For example :日本語を勉強します.

Do you pronounce ni hon go wo or ni hon go---

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    @sawa: Why is this an "extremely low quality question"? There's an example and it is very valid. I know for a fact that many people learning Japanese want to ask the same question.
    – 龚元程
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 3:57
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    @龚元程 Where is the relevant example? I don't see any example with a subject followed by を.
    – user458
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 4:00
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    @sawa: I did not realize that the question talks about を after a subject until I read your comment. I think that it is a mistake for “object,” in which case the asker should edit the question. Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 4:33
  • @TsuyoshiIto Your speculation may be correct. And, I was also wondering about another possibility that the question was referring to Exceptional Case Marking constructions in Japanese such as "太郎は次郎をかっこいいと思っている", where the embedded subject "次郎" takes "を". But since 龚元程 claims there is an example that is very valid, let's see which example 龚元程 is mentioning. Maybe 龚元程 has a different browser setting by which you can see some additional sentences that we cannot see.
    – user458
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 4:42
  • @sawa: I see. That interpretation is probably not the one which Michael had in mind, because if so he would have given a better example. And I am pretty sure that 龚元程 unconsciously read “subject” in the title as “object” just like me. (Yeah, it is careless of him to respond to your comment without reading the title twice, but to err is human.) But anyway I will shut up now because it is better if both Michael and 龚元程 explain their intent. Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 5:05

4 Answers 4


“を” is pronounced in the same way as “お,” that is, without a consonant. Therefore, if it is preceded by a mora with vowel /o/, it sounds in the same way as chōonpu “ー.”

Some people pronounce “を” as /wo/, but this pronunciation is nonstandard.

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    @龚元程: You are wrong. For example, ボーリング (bowling) has a pitch change between ボ and ー in the Tokyo dialect. Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 1:29
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    @Axioplase: The pitch goes up between ボ and ー in ボーリング in the Tokyo dialect (ボーリング is pronounced as low-high-high-high-high). An example with downstep is デザート (dessert; low-high-low-low). Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 1:54
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    @龚元程: No native Japanese words use chōonpu. 帽子 is low-high-high, 大阪 and 大神 are low-high-high-high. I am sorry, but you do not seem to know the natural pronunciation of Japanese. You can continue to believe whatever you want to believe, but that does not change the fact. Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 4:04
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    Regarding the fact that, as pointed out by Tsuyosi Ito, "を" does no induce pitch change on its own, here are examples showing "を" pronounced with different piches depending on the accent pattern of the noun it is attached: "項を(移す)" or "(ラーメン屋の主人の)コーを(見かけた)" (KOoo, high-low-low), "香を(焚く)" (koOO, low-high-high).
    – user458
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 18:37
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    Another example showing Tsuyoshi Ito's point may be: that "子を持つ" and "こう持つ" are pronounced the same.
    – user458
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 18:42

「を」 is never used to lengthen a 「お」 sound, only 「う」 or 「ー」, and in certain specific situations 「お」.

Having said that, the "w" sound is normally elided so that it sounds similar to a long 「お」, but there is usually enough of a difference to make a distinction.

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    I do not think that this is correct. It is not that the /w/ sound is sometimes elided. The /w/ sound is not there in the modern Japanese pronunciation, although some people insert /w/. Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 23:05
  • Fair enough. I hope the edit handles that. Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 23:51
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    I do not think that Michael is asking about the usage of letter を. As far as the pronunciation is concerned, を is the same as お. For example, おお (interjection) and [尾]{お}を are pronounced in exactly the same way, at least in the Tokyo dialect. Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 23:59
  • Yes because there's a slight cut in おお while おう is just a long "oh"
    – 龚元程
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 0:26


In other languages (I don't know the term for this) 語を can be transcribed as go'o

There is a slight stop between both sound, almost not perceptible. In faster speech, if no cut is perceptible, there is definitely an accentuation difference. (or voice level)

To compare with other similar sounds:

  • おう is an uninterrupted ooh sound
  • おお if part of the same word, is also an uninterrupted ooh sound
  • ...お お... (as in 2 different words 日本語おねがい) is also a o'o sound
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    This answer is incorrect in several ways. (1) There is no pause between ご and を in にほんごを (日本語を). (2) “Ooh” in English is pronounce as diphthong /ou/, but there is no diphthong /ou/ in the modern Japanese pronunciation. All of おう, おお, and …お お… are pronounced simply as two /o/. Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 1:31
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    @龚元程: In isolation, ゴー and 語を are pronounced in the same way. 語を in 日本語を have different accent, but that is not because the pronunciation を is different from that of お. There is no pause or change in pitch (“intonation” is not the correct term to use here) between ご and を in 日本語を. Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 2:15
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    @TsuyoshiIto: I'm not saying を is not pronounced お. We all agree it is. But in the language I speak with my father there IS a pause or change in pitch in sentences like 日本語を. (and I don't believe it's not the case for you as well) In the comment above you say it's pronounced as 2 /o/. That's correct, we're saying the same thing. There's a pause between both sounds otherwise that would be a 'long' single /o/
    – 龚元程
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 2:57
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    It is not surprising that there is a change in pitch between ご and を in 日本語を in some dialects, but not in the Tokyo dialect. And I do not know any dialect of Japanese where a pause is inserted between ご and を in the same example. Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 4:03
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    Should I repeat myself? You can believe what you want to believe, but that does not change the fact. (1) I did not say anything about pitch in my answer; note that replacing を with chōonpu does not imply anything about pitch. (2) As I said, there is no separation of sounds (slight or not) between ご and を in 日本語を in any dialects of Japanese I know. Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 4:58

The other answers seem to have come controversy, so I'm going to propose a different approach, which is that of a non-native learner of the language. Native speakers will disagree about the pauses and intonations, just like native English speakers disagree over things like "tomato".

The point to know, in reference to your question, is that there is no convention or rule that makes combine with a word before it.

However, when listening to native speakers talk, as a non-native, you will very likely not hear any distinction, especially if they are speaking quickly. And, of course, any kind of distinction you might discern will vary depending on who you listen to, so you can't expect it every time.

My recommendation to you as a learner of the language is that when you speak, consciously keep separate from the word before. Pause if you want, don't if you don't want. Also, whether or not your separation of from the word before it is distinct or not will not matter too much to a listener, because context makes it understood that it was there.

The important thing is that you know it's there. Because good grammar is not just a good idea, it's the law.

  • …that is, until you've become acquainted with a Japanese for more than a year, on which he/she may ask "Out of curiosity, why do you always pause a bit before saying を?"
    – syockit
    Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 19:14
  • I think it's also important to note that some native speakers (especially teachers) tend to slow down their speech when talking to language learners, and in doing so may also insert a pause between the preceding word and を, even though this is not representative of natural speech. Also, when emphasizing particle choice, or chunking a sentence so that it's more digestible, it's very common, especially among teachers, to pronounce the particles with different intonation than would be found in more natural speech. Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 18:56

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