Why does WaniKani require the to-infinitive form of verbs?

Japanese doesn’t have a to-infinitive or even really an infinitive form at all, which is why you won’t see Japanese-English dictionaries include “to” in their definitions. The closest thing to a to-infinitive in Japanese is 連用形 which isn’t a useful beginning for learners of Japanese.

Why does WaniKani force users to include “to” in these Japanese verbs that do not have a “to” in them at all?

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To make the part of speech clear

表す - to express
急行 - express

One’s a verb and one’s an adjective/noun. They want you to recognize the verbs are verbs.

This is in the FAQ btw

Why do I have to write “to” at the beginning of each verb?

WaniKani needs to know that you know that verbs are verbs. Hence, you will always put a “to” before a verb. Don’t forget!


And in case anyone was going to ask, no it’s not enough to just assume that any WK vocab that ends with an う sound is a verb, because there are things like 近く


Reasonable enough, I suppose. I’m sorry I didn’t notice that explanation in the FAQ.

However, it is more than a little frustrating for learners who have been drilled for years like I have to never include a “to” as part of an imperfective.

Go ahead and add synonyms without “to” if you really want. Verbs aren’t a huge percentage of the overall vocab, so it would be a little annoying but not impossible to keep up with.

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Sometimes I feel like I spend nearly as much time typing in synonyms as I do going through the lessons!

It’s an interesting program, though, and Koichi’s descriptions are cute enough to keep me slogging through the low levels.

You do? At level 2? What kind of synonyms do you need at that rate (other than these verb ones that most people would not feel are necessary).


Synonyms for verbs and, when applicable, correct names for radicals.

Ah, I see. They’re in the process of changing how radicals work and when the update goes through, all the radicals will get their kanji meanings as invisible synonyms if they have one.

I do bristle a bit at the idea of “correct” radical names, but that’s a discussion we’ve hashed out many times. There’s no official names in English (and even in Japanese many radicals have multiple names).

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Right, sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest they were any more useful for learning than the ones WaniKani use. I was only trying to say that they are more useful for me, personally, because while I may hear somebody say “「てへん」に最” to orally describe the kanji 撮, I would never hear something like 「釘バットに最」

The nailbat description is very visual and probably a better choice for somebody learning the kanji, but it doesn’t work for me. I’m glad to see they are adding the extra synonyms for a future update, though.

Well yeah, they’re used to remember them with memorable mnemonics. WK has far more radicals than what Japanese people would call 部首 exist. Because they’re the “kanji parts,” not the sole identifying element of the kanji for dictionary use.

How many kanji do you currently know? Is there a reason you’re studying the Japanese radical names? Are you going to take the kanji kentei?

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Did they actually confirm this? I’ve been paying close attention to any mention of the upcoming changes and all I’ve seen is references to an overhaul – no mention of specifically how they will be changing things. In fact it seemed like Kristen was purposefully avoiding giving specifics.

I like the invisible synonyms idea, though!

I’m pretty sure I remember reading it, though it was months ago.

@anon20839864 “invisible” synonyms for radicals… am I just making that up or did it get confirmed?

I’ve lived and worked in Japan for about ten years now, doing a mixture of translation, interpretation, tourism promotion and some general gaijin-related odd jobs for a local government office. I’ve toyed with the idea of taking the kanji kentei, but it’s not something I need for my career so it always felt like it would be little more than patting myself on the back.

I’m mostly just playing around with WaniKani because the idea of it seemed fun and there weren’t really any tools quite like this available when I was first learning Japanese. Well, there was Heisig but for whatever reason I never really liked his approach.

If you’re working as an translator and interpreter, I can’t imagine you’ll learn anything from WK, but I do agree that it’s a good tool. I wouldn’t recommend paying for it in your case, but you probably were already thinking that.

Right, I can’t imagine it will teach me anything new, but it is kind of fun. I’ll see how I feel about it after the third level and if it is still keeping my interest, I might pay for a year just to see what the later levels are like. It’s almost worth the price of admission just to see how the author describes the next kanji or vocab word.

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We’re working on a whitelist so that when we change radicals, the old names will still be accepted, but not front-facing. That way no one will be penalized for remembering/mixing up the old and new radical content.


Is there any plan to give some of the kanji that have wrong meanings on the site their proper meanings, even if as synonyms?

I mean, I can’t help but get a bit annoyed when I see kanji like 閣 being called “the cabinet” when a dictionary will tell you it means “tower, palace”. I get that it’s mostly used with things regarding to the cabinet, but I must say I was once corrected at Japanese lessons when I said 台 meant “machine” but in truth its formal meaning is “Pedestal”, which is never mentioned on-site.

At least acknowledging that WK is giving kanji incorrect names would help, to be honest. And the “proper” meanings for kanji should always appear, at least as synonyms, by default. Otherwise it can get difficult when you’re studying kanji/Japanese in a group outside of WK due to the untrustable nature of some of the meanings here given.

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What kind of career path did you take exactly? In other words, how did you get your foot in the door? Did you start out as a JET or something else?