Consciously Learn On/Kun Yomi?

I’ve seen variations of this question, so sorry if this is treading similar ground (I think there is a nuanced difference to my question, so I hope it’s okay):

Should we be consciously learning x is an ON YOMI reading, y is a KUN YOMI reading, so we can kind of logically parse information together? (i know the rules for when each are used, I would just never know which is on and which is kun)

I’m admittedly very new (level 3 and still on my trial), but I’m assuming having to put too much information together can ultimately be a hindrance vs intuitively knowing which to use based on vocab.

Conversely, I ask because I don’t want to get too far down the road having paid no real conscious attention to what is kun and what is on.

I would also not know how to start with categorizing that extra information in my brain


You don’t necessarily have to, no. As you pick up more vocabulary, you’ll get a feel for it. On’yomi are mostly used in jukugo, or compound words formed with two or more kanji with no okurigana. Kun’yomi are mostly used in words with okurigana like verbs and adjectives, and with single, stand-alone kanji. There are exceptions, of course, but they’ll start to sort themselves out in your head, and you’ll know the difference between them even if you don’t consciously know which term applies to which category.


Honestly, I never had to. My brain already knows the reading I should use but that’s because I’ve come to memorize the words already.

For the most part I’ll be able to answer correctly because we mostly learn jukugo (which it’s onyomi—except the annoying exceptions). And so the more you practice the easier it is to get used to which type of reading you need.

But I really never focus on which one is onyomi and which one kunyomi. You brain will do that for you and even sometimes when you forget certain words you’ll get a feel for which reading sounds good and which one sounds bad. More often than not, you’ll be able to nail the reading because of this.

This is what I do at least. I don’t know if people are actually memorizing ONYO and KUN but I never had to and still don’t :slight_smile:


Oh ok so perhaps it’s the consensus. No one actually memorizes it consciously and it just happens as we continue to study.

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If you gave me a kanji and asked me to specify which readings are on’yomi and which are kun’yomi, I could probably figure some out based on the usual readings, like し、じょ、せい、etc. being on and the stand alone readings for vocab being kun, but I’d surely get some wrong.

I don’t know them by heart, you just learn them all and eventually figure it out.

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Please don’t say onyo. :sob:


Yeah like I only recently actually learned what on’yomi and kun’yomi were though I’d heard of the terms a long time ago, but my brain still unconsciously picked up on the patterns. I knew that if I saw 頼 and it was followed by a ま-column kana, it would be read たの, and if it was followed by a ら-column kana then it would be たよ, but if it’s in, say, 信頼, then it’s らい, and I didn’t consciously learn any of that, my brain just naturally categorized those on its own from seeing them in like songs and stuff, even if I didn’t have labels for them yet.

Of course, that means it also miscategorized 信 as having しん as both on and kun, when it actually doesn’t have a kun’yomi at all, and the じる is just a variation of する which is used to make verbs from on’yomi kanji. But it didn’t hurt me or anything, and it was pretty simple to recategorize it (and start recognizing when other readings I’d thought were both on and kun are actually just on) once I had that info.

OP: Our brains are hard-wired to pick up on patterns. Sometimes we might need a little extra help, but I wouldn’t worry about how to categorize it, because it mostly just happens naturally.


Thank you so much! It’s amazing what the brain can do. I anticipated that would be the case :slight_smile:

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This you?

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Thank you for asking this! I am on level 3 as well and was wondering the exact same thing


I wasn’t sure what to say and I was tired of writing onyomi/kunyomi :sob:

I have read articles when there refer to them as ON and KUN but I wasn’t sure if people would understand what I meant so I figure ONYO would be good even though I hated how it sounded Lol

If you know the general patterns, you don’t need to learn which one you’re learning, no.


So glad it was helpful for you too :slight_smile:

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