How best deal with duplicates?

I am on level 8 and I am starting to get duplicates. For 思う and 考える Wanikani explains what the difference is, but for a lot of others it doesn’t.

For example: 林 and 森 both get the primary meaning “forest”, but 森 is actually much larger and denser than a forest (hence, the extra tree). I always learned 林 means “woods” because the woods are often a bit smaller and less dense, but in the vocabulary only 森 gets a secondary meaning “woods” which makes it extremely confusing for me.

A second example: 者 gets “someone” and 身 gets “somebody” as primary meaning, while in fact the words “someone” and “somebody” are exact synonyms in English (I think). After some research I found that 身 refers to the physical body and 者 to a person. Maybe that’s why they chose somebody instead of someone for 身… But to make it extra confusing, both kanji also accept the each other’s other meanings as well.

Another double: 理 and 由 both get the meaning “reason” and the voc word 理由 also means reason. Again after research I found that 理 means “reason” as in “logic” and 由 means reason as in “something that causes something” so 理由 is the logical consequence of something that causes something… Why not use a different word for both kanji like 考 and 思 ?

And lastly, something that made me curse over and over… 代わり and 代用. Both mean “substitution”, but for 代わり you can use “replacement” but for 代用 “replacement” is marked as incorrect. This confuses me to no end.

Why am I telling this? Because this throws me off a lot and makes me make a lot of errors, even though I have the feeling I understand the meaning of it.

What is the best way to deal with these things?


To be honest, in my opinion the best way to deal with these things is to ignore them, and add synonyms for similar meanings in english.

The differences you describe are all differences in usage in Japanese. If you understand the general meaning of the word, you will be able to understand the Japanese input you encounter.

If you want to create understandable output, you have to be exposed to nuanced input a lot and make a lot of mistakes, and gradually learn the usage, and you won’t do that by memorizing flash cards on wanikani, you will do that by immersion and interaction.


Learn how they’re used contextually. もうちゃんと考えたら、もうすぐに分かると思う。

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I tend to google them, and see if there’s a “hinative” thread regarding those words. In those threads, they usually explain the differences.
I then add user synonyms to represent the differences.

I didn’t do it for the early parts, but recently, I’ve been doing it for stuff like 資金 / 資本, which both mean “funds” and “capital”, but I found out that 資本 is the funds required for initial launch, and 資金 is the funds required for daily operations. So I added “daily required funds” to 資金, and “initial funds” to 資本.


The context sentences provided usually are great for this, they are meant to show the context of the word after all. If there aren’t enough of them, or you need more, you can check an example sentence database. For example Jotoba has one that works well. However this is more or an item by item thingy and less pair differentiation.

A more permanent solution would be pinging the WaniKani team to sort out their use of synonyms. That would help everyone.

For your personal case I would recommend researching the kanji and/or vocab and adding synonyms which work for you specifically.


Thank you so much everyone for your input!

And it seems by making a post about it, I kind of better remember the ones I had issues with too! :slight_smile:

I am not a native English speaker either so sometimes I have to look up the English words too lol.