An Update to Verbal Nouns and する Verbs

Hello everyone!

I’m here to announce some changes we made to what we now call “verbal nouns”. Some of you have already noticed these throughout the last few content updates, and I’d like to give you a few more details.

Verbal nouns are a category of nouns which can be modified by attaching する to the end of them, effectively turning them into verbs. This class of nouns was called する verbs up to this point. However, we felt this label wasn’t quite clear enough, as many of these items were taught without a する actually attached to them.

As an example, 開始 is a verbal noun that can be modified with a する. We’ll call these “verbal nouns” going forward, and reserve the する verb label for all items that actually end on する, like 運転する.

This is only one part of the changes we planned, however, as the initial idea was something a little different: expanding the accepted meanings for verbal nouns to include more use cases. Verbal nouns as a category are incredibly flexible. When translated into English, they can turn into either nouns, verbs, or even adjectives. This high range of use wasn’t reflected in the meanings we allowed you to input on WaniKani in a lot of cases, so we wanted to clear this up, at least partially.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of verbal nouns on WaniKani, so for now, we focused on levels 1 to 10. This amounted to changes to 80 items. A lot of these previously only accepted pure noun meanings as viable answers. Our goal was to try and also add as many verbal meanings to these items as possible. For example, 決定 previously only accepted “decision” and “determination” as viable answers, which has now been expanded to also accept bare infinitives (”decide”, “determine”, “conclude”), and a range of other noun meanings (”ruling”, “verdict”, and more) as well. For other items, we added “gerunds” to the allow list, so 入力 now also accepts “entering” in addition to “enter” without giving you a typo warning.

You can find a list of all the changes, sorted by levels, attached below, in case you’re curious! As always, feel free to give us feedback on what you think about these changes, and if you’d like to see this expanded to further levels on WaniKani as well.

Thanks for reading, and good luck with your studies!

Levels 1-6 (22 items)
左右 (2) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “influencing” and “controlling” to the allow list.
入力 (2) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “entering” and “inputting” to the allow list.
中止 (3) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “suspending”, “cancelling”, “stopping”, and “interrupting” to the allow list.
休止 (4) - Removed “する verb” and “の adjective” as word types, added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “suspend”, “suspending”, and “pausing” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
不足 (4) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “lack” and “lacking” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
代用 (4) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “alternative”, “alternate”, and “alternating” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
花見 (4) - Removed “する verb” as a word type, added “hanami” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
休学 (5) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, made “absence from school” the primary meaning, moved “absent from school” and “leave of absence” to the allow list, and added “take an absence from school” and “taking an absence from school” to the allow list.
作文 (5) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “journal”, “short composition”, “write”, “compose”, “essay writing” and “write an essay” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
入社 (5) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “join a company”, “start working at a company”, and “enter a company” to the allow list.
工作 (5) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “crafting” and “handiwork” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
入学 (5) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “enter school”, “enter a school”, “enroll in school”, and “enrolling in school” to the allow list.
自立 (5) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “supporting oneself” to the allow list.
走行 (5) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “travel”, “run”, “move”, and “drive” to the allow list.
出血 (6) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “haemorrhage” and “hemorrhage” to the allow list.
生活 (6) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “living”, “make a living”, “making a living”, and “live” to the allow list.
死亡 (6) - Removed “の adjective” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “die” and “dying” to the allow list.
直行 (6) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “going straight”, “going direct”, “going without stopping”, “go straight”, “go direct” and “go without stopping” to the allow list, added “go indirect” and “going indirect” to the block list, and updated the meaning explanation.
安心 (6) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “sense of security” and “sense of safety” to the allow list.
耳打ち (6) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, moved “whisper in someone’s ear” and added “whisper in your ear” and “whispering in someone’s ear” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
出社 (6) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “report to work” and “reporting to work” to the allow list.
活用 (6) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “conjugate, “application”, “apply”, “applying”, “inflection”, “inflect”, and “conjugating” to the allow list.

