何: なに vs なん?

I was wondering if anybody could explain to me how one knows when to read 何 as なに or なん? I’ve looked in a few different places online and they all say different things. Some sites say that it’s just based on what sounds better, some say that it has to do with the consonant of the kana before or after, and some say that it has to do with the context of the sentence itself. I’m going through Tae Kim’s Guide right now and that essentially says to just use なに until someone corrects you (lol). I know that it’s read as なに when combined with the で particle, but I don’t know why.

These are kinda all the same thing - it’s what sounds better. Whatever’s easier to say is what generally gets said.

2 Likes

I’m still pretty new, but I was under the impression that if it is connected to another word (何歳, 何回, 何階 etc) then it would be pronounced as なん. If it was standalone, such as 何を … then it would be pronounced as なに.

1 Like

It’s actually なんで. Basically the rule about the next (so after, not before) consonant is the correct one. Paired with some particles:

なんで
なんに
なんの

なにが
なにを
なにへ (never heard this combo, but I guess it’s possible)
なには(question words don’t pair with は)

6 Likes

There’s exceptions, but maybe that is the overall tendency. But for instance, 何人 can be なにじん (what nationality), or なんにん (how many people) or なにびと (anyone, any person)

10 Likes

Gotta love the exceptions. Things are rough out here for us durtles. :sweat_smile:

EDIT I checked my Genki book when I got home to clarify, and it is only exclusively なん when used with Counters and でず. Most of the time it is なに when combined with nouns. Saida did a good example with particles, so I think that covers most of the bases. :slight_smile:

3 Likes

To add to @Leebo’s answer, 何駅 (pronounced なにえき - “what station?”) is also a thing.

1 Like

I coudln’t help but notice that everyone seems to have conveniently swerved talking about 何か…

2 Likes

Idk, maybe because it’s usually written all in kana

That shouldn’t affect pronunciation, though.

You wouldn’t have to choose between なにか or なんか if it was in kana, you’d just know which it was.

Usually one or the other feels more likely.

2 Likes

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.