第393課: 送り仮名

送り仮名 in its simplest understanding is かな used for conjugation purposes. However, the rules for 送り仮名are not quite set in stone. Though variant spellings in this regard are disappearing in replace of one spelling, literature is still pervaded with variant spellings.

Natives still show relative inconsistency in the matter. This is because guidelines by the government have not been crafted to the point that they should touch on individual spelling practices. 

Resource Note: Much of this information is adopted from the Ministry of Education guidelines for 送り仮名 usage, which can be found at  http://www.bunka.go.jp/kokugo_nihongo/joho/kijun/naikaku/okurikana/index.html.

About 送り仮名

In writing words in 漢字 and making clear what reading should be used, it has become orthodox to affixかな. For instance, in order to read 送 as おくる rather than ソウ or even some conjugation likeおくらない, る is affixed to it. However, things that do have 漢字spellings but are replaced with かな, 交ぜ書き, is not called 送り仮名.  

Rules for properly using 送り仮名 have been passed by the government, and it wouldn’t be surprising if these guidelines were modified again. However, even the preface of the guidelines published in 1973 admits that these rules do not pervasively apply to every aspect of Japanese. For instance, standards in science, the arts, and special fields are immune to having to follow these rules, which is why there have been plenty of mentions of how to address these situations thus far.

However, it is without a doubt that these guidelines do play a substantial role in orthography used in broadcast, official documents, newspapers, etc.

In studying the use of 送り仮名, you must first distinguish words in two groups: those that conjugate and those that don’t. Compound words are also important to consider. Though these different faces of 送り仮名 are rather complex, there are basic principles to keep in mind that work for the majority of cases.

Rule 1

If a word conjugates, it will have 送り仮名 affixed.

 憤る いきどおる To resent 承る うけたまわる To undertake; to hear/know (humble)
 書く かく To write 生きる いきる To live
 考える かんがえる To think 陥れる おちいれる To trick into; assault (castle); drop into
 助ける たすける To help 催す もよおす To hold (event); feel (sensation)
 荒い あらい Rough; wild 潔い いさぎよい Gallant; unsullied
 賢い かしこい Wise 濃い こい Thick
 薄い うすい Thin 主な おもな Main


1. Adjectives that end in しい・じい such as 美しい and 凄まじい(terrible) were historically 美し and 凄まじ. So, this is why し・じ haven’t been dropped in the spellings.

2: Native suffixes that create adjectives such as か, らか, andやか are also left as 送り仮名. 

 細かな こまかな Fine; detailed 静かな しずかな Quiet 暖かな あたたかな Warm
 平らかな たいらかな Level; peaceful 柔らかな やわらかな Tender; meek 和やかな なごやかな Harmonious
 健やかな すこやか Vigorous 鮮やかな あざやかな Vivid; adroit 穏やかな おだやかな Calm; gentle

3: The following words are irregular.

 明らむ あからむ To break dawn 味わう あじわう To taste; savor
 哀れむ あわれむ To pity 慈しむ いつくしむ To be affectionate to
 教わる おそわる To be taught 脅かす おどかす・おびやかす To menace
 関わる かかわる To be concerned with 食らう くらう To eat/drink (Vulgar)
 異なる ことなる To differ 逆らう さからう To defy
 捕まる つかまる To be caught 群がる むらがる To swarm; gather
 和らぐ やわらぐ To be mitigated 揺する ゆする To shake; jolt
 明るい あかるい Bright 危ない あぶない Dangerous
 危うい あやうい Dangerous 大きい おおきい Big
 少ない すくない Few 小さい ちいさい Small
 冷たい つめたい Cold 平たい ひらたい Flat
 新たな あらたな New 同じ おなじ Same
 盛んな さかんな Popular; enthusiastic 平らな たいらな Flat; smooth

Rule 2

Derivations are included in 送り仮名.

