Difference in reading は - ha/wa

I have this sentence: わたしは五才です, and google reading is Watashi wa go-saidesu
So I checked the the kana は alone, and google says “wa”.
So when do we spell は as “ha” and when as “wa”? Or does google translate isn’t the tool I should be using?

Thanks for your time.

1 Like

は (wa) is the grammatical particle
は (ha) is any other instance of は

Here you’re talking about in romaji? Well, there are different ways of doing that and therefore no overall rules, only rules within different systems. Some systems write it as ha no matter where it is, but obviously you still have to make it sound like “wa” if it’s the particle.


Essentially, if は is part of a word, it’s ha (pronounced with an H). If it’s behind a word, it is pronounced wa. There are two fundamental reasons why Japanese uses は despite it not being pronounced the way the hiragana acts normally. One, that’s how it was done, so it stays that way. Secondly, the “w” sound of は as a particle is not as strong as the “w” sound of わ. The “w” is enough sound to “articulate” the particle and differentiate it from the word before it, but not enough as to accent the particle.

The same occurs with を, which is “wo” when you see it in a word (not often), and “o” when used after a word (as a particle).

1 Like

Thank you, its clear now:)
Have a nice day!

The reason for this confusion is the historical kana orthography, there the differentiation for は and わ was not that strong. For example they wrote かは for 川 (instead of かわ). They changed the spelling such that は ha is always what you expect, except for the particles (same for を wo, へ he).


That depends. Just know that it often gives misleading or wrong translations (machine translation is still far from being perfect, after all). If you need a translation, my advice would be to use several engines and compare the result (e.g. Google and Bing). Using Jisho usually helps a lot as well, by giving the different possible meanings of the words that make up the sentence.


Also, it’s not really good for the pronunciation/reading. It will often read kanji with the on’yomi when it’s kun’yomi and vice-versa. It’s great to break up complicated sentences though.

Not ever, in modern Japanese. ヲ in loanwords, sometimes, but never を.


Ahhh, Google Translate! Brings back fond memories of when I was new (I have reset recently) and they translated ガチァガチァ as “This item eligible for free international shipping”


1 Like

Good they changed it to かわ, because “kawa” means “coffee”, and the rivers of coffee have such a pleasant meaning, I had no problems remembering it:)

1 Like

It can be found in names (usually older) such as をはり万造, so not “never.” :wink: Though names will usually break any other rules you learn about Japanese. :laughing:

1 Like

Yeah. Like ヱビスビール.

Though “never” includes the standard caveat that in Japanese, all rules have exceptions. :stuck_out_tongue:

I will say that Google Translate - and all machine translators, generally - are weak at recognizing different grammatical constructions when there is any amount of ambiguity. The majority of the time it can tell when は is being used as the referential particle which is pronounced ‘wa,’ but sometimes it only looks that way when it’s actually part of a larger word or a name or something like that, but the machine won’t pick up on that.

1 Like

Reminds of when my teacher once told us that a young girl (14 maybe) visited his Japanese language forum. She saw that は got transcribed as wa, told him he was an idiot for not knowing it should be ha, and never logged on again, hahaha (or wawawa).

Good that you’re asking questions and trying to understand!

1 Like

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