Mnemonics for vocabulary items that are -ず forms of previous items

TL;DR: Word explanation wrong. Add infobox explaining grammar?


Recently, I got the word 思わず among my vocabulary items, which was great because it seems like a useful word and I didn’t already know it.

However, the mnemonic for the meaning took me aback a bit:

思わず (おもわず)

Reflexively, Spontaneously, Involuntarily, Instinctively

This is the adverb version of the kanji think. You can’t help but think, you do it unintentionally. So put this in front of things to say that you did them involuntarily.

I know that WaniKani mnemonics are just memory devices, and don’t often reflect the real etymology of a word; we see it all the time with words that are passive or causative forms of other words.
However, this one was striking to me because it is pretty much the exact opposite of how this word is derived: 思わず is the -ず form of 思う, and thus means something like “without thinking”.

Furthermore, the -ず form is used without explanation in a later word, 恥知らず, saying that “If you 知らず then you don’t know something”. It’s a Level 37 word, though, so I guess most people have picked up a fair amount of grammar by that point.

I don’t think that the mnemonic should be changed, because I know WaniKani is meant to be accessible even for people who don’t know much grammar. However, I do think it’s a bit of a miss opportunity to expose people to a useful grammatical concept.

Some words have text boxes with hints in them. I’m wondering if maybe something similar can be done here; see the mock-up below.

What do you think? Would something like this be helpful, or would it just create confusion for the sake of mollifying etymological extremists?

If it is useful, one could consider making similar changes to 相変わらず and 取り敢えず, although the explanations are a bit more complicated.
必ず is also derived from a ず-form verb (かりなざる), but since it’s no longer pronounced or spelled that way, that might not be very useful.

[I realize that suggestions for mnemonics normally go to, but I figured it was worth seeing what other people thought about this, first.]


This is why knowing grammar is helpful. Much confusion around things like 思わず, 大きさ, etc. are easily solved with some grammar knowledge.


Indeed. It was a it of a revelation for me when I started realizing that so many kun’yomi-reading can be analyzed with fairly little knowledge of Japanese grammar and history. A simple thing like knowing about the ren’yōkei form unlocks the history of words like 氷、秤 and 鋏, and allows you to make educated guesses about words with less obvious origins, such as 薬、鎖 and 鏡.

Then, once you know about causatives (like お知らせ), passives (like 呼ばれる) and the like, a lot of things start popping into place. Granted, since those words often have furigana, it doesn’t help you much with the SRS, but it does give you a deeper appreciation for the words.

It’s not as obvious as many on’yomi compounds, but it’s still really neat; I get a little rush of dopeamine for even the most basic of realizations.

That being said, WaniKani’s approach is to be quick and accessible, and I don’t really disagree with that.

The question, then, is:

Can WaniKani help people achieve these little epiphanies without getting bogged down in details, possibly intimidating new learners?
Or is it better to just let people study these things on their own?


I feel like it’s worth mentioning somewhere, because questions about things like this (including transitive/intransitive verbs) do come up fairly often.


I know some Memrise courses have video lessons going over background info in-between lessons.

Perhaps WaniKani could benefit from something like that; completely optional, but some recommended viewing that they can refer back to in mnemonics.

“No idea what we’re on about? Check out our video the -ず form! (Watch later)”

They could also just link to external resources. I think something built-in would make it more likely that people actually watch them, but I think their grammar resource resources are probably focused on articles and EtoEto.


I was thinking about something similar the other day as well. I have a suggestion that the mnemonics (or the additional info box you refer to) should mention some of the really basic transitivity/in-transitivity patterns.

止める (to stop something - transitive - ME)
止まる (to (be) stopped - intransitive - MA)
決める (to decide something - transitive - ME)
決まる (to be decided - intransitive - MA)
上げる (to raise something - transitive - GE)
上がる (to rise - intransitive - GA)

The examples are plenty and this is a much recurring conjugation pattern that might be worth mentioning somewhere.Knowing that 決まるis the intransitive verb pair for 決めるis probably gonna stick better compared to knowing that it was my MA who decided :sweat_smile:

Aside: apparently these transitive/intransitive verb pairs are linked to suru and aru. Check it out here


:rofl: Nice

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In the specific case of transitive and intransitive verbs (or verb pairs corresponding to ergative verbs in English), Tofugu even has a really good article on the subject, as well as an accompanying podcast episode.

Very interesting article; bookmarked for later :slight_smile:

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Ooo, ooo, and also, some needs to be locked in a room until they work out the difference between 続く and 続ける, which WaniKani literally describes as “Unfortunately, there’s no good way to differentiate the two “continues” using just the meaning”. Uh, yes there is: one of them is transitive and the other is intransitive. You haven’t had any noticeable issue with transitivity up to now, WaniKani, so why’s this pair confusing you so much?


Yeah; I can see why they wouldn’t want to use that as the main mnemonic (because even though u-eru is one of the more common patterns, transitivity pairs are quite irregular), and there’s a lot to unpack there, but pretending it doesn’t exist is a bit weird.

A neat feature might be if certain vocabulary items unlocked (or just highlighted) extra materials in a “Further reading” section, which in turn linked back to related items.
For example, you’d have one on the -ず form, one on transitivity pairs, one on lexicalized ます-stems…

Like, “Hey, you don’t need to pause the lesson and read up on this right now, but it’ll be there when you have time for it.”

This is probably a pretty tall order that would require a lot of time from both programmers and content creators … but it would be neat.

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I feel like it’s intentional that they let people notice these thing on their own, then hopefully confirm it later. I just ran into a meaning explanation (level 30+) that said something like when you see a ~れる verb, have you noticed that it’s almost always intransitive? And I thought, yeah, I have noticed that. Same with getting the hang of when you can expect rendaku, on vs. kun readings, I’m sure there are others. The discovery and getting it by ‘feel’ can be more powerful than just being told.

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