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So I looked up つける and saw it can be written as:

付ける

着ける

附ける

And they all seem to have the exact same definition: to attach, to join, to add, to append, etc. So are these "spellings" interchangeable or is there some difference?

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Someone has voted to close this (without explanation) as an exact duplicate of this question: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/2070/…. Although this is a good question with good answers, and they are similar, I disagree that it's an exact duplicate. Especially since this question wasn't really answered in it. –  silvermaple Jun 10 '12 at 20:11
    
@silvermaple: Sorry, that was me. I voted to close, and then realized it wasn't a duplicate. I've been trying to figure out since if there's a way for me to remove my vote to close, but I can't seem to do it. –  Dave M G Jun 11 '12 at 0:43
    
@DaveMG It's OK. I forgive you. :) –  dotnetN00b Jun 11 '12 at 0:53
    
But seriously. No one has an answer to this question? –  dotnetN00b Jun 11 '12 at 0:53
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This is why it takes 5 votes to close. As it is I think this question is able to stand on its own. –  Flaw Jun 11 '12 at 2:32

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

As is usual with homophonous kanjis, there is a general one, which, in this case, is 付ける. That means, in general, the other kanjis can be replaced with this one, but not the other way around. 着ける is used when the attachment is along a surface, especially in wearing clothes (that is, the clothes touch the skin along surfaces). 附ける means to append, and I think it is an archaic kanji. Most often, you can find it in combnations like 附属 or 附設 (archaic form of 付属 and 付設), especially in proper names like 久留米大学附設 高等学校・中学校.

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This OKWave suggests 着ける can also be used when something is made to arrive, as in 「車を玄関に着ける」. Also, according to this 知恵袋, 付 used to refer more to transactions involving hands (such as making payments or handing something over), but is now (since the end of WWII) on double duty as the simplified version of 附. –  con5013d Jun 11 '12 at 2:15
    
In the arrive sense, the core sense is contact. –  sawa Jun 11 '12 at 2:37

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