Is there a way of predicting which reading will be used?

I’m not just talking about on’yomi vs kun’yomi but kanji with multiple readings for on’yomi an/or kun’yomi. For instance, 人 can be にん or じん and both are on’yomi. Is there a way of figuring out which is more likely to be used in a word?

I remember looking this up myself not long ago. From what I’ve read, there is no hard rule for reading of 人 when differentiating にん and じん. You’ll have to remember the reading for each vocab. The only difference is the ひと reading which is 1. never used to prefix the word, and 2. it is used to describe an actual person. For example, 村人 is read むらびと which means villager (or village person). There may be grey areas and it has been rendaku’d but the rule applies. But in regards to your actual question, you’ll have to learn the reading for the words (although my research could be completely wrong).

Which おんよみ should I use? 生 has more than 100 On’yomi.
By far I cry over those.

Well…You shouldn’t because usually its せい or しょう


This is 100 in binary, right? Because the correct answer is “three”. It has three on’yomi - せい, しょう and さん, but the さん reading is not used in a single word anywhere on Jisho, and it’s not a joyo reading.

Granted, it has fifteen kun’yomi (not all of them unique), and twenty-six nanori, but you don’t really do yourself any favours by exaggerating how difficult Japanese is. Don’t turn a molehill into a mountain, ya know?


James Craburn Leebo made a video about this

Apologies to Leebo. I don’t know how to earburn yet


Mostly you just have to learn them as you come across them, I think. At some point you’ll develop a sort of feel for the language and one way will ‘sound’ better to you than another.

My Japanese friend once told me that じん sounds more like it is a defining characteristic of a person, where にん is more general. There are many exceptions to this rule, but as a rule of thumb it kind of works.

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Oh and you definitely use にん for counting people. But I feel like this thread has focussed too much on 人, right? Your question seemed more general than that

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I saw it now in the dictionary. So most of those exceptions are in the kun’yomi part.
But it isn’t enough to change the fact that cries over

They’re not really exceptions… they’re just different words. 生 covers a very broad concept, so it can be applied to many words. However, the vast majority of what you’re talking about are extremely rare words that a non-native will likely never encounter.

The kunyomi readings you need to know are なま, う, and い. If you ever get to a point where you’re studying beyond that, you will be quite advanced and no longer think of this as an overwhelming problem.


Well, also は. The reading of 生える was literally question number 1 on my JLPT N3 exam, and I’d learnt it literally five minutes previously while playing 二ノ国 on my DS to unwind before the test. :slightly_smiling_face:

But yeah, aside from all the kun’yomi, there’s simply no need to look at the nanori readings at all. If you meet someone with one of those readings in their names, they’ll tell you, but otherwise you’ll basically never encounter them. Almost never.

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And it’s a level 5 WK vocab. So you learn it good and early!


One little thing I do and it works very well for me is picturing a woman whenever the reading for 人 is じん, and a man whenever it is にん. I do a similar thing for 日: a dark day whenever the reading is にち and a warmer weather for じつ.


This is a really good idea that I will definitely try to use.
I don’t normally write down any learning from Wanikani, but have made a vocab list of any
月 げつ or 日 じつ
Therefore if I am unsure, I can usually remember if it is on the list or not, if not, then it is the alternative reading of がつ or にち。

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