The quick or short Language Questions Thread (not grammar)

QQ: Is there a pattern for when 人 is read as じん as opposed to にん?
This is starting to cost me a lot of time on my reviews and I can’t seem to recall learning about a pattern for this. Thanks in advance for the help.


Yup, there is a general guideline!

When referring to people (usually ending in 人), じん describes people themselves, such as race, build, and personality. にん, on the other hand, describes “people things,” such as occupations, lifestyles, and roles.

A 日本人 is someone who is Japanese by blood, and a 変人 is someone whose very nature is strange.

A 役人 is a public officer, someone who works for the community (but could easily quit), and a 証人 only maintains such as status until the crime they witnessed is solved and the trial complete.

Other uses don’t correlate exactly, but similarly.

じん refers to the conceptual side of humanity, while にん refers to the more physical part.

In general though, じん is more common, as other kanji serve to mirror but more closely represent the side of “person” that にん illustrates (者 and 手, for example), so, if you were to assume a reading, it’s safer to assume じん while simply remembering when it is にん.

For a question of my own!

In the game I’m playing, I ran across a color jukugo. The font makes the kanji unclear. From what I see, the left side is 食 and the right side is either 台 or 合 (the right side looks like an even triangle). It is in a compound of X色, leading me to believe it’s 飴色, and Google searches prove that the usually slightly different 食 radical can appear normal in some fonts. The right side, however, throws me off.

As a note, this color is describing an unstated alcoholic beverage of citrus influence.

To clarify my current thoughts in short terms:
[食台]色 = 飴色 (font has a standard 食 and right side is a closed triangle).
[食合]色 = ??? (looks the closest but current research has yielded no matching kanji).

Am I insane, blind, or think my guess of 飴色 is on-spot?


And which one do 人形 and 人参 fall under? I really think this is a fake explanation that people like to shoehorn into needing a “real” answer, when the answer is “just memorize” them.

飴色 sounds closest to me, it also makes sense for that description.

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The above explanation (right or wrong) generally says to only look at words ending in 人, so that’s not a valid counterpoint (even if this time it wasn’t mentioned).


It’s not hard to find ones that, at least the way I understand the explanation, don’t seem to fit.

詩人 - poet
本人 - the person himself
新人 - newcomer
軍人 - soldier
芸能人 - person in the entertainment industry
隣人 - neighbor
囚人 - prisoner
悪人 - bad person

To me, each of those is the opposite reading from the one the guideline prescribes. I stopped looking after 3 pages of 人-ending words.

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If the “rule” only works for about 25% of the cases, what good is it?

I was just pointing out that your “counterexamples” weren’t counterexamples.

For the record, the only part of those “rules” that I’ve seen to work enough to be useful is occupations. Note that I’m not saying that にん implies occupation, but rather occupation implies にん the vast majority of the time.

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Those right-hand sides are both exactly the same.

I’m so confused… have you not found the kanji you’re looking for? What precisely is the issue here? Maybe give us a picture of the word in question? Yes, sometimes 食 looks different when it’s being a radical.

I actually use that “rule” to build mnemonics.
Ex: you’re an 悪人 now, but I will change your way. → can change, reading is にん
Being a 詩人 comes from your very nature, they can beat you up, they can lock you up, but poetry will always be inside your heart. → cannot change, reading is じん

That was actually useful, so far, but I wouldn’t call it a rule indeed.
By the way, a rule that is correct 25% of the time is good (if there’s only two choices): reverse it, and you’re right 75% of the time.


Perhaps this is a silly question, but is there a trick to typing Japanese names that use unusual kanji?
I know that most Japanese keyboards suggest the most common variations of the most common names, but if it’s a special case just typing in the pronunciation doesn’t seem to work at all (assuming I want to use the correct kanji instead of kana or romaji and can’t just highlight and copy it).

So far, I’ve usually ended up searching for the correct kanji in a dictionary and copy&pasted it but that’s so…inefficient… Is there something I’m missing or is this just how it is?

What about typing other readings for the kanji? My girlfriend’s name is somewhat uncommon, so she often has to enter the onyomi to get the first character to appear. Then you can assign the reading you want to that combo in the IME settings.


Yeah that would work, assuming I know the other readings.
So I guess researching/looking them up is the only option until I know most readings by heart, huh? I was hoping there is a shortcut, but that’s fine haha

Yeah, I suppose that makes a difference. She can describe her kanji to any Japanese person easily even though it’s a Kanken level 1 kanji, because they all know the basic radicals and onyomi. You’ll notice that you can start to guess the onyomi for kanji you haven’t learned yet over time, because certain elements within kanji are used for their pronunciation rather than their meaning.

Like how all of these have the onyomi of そ



Ah okay, I see! Right, I think I’ve read about that a while ago. Thanks for bringing it up! It’s a lot easier to remember a pattern and its exceptions than remembering them individually; I’ll pay more attention to those.
But I guess that answers my question. Thanks for the quick reply!

If you want a constant reminder to pay attention to these patterns, install this script.


I adore that script. I had started noticing these patterns before but it really helps to have it all laid out. So much less work learning new readings now

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Oh that’s awesome! Thanks a lot! : D

Sometimes I’ll type a two-kanji vocabulary word to get the correct kanji to appear. That works too.

Like if I want the じん in 人参 (ninjin) I can type “ninjin” and delete 人, but I can’t type “jin” and get 参 because it’s not common enough.

A doll has the physical attributes of a human, thus using にん.

人参 comes from the Chinese for ginseng, referencing how the forked shape of the roots looks like the legs of a human, thus using にん because of the meaning despite the Chinese pronunciation itself leaning towards じんしん(or じんじん, I suppose).

The very first phrase of the part of my post you quoted indicates I was referring to words that END in 人 and/or refer to people. 人形 and 人参 do neither.

Reasoning in bold. Maybe I should reconsider the exact words I used to define them. じん assumes little to no ability to alter the circumstances, while にん change is likely or possible. That any better?

My bad. I made some re-ordering edits when I wrote that, and forgot to change that to ???. 'Twas quite early in the morning (late at night). Fixed now.

I myself never used “rule,” but guideline. If I must provide a definition to clarify my intention: " information intended to advise people on how something should be done or what something should be" from Cambridge. I’m also curious about where you reach 25%, as almost every WK usage of 人 applies. Even assuming my justifications for every example @Leebo provided are rebutted, that is still over 50%.

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There’s more than two choices though, in this case.