Generalities in vocabulary

In 夕べ, the vocabulary word for evening, the kana べ can be ignored. It’s that always the case when this kana is following a kanji in a vocabulary word?

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Can you explain what you mean by “can be ignored”?

If you say ゆう and not ゆうべ, you haven’t said the same word.


No, and I’m not sure I’m entirely on board with the mnemonic of that word. They don’t mean, that you can “forget about it” or “you can leave it off”, rather, it’s a weird way to say, that it won’t change the kanji meaning.

They mean, that the mnenomic for 夕べ is “This vocab word has a weird little extra bit on it (the べ). You can sort of ignore that, it doesn’t really mean anything in particular.”


Oh, it’s in the mnemonic? Yeah, I guess they just mean that they weren’t going to try to explain why it’s there.

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Thank you. I meant in the meaning it can be ignored. I read that it means " evening" whether the kana follows it or not.

They probably just didn’t want to get into a deep explanation of Japanese orthography when it’s not super critical to learning the word and how to read it.

There are multiple etymological explanations for why ゆうべ has a べ at the end there, but yes, many words in Japanese are written in such as way that the kanji does not occupy the full length of the word, and some kana are written “outside” the kanji.

There are a variety of reasons that can happen, but in this case it’s more of a historical quirk and sound change than from a grammar reason or something, so that’s why they probably waved it off.


It’s more accurate to say that べ is okurigana*: kana that you’ll see after (and sometimes before) kanji that can help you disambiguate the meaning and reading. So when you see べ right after 夕, that’s your cue to think, 夕べ/ゆうべ!

But there is one thing you’ll want to know sooner or later: some words have multiple representations in kanji. This particular word can also appear as 昨夜, but it means the same.

  • EDIT: I’m not sure this one actually is okurigana, at least in the sense of kana that exist adjacent to kanji for conjugations or grammar—in fact, I doubt it. But when you see that word in the wild, that’s the most expedient way to frame it in your mind.

The proper name for this, kana following kanji is okurigana. They usually make or break the word, and can at times completely flip the meaning, if they change to something different. 夕 is special, because technically it’s a word with or without the okurigana, and both mean the same thing, but you won’t actually see 夕 on its own much.

There’s only one other case, when something similar happens. In that case, WK will describe the phenomenon as “tucking in the kana” into the word. It refers to cases, when you can either have the okurigana after a word, or don’t, but you pronounce them the same either way. 入口 is a word like this, it’s either 入口 or 入り口, both pronounced as いりぐち

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昨夜 more often than not refers to the previous evening, while 夕べ is this evening most commonly, at least as far as I know.

Okurigana doesn’t have to accompany verbs or exist as conjugation. It can just be kana that sits next to a kanji, but still making up one word

The “last night” meaning and “evening in general” meaning both exist for 夕べ and context would make it clear. Searching on twitter, I see both meanings being used.


Thank you both very much.

I’m not saying it isn’t, it’s more common to use 昨夜 for the last evening aspect, at least in my experience. Very much not an expert.

I see what you’re saying. In my head I read what you were saying as さくや vs. ゆうべ, but obviously looking back it was ゆうべ vs. ゆうべ with both ways of writing.

I feel like writers who want to be sure people will read 昨夜 as ゆうべ would probably put furigana in practice.


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