Levels 7-8 (18 items)
交通 (7) - Removed “する verb” as a word type.
先回り (7) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “arrive ahead” and “go ahead” to the allow list.
失礼 (7) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type.
自決 (8) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “commit suicide”, “committing suicide”, and “self-determination” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
出所 (8) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “discharge from prison”, “releasing from prison”, “releasing from jail”, “discharging from prison”, “discharge from jail” and “discharging from jail” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
助言 (8) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “counsel” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
入場 (8) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “enter”, “admittance”, and “entry” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
お知らせ (8) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “notify” and “notifying” to the allow list.
助力 (8) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “assist”, “assisting”, “supporting”, “aid”, and “aiding” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
決心 (8) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “decide”, “determine”, “resolve”, “decision”, “make a decision”, “make up one’s mind”, “making a decision”, and “deciding” to the allow list.
反対 (8) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “opposing”, “oppose”, “resistance”, “resist”, “resisting”, “objection”, “object”, “objecting” and “antagonism” to the allow list.
会話 (8) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “talk”, “chat”, “talking”, “chatting”, “converse” and “conversing” to the allow list.
究明 (8) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “investigate”, “investigating”, “clarify”, “clarifying”, “ascertain”, “ascertaining”, “determine” and “determining” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
対立 (8) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “antagonism”, “clash”, “conflict”, “oppose” and “opposing” to the allow list.
入所 (8) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “incarceration”, “confinement”, “admit”, “enter” and “entering to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
研究 (8) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “investigate”, “investigating”, “studying” and “researching” to the allow list.
電話 (8) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “call”, “calling”, “phone call” and “telephone call” to the allow list.
対する (8) - Added “to face” as the primary meaning, added “to be directed towards” as the alternative meaning, moved “to compare with,” “to face each other,” “to oppose,” “to compare,” “to contrast with” to the allow list, added “to be directed,” “to be directed to,” “to face,” “toward,” “to be in relation,” “to be face to face,” “to be facing” to the allow list, updated the meaning explanation, added two new context sentences and removed one sentence, and updated the collocations.

Level 9 (22 items)
使用 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “usage”, “utilization”, “utilisation”, “apply” and “employ” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
交代 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as word type, and added “changing”, “substitute”, “shifting”, “take turns”, “alternation”, “alternate”, “alternating” and “rotation” to the allow list.
返事 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “replying”, “respond”, “responding” and “answering” to the allow list.
発表 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “announce”, “present”, “publication”, “presenting”, “statement”, “releasing”, “release”, “unveiling” and “unveil” to the allow list.
対談 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, made “talk” the primary meaning, made “discussion” an alternative meaning, added “interview” as an alternative meaning, moved “conversation” and “dialogue” to the allow list, added “talking” and “discuss” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
受験 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and moved “taking an examination” to the allow list.
出発 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “depart”, “departing”, “leave” and “leaving” to the allow list.
試験 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, moved “exam” to the allow list, and added “examine” and “testing” to the allow list.
相談 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “counseling” and “counsel” to the allow list.
予定 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “planning”, “scheduling”, “estimation”, “program”, “agenda” and “timeline” to the allow list.
工事 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “construct” and “construction work” to the allow list.
発音 (9) - Removed “する verb” and “の adjective” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “pronounce” to the allow list.
勝負 (9) - Removed “する verb” and “の adjective” and added “verbal noun” as a word type.
楽勝 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “blowout”, “breeze”, “cakewalk”, “a piece of cake”, “win easily”, “win with ease” and “easy peasy” to the allow list.
実験 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “experimentation” to the allow list.
仮定 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “supposition”, “assume”, “hypothesize”, “suppose”, “presumption” and “presume” to the allow list.
発見 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “finding”, “discover”, “detect” and “find” to the allow list.
体験 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “practical experience”, “personal experience”, “hands-on experience”, “first-hand experience” and “one’s own experience” to the allow list.
発売 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, made “sale” the primary meaning, moved “for sale” and “item for sale” to the allow list, added “release”, “release for sale”, “offering for sale”, “launch”, “product launch”, “sell”, “launching”, “bring out”, “bringing out” and “product release” to the allow list, updated the meaning explanation, and updated one context sentence.
試食 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, made “food sample” the primary meaning, moved “sample” to the allow list, added “sampling food”, “sample food”, “food tasting”, “tasting of food”, “taste-test” and “taste test” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
決定 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “decide”, “determine”, “conclusion”, “conclude”, “ruling”, “verdict”, “resolution” and “resolve” to the allow list.
保持 (9) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “keep” as a primary meaning, added “hold”, “maintain” and “retain” as alternative meanings, moved “retention”, “maintenance” and “preservation” to the allow list, added “keeping”, “holding”, “maintaining”, “retaining”, “preserve”, “preserving” and “retainment” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.