1. Conjugations/derivations of verbs.

 Derivation Base Word Derivation Base Word Derivation Base Word
 動かす 動く 照らす 照る 語らう 語る
 浮かぶ 浮く 生れる 生む 押える 押す
 捕える 捕る 勇ましい 勇む 輝かしい 輝く
 喜ばしい 喜ぶ 晴れやかだ 晴れる 及ぼす 及ぶ
 積もる 積む 聞こえる 聞く 頼もしい 頼む
 起こる 起きる 落とす 落ちる 暮らす 暮れる
 冷やす 冷える 当たる 当てる 終わる 終える
 変わる 変える 集まる 集める 定まる 定める
 連なる 連ねる 交わる 交える 混ざる・混じる 混ぜる
 恐ろしい 恐れる 恨めしい 恨む 痛ましい 痛む

2. Words including an adjectival root.

 Derivative Base Word Derivative Base Word Derivative Base Word
 重んずる 重い 若やぐ 若い 怪しむ 怪しい
 悲しむ 悲しい 苦しがる 苦しい 確かめる 確かだ
 重たい 重い 憎らしい 憎い 古めかしい 古い
 細かい 細かだ 柔らかい 柔らかだ 清らかだ 清い
 高らかだ 高い 寂しげだ 寂しい 可愛げ 可愛い

3. Things with nouns in them.

 Verb Base Noun Verb Base Noun Verb Base Noun Verb Base Noun
 汗ばむ 汗 先んずる 先 春めく 春 後ろめたい 後ろ

許容: When there is no worry of being misread, 送り仮名 may be abbreviated as in the following words.

 浮かぶ → 浮ぶ 生まれる → 生れる 押さえる → 押える  捕らえる → 捕える 
 晴れやかだ → 晴やかだ 聞こえる → 聞える 積もる → 積る 起こる → 起る
 落とす → 落す 暮らす → 暮す 当たる → 当る 終わる → 終る
 変わる → 変る   

Note: The following words are deemed to follow Rule 1 instead: 明るい・荒い・悔しい・恋しい. 

Rule 3

Excluding words dealt with via Rule 4, nouns shouldn’t have 送り仮名.

 月 鳥 花 山 男 女 彼 何 草 上 下



 辺り 哀れ 勢い 幾ら 後ろ 傍ら 幸い 幸せ 全て 互い 便り 半ば
 半ば 情け 斜め 独り 誉れ 自ら 幸い     

2. With the counter つ: 一つ, 二つ, 三つ, 四つ, 五つ, 六つ, 七つ, 八つ, 九つ, 幾つ 

Rule 4

Nouns that come from a conjugatable part of speech or those made with the suffixes ~さ, ~み, or ~げ abide by the 送り仮名 spellings of the base word.

 動き 仰せ 恐れ 薫り 香り 曇り 調べ 届け 願い 晴れ 当たり 代わり 向かい  狩り
 泳ぎ 答え 祭り 群れ 憩い 愁い 極み 初め 近く 遠く 暑さ 大きさ 正しさ 確かさ
 明るみ 哀しみ 憎しみ 重み 惜しげ 可愛げ        


The following words do not have 送り仮名.

 謡 虞 趣 氷 印 頂 帯 畳 卸 煙 志 恋 次 隣 富 恥 話 光 舞 折 組 肥 並 巻 割  掛 

Note: 送り仮名is only lost when their verbal sense is lost. Ex. 話し VS 話, 氷り VS 氷.

許容: In the case when there is no worry of a word being misread, 送り仮名 may be dropped in the following fashion for the words below.

 曇り → 曇 届け → 届 願い → 願 晴れ → 晴 当たり → 当り 代わり → 代り 狩り → 狩
 向かい → 向い 祭り → 祭 群れ → 群 憩い → 憩 答え → 答 問い → 問 

Rule 5

The final mora in adverbs, attributes, and conjugations is usually 送り仮名.

 Adverbs 必ず 更に 少し 既に 全く 再び 最も
 Attributes 来る 去る     
 Conjunctions 及び 且つ 但し    


・With more 送り仮名:

 明くる 大いに 直ちに 並びに 若しくは

・With no 送り仮名: 又

Adverbs/Conjunctions from Verbs/Adjectives or + particles:

 併せて 〔併せる〕 至って 〔至る〕 恐らく 〔恐れる〕 絶えず 〔絶える〕 例えば 〔例える〕
 努めて 〔努める〕 辛うじて 〔辛い〕 少なくとも 〔少ない〕 互いに 〔互い 必ずしも 〔必ず〕

Rule 6

In regards to compound words excluding those dealt with via Rule 7, 送り仮名 is determined by the individual components’ 音訓.

