Take the 2-minute tour ×
Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Are there any rules or guidelines as to when to pronounce 行く as いく or ゆく?

I looked it up on jisho.org, and the two pronunciations have the exact same definition. I tend to hear ゆく more often in songs, but that is just anecdotal.

share|improve this question
I've always wondered why lyrics often say いく in kana even when the singer clearly sings ゆく... –  snailboat Jul 28 '13 at 22:45
ゆく is for songs and train destinations. –  oldergod Jul 29 '13 at 1:30
I'm not confident enough to put this as an answer, but 行く is pretty much always いく, except for specific exceptions. In addition to train destinations and songs, there's 行方不明{ゆくえふめい}, for example. –  Questioner Jul 29 '13 at 6:27
Something interesting I've seen. ゆく and いく are considered a distinct separate readings of 行く, and not just some kind of dialectical pronunciation or euphonic change (音便). When I lived in Japan, I was watching one of those "variety" shows. They were talking about the kanji(s) with the most readings (the most being I believe). Anyway, the contestants had to collectively produce all the readings for each one. When doing , they left out ゆく and were surprised to learn that いく and ゆく were in fact different. –  istrasci Jul 29 '13 at 15:20

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The explanation in my dictionary is:


My translation / synopsis is as follows:

いく has been seen from ancient times but from the Heian period both have been in use.  いく has almost exactly the same meaning as ゆく but in olden time, ゆく was used more widely: Putting the use of double entendres and word play based on 生く aside, then the use of 行く in Japanese poetry (waka/tanka) or symbolism can almost always read as ゆく. As a result, when expressions such as 「過ぎ行く」「散り行く」are used stylistically in written language they are normally read as ゆく. However forms such as ゆきて have have stopped being used in favour of forms derived from いく such as いって and いった.

share|improve this answer

They both mean the same of course, and there is plenty of info you can find explaining that ゆく is an older version. In addition, I have found that ゆく tends to be a more informal version of いく. Perhaps ゆく is also easier to pronounce than いく. I don't hold any data, but FWIW, I think ゆく is used more often than いく is conversation.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.