Kun- and on- yomi

I noticed that a big part of my wrong inputs are due to confusing kunyomi and onyomi.
So far i only remember the order in which I learned the readings and each vocab word requires relearning the kanji’s reading.

Do you have a trick, how to better remember which reading is kunyomi and which is onyomi?
If there is a “feeling” for this, at which level could I expect to get that feeling? ^^

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There is a “feeling” for it, but it won’t come at a specific level. It will just come little by little over time.

There are some tricks you could try to use, but then others will come in here and tell you they are useless… I’m sure someone will post it for you though (I don’t have time to write up an explanation right now).


Like @seanblue said, you’ll get a feeling for it, more or less.

What I’m doing is using a couple of userscripts to better see the difference between them (at least for kanji reviews):


I hope this helps:

Two rules of thumb for it almost certainly being kun:

  1. If it’s 3 or more morae (“syllables”), it’s kun. 美しい => うつく

  2. If it’s 2 morae and the second isn’t つ、ち、く、き、ん then it’s kun. 人 => ひと=> kun.

BUT the above don’t apply, it could be either. 立 has two main readings which have two morae and DO end in つ: リツ (on) or たつ (kun). You just have to learn until that intuition kicks in.

Short explanation:

Onyomi is derived from Chinese readings borrowed at different points in history.

Chinese and Japanese native sounds don’t map perfectly - in particular, Japanese morae always end with a vowel (ん takes up a separate beat).

Chinese Hanzi only ever have one syllable - but they do end in -ng and used to end in k, t, p and m as well (in the Cantonese dialect, still do). So as Japanese morae can’t end with k or t, an extra morae of き、く、ち、つ would be added. 国 => コク because the pronunciation of the Hanzi, when the kanji was borrowed, was “kwok”.


Out of all the kanji I know so far, might be the most annoying to remember which reading is 音読み(おんよみ) or 訓読み(くんよみ) (じょう・ば). Those rules don’t help, it’s similar in sound and meaning to 所 (ところ・しょ), and a lot of its kanji compounds use the “wrong” reading… 場所(ばしょ), 場面(ばめん), etc.

Thanks for the help!
I already use katakana madness…
Wanikani is similar in that regard to deviantart that one of the first things I do is install a lot of userscript :wink:
However, katakana madness still didn’t help me to better remember which readings are required for vocabulary. With WK Custom Review Question, this seems much easier.

The main problem might be, that I didn’t learn with an emphasis, if the reading is onyomi or kunyomi. Kanji always came first, so instead I learned the order in which I learned the redings and the first is always the correct answer for “kanji” questions. That probably comes to bite me at “vocab”-questions at the moment…
Hopefully I can relearn the readings fast with the “Custom Review Question” script when they come up as reviews again :wink:

Well, that depends on the vocabulary anyway ^^
But it helped me so far by remembering if the reading for the kanji was written in hiragana or katakana - and thus if it was on’yomi or kun’yomi. Which of those to use in vocab depends on the vocab of course - single kanji words usually use kun’yomi, words consisting of multiple kanji usually use on’yomi. That’s completely oversimplified, but it helps.

Yes, I’m always left guessing about this one as well. Not so much about which reading is kun or on, but about which to use in any given vocabulary item, because as you say, this one doesn’t seem to obey the normal rules.

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