Importance of knowing which reading is which

I am new here and would like to know whether it is important to remember which reading is on’yomi and which is kun’yomi. These two categories are frequently referenced in the explanations and readings for kanji and vocabulary, so it would seem beneficial, although very time consuming to learn to recognize the type of reading for everything.

Much Love,

1 Like

It will just happen naturally over time, because certain types of readings are always kunyomi and certain types are always onyomi. So you will generally get a feel for it even if you don’t dedicate study time specifically to it. Of course, if you find it interesting then, by all means, add it to your check of the info pages.


Thank you very much. That puts me ease.

First of all, welcome to the forums!

I don’t think it’ll be as time-consuming as you expect, especially because after a while, you develop a sense of which readings are on’yomi and which are kun’yomi. I might be underestimating the difficulty of learning these things, however, because I’m a Chinese speaker as well. In any case, here are the most notable patterns, if you ask me:

  • With on’yomi, the number of morae per kanji is at most two. (Mora=one count/beat’s worth of sound, I guess? Like か or きゅ. You can just count the number of big/full-sized kana.)
  • On’yomi have a tendency to end with sharp consonant-like sounds, like く or つ. It’s also fairly common to find words ending in ん.

My personal opinion is that when you learn readings, you should make an effort to find out whether you’re looking at an on’yomi or kun’yomi. However, you don’t need to force yourself to remember that information: your awareness and intuition should grow with experience. Nonetheless, if you do decide to learn which is which, know that you’re not wasting your time either: on’yomi tend to be the go-to readings for kanji compounds (though this isn’t always the case, of course), meaning you’ll have an easier time guessing the right reading if you have to read a word in a pinch (or more typically, if you need to look a word up in the dictionary but don’t have handwriting input available). On’yomi also tend to stay the same across related kanji (those with the same meaning/pronunciation component), so it can be helpful in that sense as well. For kun’yomi… you may eventually notice that native Japanese words written using the same kanji often sound similar, though this phenomenon is less consistent than it is for on’yomi.

By the way, this isn’t meant as a criticism or anything like that, but a lot of people have been asking this very question lately. I think I’ve seen it at least thrice over the past month. You might want to try searching the forums to see what else people have said on the topic. Overall though, I’d say you don’t need to worry about memorising which is which.


Thank you for the in-depth reply. I have been trying to at least notice which type of reading I’m looking at -as you suggest - and I will keep your on’yomi ‘tells’ in mind. As for a thread about this topic existing, I apologise for not seeking it out. It didn’t even cross my mind to look for a search function for some reason.

1 Like

It’s OK, no need to apologise. Sometimes previous answers aren’t clear anyway. I recently asked a question that’s about 4 years old on another forum because I thought people might be able to give a better answer now than in the past. In any case, WK forums don’t seem to have an issue with duplicate threads, so really, don’t worry about it. Each discussion is unique. :grin: I meant that remark as a suggestion since you might find interesting information on those threads too!


This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.