Japanese Grammar – Step by Step Guide to Learning Hiragana

You’ve decided to learn a new language, Japanese. That’s great!!

Let’s get you started with this beautiful journey of learning Japanese. As you are aware, learning a new language starts with learning the script.

In Japanese, there are three scripts to learn:

Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji.

Just like in Mandarin, Kanjis are logographic, i.e. each character has its own meaning and corresponds to a word. 

A set of 2,136 characters has been officially declared as “Kanji for Everyday Use”. 

However unlike Mandarin, Japanese Kanji cannot be used alone. Two additional, syllable-based scripts are used for words without corresponding Kanji and grammatical patterns.

Due to this, Kanji along with Hiragana and Katakana make the Japanese alphabet.

Sounds overwhelming? But no need to worry!

We are here to help you through our course. Hiragana and Katakana, each consist of just 46 syllables. They are easier to learn. 

Let us first introduce you to Hiragana.

Learning Hiragana | The ‘A’ Series

Learning Hiragana | The ‘Ka’ Series

Learning Hiragana | The ‘Sa’ Series

Learning Hiragana | The ‘Ta’ Series

Learning Hiragana | The ‘Na’ Series

Learning Hiragana | The ‘Ha’ Series

Learning Hiragana | The ‘Ma’ Series

Learning Hiragana | The ‘Ya’ Series

Learning Hiragana | The ‘Ra’ Series

Learning Hiragana | The Last 3 Syllables

More Syllables | Dakuten, Handakuten, Sokuon & Youon

Japanese Grammar | FAQ’s

Learning Hiragana – The ‘A’ Series

Let’s start with the very first series of syllable:

HiraganaRomanisation
a
i
u
e
o

Now, let’s see some words containing these syllables:

HiraganaRomanisationEnglish
あいa-iLove
あおいaoiBlue
うえueAbove
いうiuTo speak
あうa-uTo meet

Learning Hiragana – The ‘Ka’ Series

The second series of the Hiragana Alphabet is Ka:

HiraganaRomanisation
ka
ki
ku
ke
ko

Some words including these syllables:

HiraganaRomanisationEnglish
かくkhakuTo write
きくkhikuTo hear
keFur
koChild
あかいakaiRed

NOTE – when a word starts with ‘か’ or ‘き’ it is pronounced as ‘kha’ or ‘khi’ instead of ‘ka’ or ‘ki’ respectively.

Learning Hiragana – The ‘Sa’ Series

HiraganaRomanisation
sa
shi
su
se
so

Some examples:

HiraganaRomanisationEnglish
すしsushiJapanese Sushi
あさasaMorning
あせaseSweat
そこsokoThere

Learning Hiragana – The ‘Ta’ Series

HiraganaRomanisation
ta
chi
tsu
te
to

Some examples:

HiraganaRomanisationEnglish
たつtatsuTo stand
いちichiOne
いつitsuWhen
teHand
とおいtōiFar, distant

Learning Hiragana – The ‘Na’ Series

HiraganaRomanisation
na
ni
nu
ne
no

Some examples:

HiraganaRomanisationEnglish
なにnaniWhat
ぬのnunoCloth
ねこnekoCat

Learning Hiragana – The ‘Ha’ Series

HiraganaRomanisation
ha
hi
fu
he
ho

Some examples:

HiraganaRomanisationEnglish
はなhanaFlower
ひとhitoPerson
へたhetaUnskilful
ほかhokaOther

Learning Hiragana – The ‘Ma’ Series

HiraganaRomanisation
ma
mi
mu
me
mo

Some words to practice:

HiraganaRomanisationEnglish
いまimaNow
みみmimiEar
むかしmukashiLong ago
meEyes
もつmotsuTo hold

Learning Hiragana – The ‘Ya’ Series

HiraganaRomanisation
ya
yu
yo

Examples of words including these syllables:

HiraganaRomanisationEnglish
やまyamaMountain
よむyomuTo read
ゆきyukiSnow

Learning Hiragana – The ‘Ra’ Series

HiraganaRomanisation
ra
ri
ru
re
ro

Words including these syllables:

HiraganaRomanisationEnglish
あらうarauTo wash
あるaruTo exist
れいreiExample
りかrikaScience

The Last 3 Hiragana Syllables

HiraganaRomanisation
wa
wo
nn

Examples:

HiraganaRomanisationEnglish
わたしwatashiI, Me
えをかくewokakuTo draw a picture
にほんnihonJapan
Japanese Hiragana Chart

Additional Syllables

Use of Dakuten

GA seriesZA seriesDA seriesBA series
が (ga)ざ (za)だ (da)ば (ba)
ぎ (gi)じ (ji)ぢ (ji)び (bi)
ぐ(gu)ず (zu)づ (zu)ぶ (bu)
げ (ge)ぜ (ze)で (de)べ (be)
ご (go)ぞ (zo)ど (do)ぼ (bo)

Use of Handakuten

Handakuten converts the は (ha) series into ぱ = the ‘Pa’ series.

ぱ (pa)ぴ (pi)ぷ(pu)ぺ(pe)ぽ (po)

Use of Small Alphabet – Sokuon (促音)

The sokuon (促音) is a symbol in the form of a small hiragana or katakana tsu.

In less formal language it is called chiisai tsu (小さいつ) or chiisana tsu (小さなつ), meaning “small tsu“.

It can never appear at the beginning of the word.

The small つ is used to stress the word by doubling the consonant.

For example:

HiraganaRomanisationEnglish
ゆっくりyukkuriSlowly
ざっしzasshiMagazine

Other Syllables – Youon (拗音)

The youon (拗音) is a hiragana in combination of a syllable ending in i, such as き (ki), with a smaller version of one of the three y syllables (yayu or yo).

や、ゆ and よ are often used in combination with the basic syllables き、し、ち、に、ひ、み and り。

This way a word like しゅみ will not be pronounced as shi-yu-mi, but shyumi.

HiraganaRomanisationEnglish
ひゃくhyakuHundred
いっしょにisshouniTogether
しゅみshyumiHobby

And that’s it! A quick and easy lesson for your to add to your knowledge bank.

Before you go, here’s a list of Japanese blog articles you might find interesting:

Make sure to visit our Japanese Grammar Bank regularly, as we constantly add new lessons to help you learn or review your knowledge.

Japanese grammar bank

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How many Hiragana are there?

There are 46 Hiragana on the Hiragana table to learn, each representing a different sound.

What are the 3 Japanese alphabets?

Japanese has 3 alphabets which each serve different purposes.

They are:

Hiragana

Katakana

Kanji

You can find out more about the 3 Alphabets of Japanese here.

Are Japanese Kanji and Chinese characters the same thing?

Japanese Kanji indeed come from Chinese characters.

Be careful though!

Not only do they not have the same pronunciation, they can also hold different meanings.

Visit this article we wrote about Kanji and Hanzi you shouldn’t confuse!

Where to learn Hiragana?

You can learn Hiragana in our article right here!

Don’t forget to also check out our Top 7 Tips to Learn Hiragana.

The best way to learn the Japanese alphabets, including Hiragana, would be with a native teacher.

Do you offer Japanese classes?

Yes we do!

Check out our online Japanese classes here.

All lessons are taught by professional native teachers.

Where to find Japanese friends?

Making friends is indeed a very good way to practice and get better at Japanese, but it’s not always easy to meet new people.

You should have a look at apps that connects language lovers together, such as HiNative or HelloTalk.

Other Links

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