On'yomi - kun'yomi

Is there a good trick to see when to use the kunyomi reading or onyomi reading in a word.

There is no 100% rule, but usually when it’s combined with okurigana, then it’s kunyomi. When it’s in a jukugo, it’s onyomi.

Unfortunately, there are also words like 方々 that could be read かたがた to mean “they” or ほうぼう to mean “here and there”.

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Ironically, that one is a 100% rule - pretty much the only one that exists in Japanese: kanji with okurigana is always kun’yomi, without fail. The trick is that variants of する like to pretend to be okurigana - for example じる in 感じる or す in 略す - but those aren’t okurigana but rather the する verb. In those cases, you use on’yomi.


So I’m just gona quess, but okurigana is kanji with hiragana and jukugo is pure kanji.

Well… I mean, what do you call something like this?


そう is an onyomi, and しい is okurigana

And the other stuff seems a bit hand-wavy. Like, in 略す, the す is etymologically related to する, but it’s still okurigana.


Hush, you. Is it too much to ask that there’s one rule I can actually rely on in Japanese? :stuck_out_tongue:


More precisely, okurigana is the hiragana with kanji.

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Leebo must crush any dreams of 100% rules in Japanese! :joy::sweat_smile:

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That’s what I said right?

You said it’s ‘kanji with hiragana’. But to be exact, okurigana refers only to the kana suffix attached to the kanji stem. You were not radically wrong and it is a subtle difference.


Ofcourse :sweat_smile:

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I don’t really have anything to contribute to the thread, but I just wanted to put this down to I guess sort of formalise that on’yomi and kun’yomi as something I definitely need to improve my knowledge in. I have a vague idea of when one should be used instead of another, and sometimes make guesses as to how new vocabulary will be read before I see it, but in practice I don’t pay enough attention to them as I should. I sort of just gloss over which one I learn first, knowing I’ll learn the other at some point, and then just sort of stitch together how vocabulary is read on a case-by-case basis. It’s something I’d need to just sit down and do on a quiet weekend or a few, probably write/edit mnemonics as necessary, but I really do want to get a better sense of when the on’yomi is used and when the kun’yomi is used, as it makes sense to essentially have far fewer rules. I do also want to go through my learned items and add user synonyms that I reckon I desperately need, so it’ll be useful in that sense as well.

Fake edit: My current plan is to use “on” somewhere for on’yomi and “cunning” for kun’yomi. This is open to change as necessary, but I just kind of like using the word “cunning” right now. ^^

Recently I asked an elementary school teacher when kids learn about onyomi and kunyomi. You might think that because they start learning kanji in 1st grade, that’d it’d be then, but they just learn all the readings with no distinction until 4th grade.

4th graders know an awful lot of words, so natives go pretty far in their language development before thinking about this at all.

Unless they’re overachievers and are trying to take higher Kanken levels.


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