And kanji with manga
Wednesday, October 12, 2016

人, hito, nin, jin, ~bito, ~ri, ~to

In Japanese, hito, nin, jin, ~bito, ~ri, ~to are different readings of a same kanji, and the meaning of that kanji is "person," so hito, nin, jin, etc. all mean "person" in one way or another. In this article, I'll explain the differences between them and how they're used.

The 人 kanji, meaning "person," and three of its readings: hito ひと, jin じん, and nin にん.

(don't mistake 人 with 入火六大犬水氷木本夫矢天来美奏欒爨, none of which have anything to do with it.)

hito

To begin with, hito 人 means "person," or "people," because of how plurals work in Japanese. Furthermore, because Japanese doesn't have definite and indefinite articles, hito can be translated as:

  • hito
    Person.
    A person.
    The person.
    People.
    The people.
やってみた方が早いかもな まず俺が人を描く えーと 佐倉 ベタ 終わりました
Manga: Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun 月刊少女野崎くん (Volume 1, Chapter 3, Page 38, 御子柴くんのお仕事)
  • Context: Nozaki 野崎 is a manga author with two assistants: Sakura 佐倉 and Mikoshiba 御子柴. Sakura's job is filling areas with black ink. Sakura has doubts about what Mikoshiba's job is supposed to be, so Nozaki says:
  • {yatte-mita} hou ga hayai kamo na
    やってみた方が早いかもな
    {Doing [it] [once]} may be faster. (than explaining it with words.)
  • mazu ore ga hito wo kaku
    まず俺がを描く
    First, I draw a person.
  • eeto, Sakura, beta, owarimashita
    えーと 佐倉 ベタ 終わりました
    Erm, Sakura, black ink, finished.

ひと vs. にん, じん

The biggest difference between hito 人 and jin 人 and nin 人 is that hito 人 is a word, while jin 人 and nin 人 are not words, they're morphemes. This means you can use hito alone to say "person," because it's a word. While jin and nin are always part of other words and can't be used alone.

  • hito ga shinda
    人が死んだ
    A person died.
    People died.
  • hito ga kuru kamoshirenai
    人が来るかもしれない
    A person may come.

Another difference is that hito 人 is a kun'yomi reading while jin 人 and nin 人 are on'yomi readings. But that hardly matters.

人 after Adjective

The way hito 人 is most often used is after an adjective. By having an adjective, we qualify and narrow down what person, or people, we're talking about. For example:

  • {ii} hito
    いい人
    A person [that] {is good}
    A good person.
    Good people.
  • {kirei na} hito
    綺麗
    A person [that] {is pretty}.
    A pretty person.
    Pretty people.
  • {futsuu no} hito
    普通
    A person [that] {is normal}.
    A normal person.
    Normal people.
  • {kimi ga ai suru} hito
    君が愛する人
    The person [whom] {you love}.
    The people [whom] {you love}.

The word ko 子 is often used like hito 人 in the way above, except that it has a certain nuance.

See ko for details.

"Someone"

Sometimes, hito is better translated as "someone" rather than "person." After all, a "person" is "someone."

  • hito ga shinda
    人が死んだ
    Someone died.
  • hito ga kuru kamoshirenai
    人が来るかもしれない
    Someone may come.

Another word that means "someone" in Japanese is dare ka 誰か. Although they can often be used interchangeably, there are two differences between hito 人 and dare ka 誰か that should be noted:

  1. dare ka is always used an "uncertain" someone—someone you don't know who—while hito can refer to a certain someone whose identity you know.
  2. hito can mean "people," plural, while dare ka is just "one" someone, singular.

For example:

  • hito wo tasukeru
    人を助ける
    To help people.
    To help a person.
    To help someone.
  • dare ka wo tasukeru
    誰かを助ける
    To help someone.
  • asoko ni iru hito
    あそこにいる人
    The person [that's] over there.
    The people [that are] over there.
    • We might know who is this person, or people.
  • asoko ni iru dare ka
    あそこにいる誰か
    Someone (we don't know who) [that's] over there.
そう 人を騙すには相手の気持ちを知る必要がある 言葉に工夫をする必要がある
Manga: "Assassination Classroom," Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 暗殺教室 (Chapter 7)
  • Context: Koro-sensei teaches how to deceive people.
  • sou そう
    [That's right.]
  • hito wo damasu niwa
    {aite no kimochi wo
    shiru} hitsuyou ga aru