Level 10 (18 items)
進行 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “moving forward”, “move forward”, “progression”, “progressing”, “advancing”, “proceed”, “procedure” and “advancement” to the allow list.
強調 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “emphasize”, “highlighting”, “underlining”, “underscoring”, “emphasizing”, “underline”, “underscore”, “stressing”, “accentuating”, “accentuate” and “accentuation” to the allow list.
近道 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “take a shortcut”, “shorter way”, “short route” and “shorter route” to the allow list.
作業 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, moved “task” from the allow list to visible meanings, moved “manufacturing” to the allow list, added “job”, “labor” and “working” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
開始 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “begin”, “starting”, “open”, “initiation”, “initiate”, “initiating”, “commencement”, “commence” and “commencing” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
転送 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, moved “transmission” to the allow list, added “forward”, “transferring” and “transmit” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
集中 (10) - Removed “する verb” and “の adjective” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, moved “focusing” to the allow list, made “focus” an alternative meaning, added “concentrate”, “centralization”, “centralisation”, “convergence”, “centralize”, “centralise”, “converge” and “concentrating” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
開発 (10) - Removed “する verb” and “の adjective” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “exploitation”, “exploit”, “develop” and “developing” to the allow list.
入院 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, moved “admission to a hospital” to the allow list, added “entering a hospital”, “enter a hospital”, “institutionalization”, “stay at a hospital” and “staying at a hospital” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
要求 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “firm request”, “demanding”, “require”, “requiring”, “requesting” and “requisition” to the allow list.
集金 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and updated the meaning explanation.
回転 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, made “revolve” the primary meaning, moved “revolution” to the allow list, and added “turnover”, “revolving”, “rotating”, “spin”, “spinning”, “turn” and “turning to the allow list.
進化 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, and added “become more advanced”, “becoming more advanced”, “development” and “develop” to the allow list.
公開 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “release”, “release to the public”, “publish to the public”, “publish”, “make available to the public”, “making available to the public” and “publication” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
終了 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “ending”, “finishing”, “closing”, “completion”, “conclusion”, “complete” and “conclude” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
求人 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, added “job posting” as the primary meaning, moved “recruitment” and “help wanted” to the allow list, added “job offer”, “job postings”, “job ad”, “job ads”, “hiring”, “seek workers”, “employment offer”, “job offering” and “job recruitment” to the allow list, and updated the meaning and reading explanations.
開業 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, moved “opening of business” to the allow list, added “open a business”, “start a business”, “establishing a business”, “establishment of business” and “establish a business” to the allow list, and updated the meaning explanation.
心配 (10) - Removed “する verb” and added “verbal noun” as a word type, moved “worry” to the allow list, and added “worrying”, “uneasiness”, “fear”, “anxious”, “concerned”, “anxiousness” and “care” to the allow list.

33 Likes

Thanks for these changes. The addition of more gerunds is good, as I spent a lot of time making my own user synonyms for those.

12 Likes

that’s a lotta synonyms

5 Likes

Thank you, Jenny

2 Likes

I want to be optimistic about this
image

3 Likes

I think it’s generally a good thing with the caveat that IMHO the more valuable lesson is to stop associating Japanese vocab with specific English words (and thus English parts of speech) but instead with concepts and Japanese parts of speech (which don’t map neatly to English ones).

17 Likes

This is great stuff! I’ve been making a lot of user synonyms for cases like these. :eyes:

2 Likes

I’m going to be honest, this is more confusing than it’s probably worth. It adds an artificial disambiguation which could’ve been easily solved by removing the する component from the compounds which had it before and just leaving the label as is.

EDIT: From a meta perspective, one could consider some する verbs having the する part and some not an error. When I was studying them the first time on WaniKani, I found it a little strange, but since it’s する in kana, it adds minimal effort. Later on I learned there are hundreds of them and they’re extremely common. Therefore, while I had する in my Anki decks attached to words like that in brackets ((する)), I stopped adding it to newer cards. From the word itself one can easily intuit whether it can be a する verb - if it’s an “action” noun, it very likely is a する verb.

Right, but here you’re mapping a regular English verb to a Japanese する compound, a noun which can act as a verb, 1:1. It doesn’t work.

