How to know which readings for Kanji

Hey All,

This might be a stupid question but I was thinking… how do you determine which reading to use for a kanji? For instance kanji with multiple kunyomi readings

Example: 出
出口: でぐち
出る: でる
出す: だす

Just as an example but when coming across kanji like this when you’re reading How would you be able to tell which reading is right?

I hope I’m making sense

Here ya go. Take a look at this. :point_down:

TL;DR The very broad answer is if it has two kanji it uses on’yomi readings. If it’s one kanji by itself or with some extra kana on the end it uses kun’yomi.
If it has multiple readings like 出る/出す you really just have to remember the difference. I’m sure many people will come in with more advanced technical answers for you. Good luck!


Just to clarify, those are guidelines, not hard rules. There are plenty of exceptions, including 出口 in the OP’s original example.

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@Weirdmind @seanblue I’m pretty sure the OP is asking how to differentiate between readings in the same category, not how to differentiate between categories.

Unfortunately, even if you can recognize which category of reading to choose from, you just have to remember which of the possible readings is the correct one to use.

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I understand that. I just wanted to clarify in case @Weirdmind’s statement caused any confusion.

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You’ll just learn. It’s like the knowing the difference between live (to live) vs live (live event).
I’m not that much farther along in levels than you but I’ve relinquished all doubt in the learning algorithm. You’ll pick it up in rapidly and you’ll just know.

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What’s more tricky than these examples is when you start to get ones that have exactly the same orthography but the reading is different based on the context.

Like 開く (あく) and 開く (ひらく), or 被る (かぶる) and 被る (こうむる), or 避ける (よける) and 避ける (さける).


Knowing your vocabulary first is the only way.

Lets think of it this way. When Japanese people are born, from birth they are learning the language, how to listen and how to speak. They pick it up. By the time they reach school and actually start to learn how to read and write Kanji their vocabulary is quite large. This is the advantage that they have.

The same applies to us. Learinng Kanji first off is not a good idea unless you are complementing it with other lessons to enforce that learning.

The only way to differentiate is to know what the word is. You have an example above and all of those are relatively easy vocabulary words. Seeing the Kanji and knowing what the Kanji means and knowing your vocabulary will instantly trigger in your brain what the reading is meant to be.


Oh! This is what I’m afraid of lol. But you and @Sutho81are right. I guess I just have to know them and be exposed to them more in context to be able to differentiate

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