    を騙すには相手気持ちを知る必要がある
    In order to deceive someone, there's a necessity {to understand [their] feelings}.
    • To deceive a person, you need to understand how they think.
  • {kotoba ni kufuu wo suru} hitsuyou ga aru
    言葉に工夫をする必要がある
    There's a necessity {to [think carefully about your] words}.
    • You can't just speak carelessly, you need to be scheming.
しつけーな!! 信じてるって言ってんだろーが 気持ちワリーんだヨ!! 人を信じてる目じゃないんだけど!! ゴミを見る目つきなんだけど この娘!!
Manga: Gintama 銀魂 (Chapter 153, 電車に乗るときは必ず両手を吊り革に)
  • Context: Hasegawa 長谷川 is in jail, accused of groping a woman in a train. Kagura 神楽 visits him. Hasegawa thinks Kagura doesn't believe his innocence.
  • shitsukee na!!
    しつけー!!
    (relaxed pronunciation.)
    • shitsukoi na!!
      しつこいな!!
      Insistent, aren't you?! (literally.)
      Drop it already!!
  • {shinjiteru} tte itte-n-daroo ga
    信じてるって言ってんだろーが
    [I] am telling [you] that {[I] believe [you]}.
    • shinjite-iru tte itte-iru no darou ga
      信じているって言っているのだろうが
      (same meaning, contractions removed.)
  • kimochi warii-n-da yo!!
    気持ちワリーんだヨ!!
    Gross!!
    Stop grossing me out!!
  • {hito wo shinjiteru} me janai-n-dakedo!!
    を信じてる目じゃないんだけど!!
    [Those] aren't eyes [of a person] [that] {is believing someone}, though!!
  • {gomi wo miru} me-tsuki nanda kedo kono ko!!
    ゴミを見る目つきなんだけどこの娘!!
    Those are eyes [that] {are looking at trash}!!
    (dislocation.)
    • kono ko wa {gomi wo miru} me-tsuki nanda kedo!!
      この娘はゴミを見る目つきなんだけど!!
      As for this girl, [she has] a look-in-her-eyes [that] {looks at trash}!!
      She's looking at me as if she were looking at garbage!!

"He," "She"

Sometimes, hito 人 can be translated as "he" or "she." This happens when translating hito as "person" sounds weird, and it's more natural to translate the word as "he" or "she" instead.

For example, in romance manga, there's often a panel where a guy approaches a bishoujo 美少女, takes a look at her, is awestruck by her beauty, and thinks something like:

  • uwa~ {kirei na} hito!
    うわ~ 綺麗な人!
    Wow... a pretty "person!" (what?)
    • It makes more sense to translate this as:
    • Wow... [she's so pretty!]

Another case is when hito 人 comes after demonstrative pronouns kono, sono, ano この, その, あの to form the phrases kono hito, sono hito, ano hito この人,その人, あの人.

There's a difference of proximity between kosoado words such as kono, sono, and ano that doesn't translate well to English. On top of that, there's usually a visual hint (such as pointing) that makes explicitly saying "this person" and "that person" unnecessary. And normally describing the "person" as "guy" or "girl" or "woman" or "man" makes more sense in English than just saying "person." So:

  • kono hito
    この人
    This person.
    This [guy/girl right here].
    [He]. [She].
  • sono hito
    その人
    That person.
    That [guy/girl next to you].
    [He]. [She].
  • ano hito
    あの人
    That person.
    That [guy/girl that's not next to you].
    [He]. [She].
ピアス多いなこの人・・・ おにーちゃんコーヒーってにがいの にがいねーー
Manga: Horimiya ホリミヤ (Chapter 1)
  • piasu φ ooi na kono hito...
    ピアス多いこの人・・・
    (emotive right-dislocation.)
    • kono hito wa piasu ga ooi
      この人はピアスが多い
      This "person" has a lot of piercings.
      This guy has a lot of piercings.
      He has a lot of piercings.
      (double subject construction.)
  • oniichan koohii tte nigai no?
    おにーちゃんコーヒーってにがいの?
    Oniichan, is coffee bitter?
    • oniichan - used by children to refer to older male teenagers sometimes.
  • nigai nee
    にがいねーー
    It's bitter~~
ちょっとお金貸してくれない? なんですかこの人!?
Manga: Gabriel DropOut, ガヴリールドロップアウト (Chapter 24)
  • Context: the speaker is walking around when all of sudden this girl shows up and...
  • chotto okane kashite kurenai?
    ちょっとお金貸してくれない?
    Won't [you] lend [me] a little money?
  • nandesuka kono hito!?
    なんですかこの人!?
    What's [up with] this "person"!?
    What's [up with] this girl!?
    What's [up with] her!?
    (emotive right-dislocation.)
  • She just asked money from a complete stranger!

