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The hiraganas go after the kanji in a verb are so confusing. I know there's always an U character, like 行く, 話す ... but sometimes i see there are 2 characters after the kanji, like 終わる.

My question is that there is any rule for us to remember this?

Verbs in group 2 (Ichidan verbs) need an E character before RU, is that right ? (食べる) ? So they always have 2 hiraganas after the kanji? So why 終わる is a verb of group one but it has two hiraganas after the kanji ?

Thanks very much

  • FYI, these kana are called 「[送]{おく}り[仮名]{が・な}」. – istrasci Jul 10 at 19:16
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The short answer is: no, there's no "golden rule" which works all of the time to remember how many okurigana there are. There are some tendencies you might be able to pick up on, but they do not work all of the time.

I think, therefore, it would best to try and learn each word as it comes, in its correct or most common form. I suppose the reason for this is that okurigana, apart from imparting grammatical meaning through conjugation, also are often helpful for determining the reading/meaning of the kanji/verb. For instance 入{はい}る (enter) vs 入{い}れる (put in), 出{で}る (exit) vs 出{だ}す (take out), 落{お}とす (drop) vs 落{お}ちる (fall down), or 生{い}きる (live) vs 生{う}まれる (be born) vs 生{しょう}じる (produce; result from).

Indeed, there is perhaps a slight problem in the premise of your question, in that okurigana usage isn't actually always that uniform. A linguist may be able to correct me, but from what I have seen, I think this is especially true for verbs where there is a related nominalisation, such as 終わる and 終わり. For the verb, sometimes you'll see 終る, though 終わる is the common form; for the noun, although I think 終わり is most common, often you'll see 終 at the end of films; and sometimes you'll see 終り. Likewise, for compound verbs and nouns, you'll probably see a similar variation in okurigana usage e.g. 割り当てる vs. 割当てる, or 引っ越す vs. 引越す, or 受け付け vs. 受付. Okurigana usage varies with context/form of the writing, but also from person to person, likely depending on their age, education etc.

That is not to say that okurigana are always flexible. They mostly aren't, and there are sometimes instances where it can be quite counter-intuitive. For instance, 明{あか}るい (bright) must be written as such, however tempting it might be to just write 明い. That is despite the fact that the noun 明{あ}かり ('glow' or 'illumination', and originally derived from the same now defunct verb as 明るい) can also be written as 明{あか}り.

To clarify on your second question: no -- not all Group 2 verbs need an 'e' character before 'ru'. There are a fair number of Group 2 "exceptions", including very important or common verbs, such as 見る, 信じる, and できる. However, you are right in that anything with 'E'+'RU' as okurigana is a Group 2 verb. (Be careful of a verb like 帰{かえ}る though! >> Group 1 as the “E” is ‘inside’ the kanji!)

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