Please help me understand 三人

Firstly, hello! I am very new to WaniKani and the forums (if this is the wrong category please let me know!!) It is nice to meet you all.
I am having difficulty in understanding the “jukugo” 三人 (three people). As I understand it, because it is a jukugo, it should be pronounced as “sanjin”, as these are the on’yomi readings of each kanji (please forgive me if this is wrong, I have only been learning a few days). Yet I am told it should be read and pronounced as “sannin”? Is this due to me being silly and misunderstanding how on’yomi works, is it me misreading kanji, is it an exception, etc.?
Any help would be very appreciated. Thank you!

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If you check the page for 人, you’ll find that it actually has two on’yomi readings. One is じん (as you expected) and the other is にん (which is used in this word).

Both readings are equally common and as far as I know there’s no trick to determining which one to use, so unfortunately there’s nothing for it but to memorize the words. Fortunately WaniKani will always mention when a word uses an exceptional kanji reading, so if you come across one that you don’t know, check the kanji page to see if it’s mentioned there!

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Thank you very much! Sounds like the challenge of learning each on’yomi reading on a word-by-word basis will be equal parts hellish as it is fun!

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An excellent summation of learning the Japanese language. :ok_hand:

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I have a slightly different take on this reading.

You may have heard that in Japanese when counting objects, you use a special ‘counter’ word depending on the type of object. にん is the counter word for people. Three people, four people, how many people all use にん. Unfortunately to make it harder, there is a special counter word for one person and two people.

Equally confusing, にん is sometimes used as the reading for this kanji even when you are not counting people. I don’t have an explanation for that and it could be that I’m wrong about にん being a counter word. If anyone with more knowledge than me has an explanation for this I’d be happy to be corrected.

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I’d also like to say that 人 is a counter, counters often change based on the number before it. For example a f sound after 3 will become a p sound. In this case the counter 人 almost always ends with nin instead of jin, as nin is often used with number related concepts. The only exceptions are 1人 and 2人 (hitori and futari)

here’s an article on it: https://www.tofugu.com/japanese/japanese-counters-guide/

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just think of the sannin from naruto

wait don’t that’s 三忍

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Welcome to the forums!
I don’t have much to add to what the others wrote about 「三人」 and 「~人」 that has already been identified as a counter for people (counters are words you use to count a specific set of things: long things, flat things, people etc). You’ll learn it in lv 3: ~人

Just wanted to add that it’s not such an uncommon thing. The more a word is common and the more readings it has (on’yomi and kun’yomi). You’ll learn others in the next levels. I’ve heard people here say that the first kanji are also the most hellish, because of the many readings…

がんばれ!

Small Advice

If you hear Japanese (tv, anime, people around…) readings become much easier, so if you don’t already, try to see something you like in Japanese.

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Welcome to WaniKani :blush:

I’m not sure what the mnemonics are like for those words nowadays, but if you’re struggling to differentiate then I’d recommend associating the different readings with different concepts. You can just remember it’s にん for counting after two, but for everything else I like to imagine either a ninja (にん) or a djinn (じん) involved in the mnemonic.

I know some people use things like Nintendo or jeans - whatever works for you.

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I gave にん an arbitrary plural meaning, and じん the meaning of a singular person. This way I can more easily memorize the readings. Only gotta keep in mind that this is not actually true, and both にん and じん can be used to describe one or several people.

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There are multiple on yomi and kin yomis so, yea Japanese goes a lot deeper for example 人々 you will see it soon on WaniKani and it is pronounced Hitobito just because they think it sounds better also sometimes ん Is pronounced m for example 日本橋 if you were ever in Tokyo and wondering why they pronounce it like nihombashi it’s the same thing, I’ve heard that they do it because of the vocals before so it is more different but I don’t get it at all, but for the 人 Problem Jin is used for country’s Hito just for the single kanji and nin to count people except for 一人、二人 there it is pronounced ri

If you ask Japanese people, they will tell you that there is no difference between the 日本 in 日本橋 and regular 日本.

The difference is just a matter of romanization. They write it with an “m” on signs because to a non-Japanese ear, it feels more appropriate for “m” to precede a b, p, or m sound than an “n” does. At least, that’s the explanation you will hear. A “b” sound, as in “bashi,” begins with your lips closed, as in an “m” sound, where as an “n” sound leaves your lips open. If you use the romanization system that WaniKani uses, for instance, you’ll never be putting an “m” where a ん is.

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じん and にん differ, in that じん is not a counter. it’s an attribute for people that roughly means “belongs to”.
this wouldn’t be fun though without words like 暇人 or 恋人, which seemingly break the rule - only that there is none. it’s a rough guideline.

“people words” are so common though, you’ll see them a lot, so you’ll end up remembering them eventually.

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Yah that’s what i meant, thanks

I mean, it’s kinda because it does sound like an m, even though it’s the same kana, isn’t it?
There’s totally a difference in how it sounds in words like “senpai” where I definitely see it more “m” than in 本

Would they really say there’s no difference? like in the actual sound? Cause obviously there’s no difference in the kana, but it really is interesting that they would consider it the same sound

I just watched a show the other day where they were talking about the signs’ romaji and asking the Japanese celebrities if they knew why there was a difference. At first they seemed to have no idea. It took some coaxing to lead them to the “next syllable starts with m, b, or p” explanation. I think the faster you’re speaking the more likely that next syllable’s closed-mouth shape is to bleed into the ん sound, but I don’t think it’s inevitable that it will.

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No, you’re right. It’s a counter word (助数詞/じょすうし), and the convenient thing is that it is always にん in that use, with two exceptions, so you never have to worry about a potential じん reading as you do in other compounds.

The confusing thing is that numers under 10 in this case can also form 大和言葉 (やまとことば)(Japanese-“original” words, as opposed to ones based on readings from China and other regions) compounds, though luckily for us learners, the only ones still in use are the readings for 一人 (ひとり) and 二人(ふたり). (Incidentally, numbers over 10 can also be counted using 大和言葉, but it’d be the equivalent of using Old English. Occassional 10+ 大和言葉-based readings do still rear their heads in a few in-use counters though, ex. 10日, 20日, and 二十歳.)

As for why the 大和言葉 readings are still in use for 一人 and 二人, I have no idea, except a guess that it’s just because “いちにん” and "ににん” don’t roll off the tongue as well. But those readings are used in longer compounds like 一人称 (いちにんしょう)and 二人称(ににんしょう), for first- and second-person perspective.

Welcome to Japanese. Languages are weird.

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I think 一人 and 二人 are special in many languages due to the nature of human relationships.

Even in English, in some situations we might say “I’m alone” (for 一人) or “we’re a couple” (for 二人) but then switch to “there’s three of us” (for 三人, and above). So the sequence becomes “alone, couple, three, four, five, …”.

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Okay, but “trio.”

(Not saying the different emotional affect with those two numbers isn’t part of it. That’s a good observation.)

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Around here at least, I never hear people use “trio” – except for Jazz musicians. :smile:

My golfer buddies form a “threesome” when they’re one short, but usually that word means something quite different? :innocent:

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