ひと as Part of Other Words

As I've said before, nin and jin are always part of words, while hito can be used alone. But that doesn't mean hito is always used alone, it can be part of another word, too.

For reference, some words that include hito:

  • hito-sama
    人様
    Other people.
    • In the sense of acting respectfully toward "other people," etc.
  • hito-jichi
    人質
    Hostage.
    • shichi

      Collateral. Guarantee.
  • hito-goroshi
    人殺し
    Murder. (or murderer.)
  • hito-chigai
    人違い
    Different person.
    Mistaking one person for another.
  • hito-mae
    人前
    Public. In public.
    In front of people.
    • mae

      Before. (in time.)
      Front. (in space.)

bito

Sometimes, hito 人 is read as bito 人 instead when it's a suffix in a word. This happens because of a change in pronunciation called rendaku 連濁. Some examples:

  • hito-bito

    People. Persons.
  • ko-bito
    小人
    Little people. Little person.
    Midget.
    Edward Elric.
  • koi-bito
    恋人
    Lover.
    • koi

      Love in the romantic sense.
  • mura-bito
    村-人
    Villager.
    • mura
      Village.
    • murabito ei 村人A
      murabito bii 村人B
      Villager A, B, etc.
      Terms for random, nameless background characters. In school anime, when there's a theater play that the students have to do, some characters end up with these insignificant roles.

nin

The word nin 人 isn't a word, it's a morpheme. As such, it can't be used alone. Instead, it's part of plenty of human-related words, like:

  • ningen
    人間
    Human.
  • ningyou
    人形
    Puppet. "Human form."
  • ninki
    人気
    Popular.
    • Like manga, anime, movies, clothes, etc.
    • Also means "people's presence," for example:
    • {ninki no nai} basho
      人気ない場所
      A place {without people's presence}.
      A place [where] {there's nobody around}.
      (somewhere you can be alone at, or where nobody can see you doing whatever you're doing there.)
    • Note that this isn't the same as:
    • moteru
      モテる

      To be popular with girls. (or guys.)
  • ninjou
    人情
    Empathy.
    Human feelings.
  • ningyo
    人魚
    Mermaid. A "human-fish."
  • ninzuu
    人数
    Number of people.

When nin 人 is at the start of a word, it's pretty much impossible to tell when to read it as nin 人 instead of jin 人: you'll have to know the word, you can't guess.

However, when nin 人 when it's at the end of the word, it's usually related to what the "person" does. So if you know the stuff before nin 人 means, you may be able to guess it's read as nin 人 instead of jin 人. For example:

  • shiyou-nin
    使用人
    Employee.
    • shiyou suru
      使用する
      To use. (so a shiyounin is a person who's used, usable.)
  • shihai-nin
    支配人
    Manager. Executive.
    • shihai suru
      支配する
      To manage. To rule over somewhere.
  • kanri-nin
    管理人
    Manager. Administrator. Moderator.
    • kanri suru
      管理する
      To manage. To control.
      (a moderator in an online forum is called a kanrinin, he kanri suru's the forum, which is under his kanri.)
  • hoshou-nin
    保証人
    The guarantor. He who guarantees.
    • hoshou suru
      保証する
      To guarantee.
  • uketori-nin
    受取人
    The recipient. He who receives.
    • uke-toru
      受け取る
      To receive [something] [you] take.
      (compound verb.)
  • sashidashi-nin
    差出人
    The sender. He who sends.
    • sashi-dasu
      差し出す
      To submit. To send.
      (compound verb.)

The morpheme nin 人 is also used to count people. (see further below.)

jin

The word jin 人 isn't actually a word either. It's only a morpheme. As such it can't be used alone, it's always part of another word.

The morpheme jin 人 used in plenty of human-related words, just like nin 人, and you can't tell them apart when they're at the start of the word. In these cases, you'll just have to memorize the words and that's about it. For example:

  • jinsei
    人生
    Human life.
    • In Kumo Desu Ga, Nani Ka? 蜘蛛ですが、なにか?, the main character reincarnates in another world as a "spider," kumo 蜘蛛. Since she's not a person, but a spider, she jokingly refers to her life not as a jinsei but as kumosei 蜘蛛生.
  • jinkou
    人口
    Population. "People mouths."
  • jinkou
    人工
    Artificial.
    Human-made.
    (homonym with the above.)
  • jinshu
    人種
    Race.
    Human race.
  • jinkaku
    人格
    Personality.
  • jintai
    人体
    Human body.
  • jinrui
    人類
    Man-kind.
    Human kind.
  • jinbutsu
    人物
    Person. (specially one that's done something or is talented.)
    Figure. (emphasis on a person's traits, personality, etc.)
    • toujou jinbutsu
      登場人物
      Character. (of a novel, anime, manga, etc.)
      Person-matter entering stage. (literally.)
  • jinken
    人権
    Human rights.

