Numbers — the rules and exceptions

Hello! I’m having some issues understanding the rules/readings of Japanese numbers and have some questions if you’d be so kind. :slight_smile:

Today I entered my reviewing session and was prompted with 七. Wanikani teaches us the On’yomi reading is シチ. It had been stressed that this sounds like ‘death’, so instead we should read as なな (Kun’yomi). This has led to some confusion as I was marked correct for using シチ. Is this an oversight with the review system?

Additionally, I was hoping for some clarification with the number eight. If eight things is 八つ and we’re taught the Kun’yomi for 八 is やっつ, would that not mean eight things should be yattsutsu?

Apologies if these questions sound dim-witted. I tried to search for related questions and used Jisho to find the correct readings but it seems it’s a subtle difference that I cannot grasp alone.


1 Like

七 is a bit of a weird one in that its readings are fairly interchangeable, though there are some specific examples in which one or the other is expected (for example, when reading out phone numbers, you always use なな to avoid confusion). WakiKani always expects only one of the readings, though.

The kun’yomi for 八 is や.

Actually the way eight things is written then the pronounciation is yattsu. The little っ doubles the first letter of the next sound.

Can someone else please say if I am correct since I am only level four ^^

1 Like

八つ is not やつつ but やっつ. Often times, the kunyomi readings in wanikani will leave out the okurigana, which is the hiragana attached to a kunyomi word. For example, the kunyomi of 泳 is taught as およ though the kanji is only read that way when it is as 泳ぐ or 泳ぎ.

What you said is correct, though your understanding of fishdish’s post is a little off - he was under the impression that やっつ in its entirety was the kun’yomi, so 八つ would thus be たっつ+つ, or やっつつ. :slightly_smiling_face: The kun’yomi is just the や, though.

Are you thinking of 四 and し?

In any case, しち and なな are both acceptable readings for 七, so I don’t know why you’re surprised they’re both accepted.

1 Like

Ah yes. I misread. Thanks.

@Leebo It’s because of the description from the 七 vocab page

Most single-kanji all-alone vocab words like this use the kun’yomi reading. Numbers are an exception to this rule. That being said, four and seven are exceptions to this exception to the rule (because the on’yomi readings sound too much like the word for “death”). You should learn both readings for this word, though we’re going to go with なな for the main one here. You can remember that because you had seven nanas after you.

@fishdish なな and しち are both accepted because they are both valid readings for the word, even if WaniKani says なな is the main one.

1 Like

Thank you @seanblue. I was just writing the same thing.

I found the vocabulary explanation contradicting so I’m appreciative of you clarifying it. :slight_smile:

I took their exception to using シチ to be a hard rule, as in don’t use this reading as it sounds like death. From the replies I’m understanding that it’s more of a guideline and specific to how it is used.

I hear people count with し and しち plenty. And lots of words require those readings and just don’t appear with よん or なな, like the months.

I did in fact write やっつ in the original post and not やつつ.

I think perhaps the reading on the vocabulary page for 八つ is tricking me! It states:

[…] be sure not to be confused by this particular reading mnemonic. It includes the つ, even though the つ is outside the reading you need to learn (just makes things easier for you overall). Since you can see the つ outside, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you.

They are stating the reading (やっつ) with つ is only included to help you. Wouldn’t that mean their explanation is that the reading is in fact solely や?

Obviously this would be incorrect, but I think this is just an odd explanation.

Thanks for the information regarding okurigana. :slight_smile:

The reading is only や. But they used the word “yachts” as the mnemonic even though that’s more than just “ya”.

Is the reading not yattsu (やっつ)? Remember this reading is on the vocabulary page for 八つ and not just 八.

Reading mnemonic for 八つ is eight yachts. Perfect. Then stating the つ in the reading is only there to help you implies the reading is just や (as you’ve confirmed).

Crossed wires maybe? :blush:

The reading for the kanji within that vocabulary word is や or やっ. The つ you see after the kanji is okurigana, and is not considered part of the kanji’s reading. Generally speaking they don’t give you the okurigana as part of the reading mnemonic.

Here’s another early word with okurigana, 正す (ただす)

The reading mnemonic is “tada” because the “su” is okurigana and not part of the reading of the kanji.

Maybe it’s just confusing what is considered a “reading” and what isn’t.


Very much appreciate all your time and explanations @Leebo.

I think their explanation of what is and isn’t a reading has just led to more misunderstandings for me. The example of 正す is definitely helping!

Slightly off-topic. With just the Kanji, would you expect both はち and や would be marked correctly as readings for 八? (Similar to how しち and なな are both marked correct).

For the kanji 八, はち is accepted and it will shake if you enter や, because they taught you the onyomi and want to see that before it leaves the review queue.

For the vocab 八, it’s going to mark you wrong if you put や, because that seems to be an exceedingly rare reading for the standalone number. A native I asked said that や would definitely sound wrong if used in just normal counting.

1 Like

I know they use the colours and titles when they teach you, but what is the difference (other than preferred reading) of the Kanji to the vocab?

Are they simply using the standalone vocab of 八 to express that it would be read differently when used solo?

Well, the words are what actually appear in written Japanese. They tend to have just one pronunciation (though of course there are exceptions to that as well). Kanji are what make up words, and they have many readings. So while はち and や or やっ are all equally correct as readings for 八, if you see 八 standing alone in a sentence in Japanese, it is almost always going to be はち.

Not every kanji can appear as a standalone word, so they do need to go out of their way to teach you the vocab that are standalone kanji, and how they’re pronounced, because it’s not always with the kunyomi (another commonly bandied about rule-of-thumb).



I don’t know what to mark as a solution as there has been so many questions/answers, but thank you so much for all the help.

You’re a good person/teacher. Have a nice day. :smile:

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