be 3 iron rods)
B. USE THE APPROPRIATE GROUP NAME
1. _________ le hamro khet lai bigardyo! (A herd of cattle destroyed our crops!)
2. Malai ________ khae! (I ate two boxes of choclate) [INFORMAL]
A. 1. Pach kitabharu
A. 2. Dui jana manche
A. 3. tinwata phalam ko dandi
B. 1. Gai ko bathan
B. 2. dui batta chaklet