Gerunds map better :slight_smile:

4 Likes

Yes, I agree that this change is a good one. I just don’t know if I want to optimistically hope it’s a sign that WK will focus on improving content it already has or if they’ll take away more features, add fluff content, or continue to not do things they said they’d do.

10 Likes

There are so many more allowed synonyms than I had assumed!

I’m level 6 and a substantial portion of my vocab acquisition is through WK, so when I learn a word on WK it’s usually my first encounter with it. Whatever meanings are presented in WK are the only ones I know, so the other glosses and synonyms wouldn’t even occur to me to try as meanings.

In fact, I often look up kanji or vocab elsewhere (e.g. Jisho) to get a more complete sense of the meaning than what’s in WK, because it often feels a bit thin. Little did I know that, internally, WK has many of these already.

I like WK’s focused approach, and the strong resistance to bloat and feature creep, but I would welcome seeing more of these synonyms exposed in the UI as “Alternatives” (and not hidden in the internal allow list). Not the obvious ones, like simple gerunds or nominalizations of verbs in the list, but ones that convey additional meaning, e.g. -
代用 - alternative
活用 - inflection
予定 - agenda
発見 - detect

To me these provide something I wouldn’t get otherwise.

2 Likes

Oh, thank goodness. I’ve gotten so many words wrong over the years because I’ve put in the verb rather than the noun (because I learned it that way prior to joining WK), and I’ve been adding verb forms in as user synonyms myself. Definitely worth doing for all levels.

2 Likes

Admirable goal, but for a site aimed at English speakers learning Japanese, requiring concepts to be written in English is kinda unavoidable, no? (Assuming one wants auto-grading as I do.)

I couldn’t agree more strongly that it’s best to “think in Japanese” first, but mandating English words to express 意味 for auto-grading works pretty well in practice. Increasingly well, in fact, with the constant content improvements the team are making (like this one).

I love these changes.

Re: “thinking in Japanese” — it used to drive me crazy when the English verb forms weren’t accepted.

This is very debatable, but fwiw, to me, Japanese is such a verb/action centric language that “verbal nouns” are mostly verbs first. If a word can be interpreted as an action, I tend to think of it as a verb first. When it functions as a noun in a sentence, THAT “feels” more like the special case to me (kinda like a gerund in English). (This is probably weird and definitely hard to express, but it’s how my brain works when thinking in Japanese.)

開始 and 決定 are good examples. Alone, my brain thinks of them as the verbs “start/begin” and “decide”.[1]

It’s common to use them as nouns, of course, but to me it kinda feels like the する is implied, part of them. IOW, to me, the noun usage removes the する more than the verb usage adds it.

Note that I said “mostly”. My brain still categorizes words like 会話 as nouns first (“conversation”, not “converse”), so I guess it also depends on frequency/familiarity. I’ve heard 会話 as a noun much more often than 会話する.

Senryu seem to drop the する sometimes, too, to eliminate a couple morae while still strongly implying a verb usage.

Anyway, I’m not suggesting any changes to primary/alternate meanings. I’m just happy the verb forms are now accepted. Great change.


  1. “Start” is sublime for 開始 because it can be either a verb or a noun. :slight_smile: ↩︎

1 Like

My point is that one shouldn’t worry about the exact English part of speech that one inputs, as long as the concept is understood. This can be accomplished by a very liberal autograder.

I suppose you could also quiz people on the Japanese part of speech, or require them to somehow use it in a sentence (which is what really matter for learning the vocab), but that’s probably overkill. In cases where it really is unclear (and for many words it’s clear if e.g. it’s a verb), this can probably better be learned in context.

4 Likes

I agree with the first sentence.

Genuine question, though: how specifically could the WK auto-grader be made more liberal? It already allows most spelling errors and provides long lists of synonyms (and arbitrary user synonyms).

One could work with verb cores which permit different endings, a la regex.

The general problem is that the current system is fully manual. People need to actively report synonyms for the synonyms to be actively added. That means the distribution of synonyms is not even. One could easily automate that process. One could also add N synonyms for each vocab straight away using a dictionary without people having to report them.

Perhaps. I suspect it’s more difficult in practice than one might think.

The permissive spelling algorithm already permits answers that are obviously incorrect. Grammatical regexes would only exacerbate the difficulty.

Have at it, but I’ll be surprised if anyone can create an auto grader demonstrably better than WK’s current implementation (with staff making constant whitelist/blacklist content updates).

2 Likes