How do you tell the difference between a kana like ェ and its kanji meaning of construction?

I’ve only recently started learning Kanji, but I do have katakana and hiragana down pat. I might be asking a question easily answered later on, but then again maybe not. Would anyone be willing to explain? (I haven’t touched grammar yet, I am still learning my first 30-ish kanji)


Context. For instance, 工 can appear as a word alone, with the reading of たくみ, and actually the meaning of craftsman or something like that. But that is an advanced reading that isn’t even taught in school in Japan, and so if someone used it they’d probably put furigana on it.

If it has other kanji, like 工学, then you know it’s that particular compound.

If エ, the katakana, appears in something, it’s probably going to have other katakana around it, as part of a complete word, and then it’ll be obvious that it’s え and not たくみ.

EDIT: Just as a side note, the katakana エ and the kanji 工 are not actually related directly, even though they share the same shape. The エ katakana came from a simplification of the kanji 江, which is the first kanji in 江戸 (えど, the old name for Tokyo) so that’s why katakana え is エ. All the hiragana and katakana are simplifications of kanji.

工, the kanji element, appears in 江 as a phonetic element… in other words, the onyomi reading for 江 is こう, same as the kanji 工.


タ and 夕 get me sometimes when I’m reading quickly.


Ah thank you, this goes way beyond what I needed, this is extremely useful. Thanks a bunch!


Haha, that’s another one where the connection is indirect. The kanji element 夕 appears twice in the kanji 多, and that’s the kanji that was simplified for its reading to make the katakana タ.

Here’s the full set of katakana and which kanji they were adapted from

And hiragana for good measure


fascinating! Some are way more obvious than others


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