On'yomi reading for 人

Hi, I am wondering if there is a way to tell which On’yomi reading kanji 人 has inside a word. I often make mistakes there not knowing if it’s じん or にん. So I’m wondering if there are some rules for that or I should just know it by heart?


When it’s a suffix, there are rules.

Attached to a place name to make a nationality / demonym - じん
Attached to a number to make a number of people - にん
Attached to an action to make a person who does that action - にん

The reading in any other situation (which is a lot of them) is based on when the word was borrowed from Chinese. にん is an older reading and じん is a newer reading.

Since that is an arbitrary cutoff, yes, in most cases you cannot predict which it will be.

Some people resolve this by incorporating “nin” or “jin” into the English mnemonics they make for the meaning of the words.


Thanks a lot :slight_smile:

This is a tip I missed from previous discussion of 人. A great one in fact. I’m gonna start doing that right now. So thanks for that! ^>^ Because as you say, it becomes arbitrary beyond the more common examples and thus very hard to recognize which reading it is. I’ve been struggling a bit there.

This Kanji is just getting more and more annoying.

So many words pop up and I keep messing them up. And I’m sure there are many more to come :sob:

I have seen somewhere that there are over 90 words using 人 in WK You will need lots of mnemonics.

I haven’t them, but here is a list of all vocab that uses 人. Of course, the best mnemonic is actually hearing them in context. Last night I was having a drink with some Japanese friends, and learned ぼんじん, a level 50+ word. I don’t think I’ll forget the reading anytime soon!


Yes, but several falls under the general rules Leebo mentioned, so, I’ll just make notes of the ones I feel are “surprising” in some way to me, to make sure the reading sticks. For the rest I’ll simply use intuition.


Out of curiosity I checked Jisho, and it lists 2517 words that contain 人 (of course with all sorts of readings). So yes, you’d need lots of mnemonics…

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詩人 is an exception. I only know this because I can’t seem to burn the bloody thing. :wink:

詩人 is just a normal compound, it’s not an action and suffix, so it is not technically an exception to that rule.

If it was like 作詩 (poetry composition, a word I just made up now) and then 作詩人, it would apply to the rule I was mentioning.

EDIT: 作詩 exists! 作詩人 doesn’t though, probably because it doesn’t need to.


Ah, my mistake. I guess that’s why it still hasn’t stuck yet. lol