When jin 人 is at the end of a word, it often relates to an attribute of a person, and not what the person does, which is the case of nin 人. So, again, if you know what the stuff before jin 人 means, you may be able to guess whether it's read as jin 人 or nin 人.

  • bijin
    美人
    Pretty woman. (almost always.)
    Pretty person. (literally.)
    • utsukushii
      美しい
      Beautiful.
  • shinjin
    新人
    Newbie.
    • atarashii
      新しい
      New.
  • roujin
    老人
    Old person.
    • oi
      老い
      Old age. (noun.)
  • ajin
    亜人
    Demi-human. Sub-human.
    • In anime, ajin is often a term used toward a kind of monster girl.
    • ashu
      亜種
      Subspecies.
  • chishiki-jin
    知識人
    Intellectual.
    • chishiki
      知識
      Knowledge.
  • shakai-jin
    社会人
    A member of the society.
  • yuumei-jin
    有名人
    Famous person.
    • {yuumei na} hito
      有名な人
      A person [that] {is famous}.
      A famous person.

There are exceptions, of course, but in general, that's it.

One interesting case is that the words for "good" and "bad" people use ~nin instead of ~jin, indicating that good and bad aren't properties of the person, but something that they do:

  • akunin
    悪人
    A person who does evil, i.e. an "evil-doer," instead of simply an "evil person."
    • {warui} hito
      悪い人
      A bad person. An evil person.
  • zen'nin
    善人
    A person who does good, i.e. a "good-doer," instead of simply a "good person."
    • {ii} hito
      いい人
      A good person. A nice person.

じん for Nationalities

The morpheme jin 人 is also found a suffix used for nationalities of people. It's similar to the suffixes "-ese" and "-ian" in English. For example:

  • nihon-jin
    日本人
    Japanese person.
    • nihon
      日本
      Japan.
  • amerika-jin
    アメリカ人
    American person.
  • eikoku-jin
    英国人
    British person.
  • mekishiko-jin
    メキシコ人
    Mexican person
  • kanada-jin
    カナダ人
    Canadian person.
  • oosutoraria-jin
    オーストラリア人
    Australian person.
  • doitsu-jin
    ドイツ人
    German person.

Note that if you remove "person" from the examples above, it's synonymous, in English, with the language, or other stuff from those nations, but it always means a "person" from that nation, not the other stuff. To elaborate:

  • nihon-jin
    日本人
    Japanese. (as in a "person" of Japan.)
  • nihon-go
    日本語
    Japanese. (as in the "language" of Japan.)
  • nihon-sei
    日本製
    Japanese. (as in "made" in Japan.)

The suffix jin 人 can also be added to stuff that's not nations, like:

  • chikyuujin
    地球人
    Earthling person.
    • chikyuu
      地球
      Earth globe. ("Earth ball," literally.)
      The Earth.
  • kaseijin
    火星人
    Martian person.
    • kasei
      火星
      Mars.
  • uchuujin
    宇宙人
    Space person.
    Alien.
    • uchuu
      宇宙
      Cosmos. Space. Universe.
・・・え 何スか? そいつ攻めて来た宇宙人か何かスか? 失礼な! 生まれも育ちも地球ですよ
Manga: "Assassination Classroom," Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 暗殺教室 (Chapter 1, 暗殺の時間)
・・・え 何スか? そいつ攻めて来た宇宙人か何かスか? 失礼な! 生まれも育ちも地球ですよ
Manga: "Assassination Classroom," Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 暗殺教室 (Chapter 1, 暗殺の時間)
  • Context: anime.
  • ...e
    ・・・え
    ...eh
  • nan-suka?
    何スか?
    (contraction)
    • nandesuka?
      何ですか?
      What?
  • soitsu φ {semete-kita} uchuujin ka nanka-suka?
    そいつ攻めて来た宇宙人か何かスか?
    [This guy] is an alien who came attack [us] or something?
    • ...ka ...ka
      〇〇か〇〇か
      X or Y. (an alien "or" something in this case.)
      This is the ka か parallel marker.
  • shitsurei na!
    失礼
    Impolite, [aren't you]?!
    Rude!
  • umare mo sodachi mo chikyuu desu yo
    生まれも育ちも地球ですよ
    [My place of] birth and rising is Earth.
    • In west Philadelphia Earth, born and raised.
    • ...mo ...mo
      〇〇も〇〇も
      X and Y, too. X and even Y.
      This is the mo も parallel marker.
  • Koro-sensei is offended because he was called an "alien" even thought he was born and raised on Earth: a genuine Earthling. Totally not an alien. Nope. (or so he claims.)

