Beginner Question - う

Hi, I’m currently on level 2 and I’m noticing that a lot of words end with an extra う sound. I keep forgetting that last う when I’m typing the readings because many times it’s sort of silent or after a similar sound. Is there a reason for this/does it signify something in Japanese? Examples: きゅう, じんこう, りょう, etc. Thanks in advance.

Welcome to the site!

It’s not silent, but in the cases you pointed out it represents a lengthening of the う or お sound that preceeded it. こ and こう are different lengths, and the う is important to expressing that length difference. Try to listen carefully to the audio samples to get a good feel for how the different length vowels sound.

Without getting too much into the history, the long vowels expressed with an う come from Chinese originally, but I don’t know enough about Chinese or the history of Chinese to talk about why they got imported as long vowels.


Thank you for the clarification!