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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of *your* most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is…
Why is HE read as E?
You might have heard that native Japanese speakers sometimes pronounce the hiragana へ as ‘e.’ And you may be wondering when to do it.
Well, we have a rule for that!
The hiragana は, ひ, ふ, へ and ほ were actually pronounced “fa,” “fi,” “fu,” “fe” and “fo” in the Heian period around 1100 years ago. However, in the 11th century, the pronunciation changed.
Did you listen to the lesson explaining “Why HA is read as WA?” In that lesson, you learned that the ancient Japanese people pronounced the hiragana は as “fa” but it began to be read as “wa." The same pronunciation change happened with the hiranaga へ, and it started to be read as “we” and then came to be read as “e” with the “w” sound dropped later.
So, the hiragana characters は and へ have had two pronunciations since then.
When the hiragana へ is a part of a word, it’s pronounced ‘he’ such as 平日 ’heijitsu’ meaning weekday and 平和 ‘heiwa’ meaning peace. But, when it’s used as a particle, it’s pronounced ‘e.’
Let’s think about the sentence 平安神宮(へいあんじんぐう)へ行きます.
平安神宮 is Heianjingu shrine in Kyoto. The meaning of the sentence is ‘I am going to Heianjingu shrine.’ The reading is ‘Heianjinguu e ikimasu.’
The first へ is part of the word, へいあん, so it must be read as ‘he.’
However, the next hiragana へ is a particle, so it’s pronounced ‘e.’ The particle is called a destination marker and it’s put between a destination and a motion verb, in this case between 平安神宮 and 行きます.
Here’s one more example -
Let’s take a look at the sentence 部屋(へや)へ入る.
部屋 means “a room” and is a destination. 入る means enter and is a motion verb. The sentence means ‘I enter a room.’ The first hiragana へ is a part of へや, and is read as “he." But, the second へ is a particle, so it’s read as “e." Consequently, the sentence is read as ‘heya e hairu.’
I hope this makes sense to you and you’re able to read the hiragana ‘へ’ correctly from now on!
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them!
またね!

17 Comments

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JapanesePod101.com Verified
April 5th, 2016 at 06:30 PM
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What Japanese learning question do you have?

JapanesePod101.com Verified
September 9th, 2020 at 08:45 PM
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Anthonyさん


Thank you so much for your comment😄

When you're talking about a place where you're going to, you can use either he or ni. They're interchangeable👍

Please let us know if you have any questions :)


Sincerely

Ryoma

Team JapanesePod101.com

Anthony
September 5th, 2020 at 09:53 AM
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Hi there!


I have a question about which particle to use. Why was "he" used in the examples but not "ni?" I am still learning, but is it because it's used with definitive destinations/physical spaces where as "ni" is used moreso for direction or pointing out a location?


Thanks for your help!

JapanesePod101.com
June 7th, 2019 at 06:33 AM
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Hi Daryl,


Thank you very much for studying Japanese with us!

I'm glad to hear our lessons give you something new each day.


If you have any questions, please ask us in the comment!


Sincerely,

Miki H

Team JapanesePod101.com

Daryl
June 5th, 2019 at 08:37 PM
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He as a "destination particle" interesting. I learn something new each day.

JapanesePod101.com Verified
December 23rd, 2016 at 03:34 PM
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Axel さん

Konnichiwa.:smile:

-masen ka means ‘would you like’and -mashou ka means ‘shall we’

Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

Axel
December 3rd, 2016 at 09:47 AM
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Hi. What is the difference between -masen ka and -mashou ka? Yoroshiku.

JapanesePod101.com Verified
November 13th, 2016 at 03:50 PM
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Phil-san,

konnichiwa! :smile:

To suggest, you can say 平安神宮(へいあんじんぐう)へ行きませんか。

OR 平安神宮へいきましょうか。

There are several ways to suggest to go to a place, and it can change

depending on the conversation context.:innocent:

Hope this helps!


Natsuko (奈津子),

Team JapanesePod101.com

JapanesePod101.com Verified
October 25th, 2016 at 10:45 AM
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Hi Stephan,


Thank you for asking! They are drawn by our Designer in Europe. I'm glad to hear that you like the drawings : )


Jae

Team JapanesePod101.com

Phil
October 22nd, 2016 at 07:11 AM
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How do you turn a sentence like "平安人ぐへいきます。” to mean "We should go to..."? How do you turn a sentence into a suggestion?

Stephan Pulver
October 9th, 2016 at 05:56 PM
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My question is a little bit off topic. :smile:

I love the cute people drawings in all of these videos. Who is making them?