1. Examples of words that conjugate:

 書き抜く 流れ込む 申し込む 打ち合せる 長引く 若返る 裏切る 旅立つ 聞苦しい
 薄暗い 草深い 心細い 待遠しい 軽々しい 女々しい 気軽だ 望み薄だ 

2. Examples of words that do not conjugate:

 石橋 竹馬 山津波 後ろ姿 斜め左 花便り 独り言 卸商 水煙 目印
 物知り 落書き  雨上がり  墓参り  日当たり 夜明かし 先駆け 巣立ち 手渡し 入り江
 合わせ鏡 封切り 教え子 生き物 落ち葉 預かり金 寒空 深情け 愚か者 行き帰り
 乗り降り 抜け駆け 田植え 飛び火 伸び縮み 作り笑い 暮らし向き 売り上げ 取り扱い 乗り換え
 引き換え 歩み寄り 申し込み 移り変わり 長生き  早起き  苦し紛れ  大写し  次々  常々 
 近々 深々 休み休み 行く行く      

許容: When there is no worry of being misread, 送り仮名 can be dropped in the following fashion in the example words.

 書き抜く → 書抜く 申し込む → 申込む 打ち合わせる → 打ち合せる・打合せる
 雨上がり → 雨上り 申し込み → 申込み・申込 向かい合わせる → 向い合せる
 日当たり → 日当り 引き換え → 引換え・引換 立ち居振る舞い → 立ち居振舞い・立ち居振舞・立居振舞
 封切り → 封切 有り難み → 有難み 呼び出し電話 → 呼出し電話・呼出電話
 夜明かし → 夜明し 暮らし向き → 暮し向き 移り変わり → 移り変り
 入り江 → 入江 飛び火 → 飛火 合わせ鏡 → 合せ鏡
 抜け駆け → 抜駆け 待ち遠しい → 待遠しい 売り上げ → 売上げ・売上
 田植え → 田植 預かり金 → 預り金  取り扱い → 取扱い・取扱
 落書き → 落書  聞き苦しい → 聞苦しい 乗り換え → 乗換え・乗換
 待ち遠しさ → 待遠しさ  

Note: In cases like こけら落とし, さび止め, 洗いざらし, 打ちひも whether either the front or end part of the word is written in かな instead of in漢字, you should not abbreviate 送り仮名 out.  

Rule 7

Compounds may or may not have 送り仮名 according to convention.

1.The first in the guidelines with this rule are particular words of domain in which  conventional spelling is recognized.

ア: Names of positions and titles:

 関取 頭取 取締役 事務取扱

イ: Handicraft words that end in 「織」、「染」、「塗」、「彫」、「焼」等.

 《博多》織 《型絵》染 《春慶》塗 《鎌倉》彫 《備前》焼

ウ; Others:

 書留 気付 切手 消印 小包 振替 切符 踏切 手当
 仲買 両替 割引 組合 売値 買値 倉敷料 作付面積 請負
 借入《金》 小売《商》 取扱《所》 取扱《注意》 繰越《金》 乗換《駅》 取次《店》 取引《所》 乗組《員》
 引受《人》 引換《券》 《代金》引換 引受《時刻》 振出《人》 待合室 見積《書》 売上《高》 貸付《金》

2. Spellings that are generally conventional.

 奥書 木立 子守 献立 座敷 試合 字引 場合 羽織 葉巻 番組 番付 日付
 水引 物置 物語 役割 屋敷 夕立 割合 合図 合間 植木 置物 織物 貸家
 敷石 立場 建物 並木 巻紙 浮世絵 絵巻物 仕立屋     


1. Even when the items in 《》 are different, these guidelines still apply.

2. This list is not exhaustive. Therefore, as far as convention may be recognized, similar words are to be dealt with likewise. When it is hard to determine whether Rule 7 should be applied or not, use Rule 6.  

Specific Exceptions

Words specifically mentioned in the Cabinet guidelines from words within the bounds of the 常用漢字表, which includes not only lists of general characters but general readings with exceptions. 

浮つく  The reasoning for this is that the verb comes from the use of a suffix, つく.

お巡りさん  This spelling is motivated by convention.

差し支える 立ち退く 

Note: Alternatively, 送り仮名 within compound words such as this are often dropped. Thus, 差支える and 立退く. For compounds nouns, all 送り仮名 can be dropped. Ex. 話し合い・話合い・話合.

The following nouns were deemed to not ever have 送り仮名.

 息吹 桟敷 時雨 築山 名残 雪崩 吹雪 迷子 行方