Enlongated Vowels (お vs う)

Just curious if it’s just me, but when it comes to the elongated vowels there seems to be a case I find easy to mix up. For instance とお & とう sound/read to the same to me. However, when it comes to writing or providing answers to wani kani they are not the same. Is it just me or is there a phonetic difference between them I am not noticing. It’s not like the other lengthened vowels like where it’s pretty obvious since just always repeats the same vowel.

Base | Elong. | Enlong. |
こ   | お     | う      |
そ   | お     | う      |
と   | お     | う      |
の   | お     | う      |
ほ   | お     | う      |
も   | お     | う      |
よ   | お     | う      |
ろ   | お     | う      |

These are just spelling conventions. う is used for extending お in readings derived from Chinese. お is used when the origin is Japanese. So it’s just a historical thing, and it doesn’t represent a sound difference.

Well, you do have い for extending え

If anyone wants to discuss that there are plenty of old topics on it. Wasn’t meaning to shift the focus.


It also seems like one of those things that isn’t actually as common as it seems from the first few levels? Like the kanji with a hundred different readings. Judging from my limited experience so far, the おお extensions are infrequent enough to be easy (well, easier than it seems at first) to remember.

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Oh yea, I did not think of い for え, but from my experience it seems い is more common . If it’s just spelling I guess that makes me feel better.

I’ve had similar trouble, messing up 氷 reading, and I found
this thread helpful. Basically some Japanese words that used to have おを or おほ sound now have おお spelling.

おお and おう sound exactly the same, but spelled out differently. Should not be a problem for English speaker :slight_smile:

There’s a phrase that younger children are taught that’s used to remember a good chunk of the words that use おお instead of おう (will edit with it if I find it). It’s just a derivation from the original spelling/pronunciation of those particular words (I mentioned this in a different thread, but とおか being from とをか or おおさか from おほさか).

Edit: It’s 「遠くの大きな氷の上を多くの狼十ずつ通った」. Other variations of this jingle exist to help kids remember all the おお words.


Interesting what does it mean exactly or is it just a bunch of words.

It’s something to the effect of “a bunch of wolves crossed a distant expanse of ice in groups of ten” (forgive my poor phrasing in English, I couldn’t come up with anything better). There’s no special meaning to it or anything, it’s just written the way it is to make it easier to sing and remember.

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Unless it’s a verb, where う is marking that the verb is in dictionary form, like in 追う (おう)


I probably will need to learn more kanji to read it more clearly, since what I pick out easily is just big and ice. I also see ten, but not sure unless the reading there is とおず。

The ず is part of the word ずつ.

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If it helps, here it is again with furigana. :slightly_smiling_face:


But yeah, it has no more actual meaning than does “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”.


Like most things in language learning, you get used to it. I used to think about it when I first started but now just over 3 months in I barely even notice the double vowel it just comes naturally.
I also always do reviews and lessons in WK with audio auto-play so my ear gets accustomed to hearing the pronunciation, that helps a lot.

tl;dr no need to over analyze.

I am not having troubling noticing that that double vowels exist. It was mainly the fact the words with (とお & とう) and (こお, こう) sound the same. It seems be just spelling from the replies here. Although speaking of audio I really wish pink items had audio some times.

But no one speaks a kanji in isolation. They speak words. That’s why only words have audio.

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