ri

Besides the above, the kanji can also be read as ri 人. Fortunately, this only happens when counting people.

hitori 一人

The word hitori 一人 means "one person" in Japanese. Note, however, that sometimes it can mean "alone," because when you're just "one person" there's nobody with you.

  • watashi wa hitori da
    私は一人だ
    I'm "one person."
    I'm alone.

futari 二人

The word futari 二人 means "two people" in Japanese. Note, however, that sometimes it can mean a "couple," or "us two" depending on context.

  • futari kiri de ikou yo
    二人きりで行こうよ
    Let's go just [us] two!
    • i.e. it's date.
    • kiri
      きり
      Just. Exactly. (used after counters.)

Counting People

When you're counting people in Japanese, the kanji is read as either nin 人 or ri 人 depending on the number. This can be a bit confusing at first, but it's not that complicated.

Basically, to say "one person" in Japanese, you say hitori 一人. When it's "two people," you say futari 二人. Then when it's "three people," it changes: san'nin 三人.

For reference, how to count people up to 10 in Japanese:

  1. hitori
    一人 (1人)
    One person.
  2. futari
    二人 (2人)
    Two people.
  3. san'nin
    三人 (3人)
    Three people.
  4. yonin
    四人 (4人)
    Four people.
  5. gonin
    五人 (5人)
    Five people.
  6. rokunin
    六人 (6人)
    Six people.
  7. shichinin
    七人 (7人)
    Seven people.
    • Also read nananin 七人 sometimes.
  8. hachinin
    八人 (8人)
    Eight people.
  9. kyuunin
    九人 (9人)
    Nine people.
  10. juunin
    十人 (10人)
    Ten people.

When there's an order of people, like a queue, the suffix me 目 is used:

  1. hitori-me
    一人目
    First person.
  2. futari-me
    二人目
    Second person.
  3. san'nin-me
    3人目
    Third person.

In case you're wondering, mitari 三人, yotari 四人, would be the words for "three people," "four people" using the ri 人 suffix instead of the nin 人 suffix. [人(り)の意味 - dictionary.goo.ne.jp, 2019-02-19]

But these words—mitari, yotariare not used. Only hitori, futari are used. The rest is san'nin, yonin, etc. as I've explained already.

何人

As with all counters, -nin ~人 can come after nan 何 to say "how many." Awkwardly, -jin ~人 can also come after nani 何 to ask "what" nationality someone is. These two things are spelled the same way, but read differently.

  • nan'nin?
    何人?
    How many people?
  • nani jin?
    何人?
    What nationality?

Other Readings

The kanji for hito 人 can also be read in a number of other ways. But do not panic! This mostly happens in names of people.

To have an idea, 人 is read as to 人 in the name of the protagonist of Sword Art Online:

  • 谷 和人
    Kirigaya Kazuto.

Radical

There are two kanji components that derive from the hitokanji.

The first is the ninben 人偏, the 亻, which looks like the number 1, and appears to the side, as in: 仲, 休, 他, and so on[人偏 - 精選版 日本国語大辞典 via kotobank.jp, accessed 2021-03-13].

The second is the hitogashira 人頭, which looks like a circumflex ^, and appears at the top, as in: 今, 企, 命, and so on[人頭 - 精選版 日本国語大辞典 via kotobank.jp, , accessed 2021-03-13].

4 comments:

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  1. I want to get a kanji tattoo saying Jupiter person Jin. I don't know Japanese, what say you? Email my username at hotmail dot com.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mokusei 木星 is how you say "Jupiter" in Japanese. So "Jupiter-ian" (someone from Jupiter) should be mokusei-jin 木星人.

      Here's a large image of the word with different fonts http://i.imgur.com/unPgZjm.png

      I wouldn't advise it, though. Getting a kanji tattoo when you don't know Japanese sounds like a bad idea.

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  2. Just pointing out that 人数 is read as "ninzuu", not "ninsuu".

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