JP Vocab – Kaeru and its many uses

Kaeru (かえる) is one of those Japanese words that have many different Kanji readings. When heard it almost always means “to return” or “to replace something”, but when writting you can provide additional nuances depending on which Kanji is being used. I’ve made some reference images for these different Kanji.


It should be pretty obvious from context whether “to change” or “to return” is meant. Take note that 帰る is always used for “going back to your base”, even when an English translation might say “I’m going home”, “I’m coming home”. Using 行くor 来る would be regarded as unnatural.

Also take note that 帰る is a Godan-verb so the Ru part gets conjugated, and when writing a lot of students might think the “e” sound is not included in the kanji and write 帰える which is wrong.  kaeru2

These 3 Kanji have the same meaning of replacing something, but have some interesting nuances.


Lastly there are some common compounds, like 乗り換える which is always used when you take a connecting train or bus. 振り返る is typical anime vocab, but it might be an interesting and nice sounding word to learn.

Overall these kanji aren’t too hard to distinguish, but you’ll see them around frequently, so best remember them. Make sure to also know the proper difference between directional motion verbs like 行く、来る and 帰る and don’t always translate too directly from English.

Shiba Nikku out!~ ♪


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