Difference between -, -, and -

So… I’ve come across this a lot recently, and I’ll use examples.
What’s the difference between all of the hyphen thingies. I know one of them is used as a vowel extender in katakana, and one is the kanji for one (いち). What is the difference, and how could I tell the difference when I’m reading this? Also, the one in the word for marble (びーだま). As far as I can tell, there’s no ichi kana or an extended vowel.

Examples: (Sorry, I’m gonna use a manga for some because that’s how I came across it)

#1 The name Ichigo 一護, where it’s used for the hiragana いちご or katakana イチゴ.

#2 The name Toushirou トーシロー where it’s used as a vowel extender.

#3 The vocab for marble びーだま where I have no idea what the purpose is.

Can someone explain this to me? I hope this made sense…

The kanji 一 means one and is not the same as the hyphen ー. It has the readings いち・ひと・いつ that I remember. The hyphen is used mainly with katakana to extend vowels. びーだま is actually ビー玉, where WK accepts hiragana び only out of convenience.


In print, I think the main way you will tell the difference is context? In the case of extending the vowel, I believe it will only be used with Katakana (or that’s the only place I see it), whereas if its around Kanji its likely also the kanji. So after Katakana it’s a vowel extender, before a Kanji it’s 1, And if it’s between Katakana and Kanji… It’s which ever makes sense in context?


Pro-tip for any beginners, for Katakana, like in ビー玉, if you type in ALL CAPS, WaniKani will correct your romaji to Katakana instead of Hiragana. So for ビー玉, I can type “bi-dama” which will correct to " びーだま", or I can type “BI-dama” which will go to “ビーだま”. WaniKani accepts both.


There are a few exceptions. Leebo likes to bring up らーめん


Frack. Back to the drawing board.

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New plan: try it both ways, see if either makes sense. That’s essentially what “context” means for a beginner anyway.

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Telling the difference comes with time. ビー玉 is really an outlier in terms of words that use it in the middle that aren’t written in katakana. らーめん too, but that is sometimes written in katakana as well. This mark is called a 長音 and, as others have said, is different from 一. It’s hard to see, but 一 is actually a little longer than ー. That is, (ichi) is longer than (chouon).

As you learn more words, you will know what goes with what. There are some times where the 長音 comes at the end of a word and is attached to a kanji that can take a 一 at the front. An example would be if you saw “…ギター課…”, which I have never actually seen but lets pretend like it was a thing. In this case, you would just have to be saved by your knowledge that ギター is a word whereas ギタ isnt, since 一課 is actually something that you will come across.

EDIT: There will be other things like that you will come across. Sometimes I read too fast and confuse myself because I think 口 is a ロ or that a タ is a 夕 or a ハ is a 八. Silly mistakes that all clear themselves up when you just think about what makes more sense. Hopefully you are better at this than I am lol


Thank you


For what? Were you just having trouble remembering what the name was?

I never bothered to look it up in the first place, haha

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That’s never worked for me for some reason, it still inputs in hiragana unless I switch modes. Is there some setting or something I somehow enabled/disabled? I’m using Microsoft IME btw if it makes a difference.

So Many informations

I actually have no idea :slightly_frowning_face: Maybe I’m confused and the caps only works on my phone? The first response to this maybe? How to set input to katakana with Caps Lock on?

Edit: Apparently CTRL+Caps worked for someone in the above thread.

You use your ime in your lessons? If so, I don’t think you should be lol.

Oh so this is a WaniKani only thing? I guess that makes sense, I got excited for a moment because that would make my life so much easier lol.

yep. You still shouldn’t have to manually switch over to katakana though. Typing らーめん and then hitting space should auto change it to ラーメン, for example.

Thank you all so much!! Now this is a little less confusing, and I’ll probably learn with time. I really appreciate your comments, this has been keeping me up at night.


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