why there’s 3 ways to write the same word in Japanese?

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I’m vaguely aware there’s something like 3 alphabets kanji, hiragana, and katakana. I also read that katakana is used for foreign words, but for some words there is a way to use all 3 alphabets. I guess im more so wondering what would be the appropriate use for each, so F.E, mint. I found a kanji and katakana but also maybe hiragana way. 造幣局 ミント みんと

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As you’ll have discovered, katakana and hiragana are two different ways of transcribing the same set of sounds (the “gojū on”, or “fifty sounds”). But they have different uses, most of which people have already mentioned. Here are a couple of points more/elaboration.

As well as the other things people have mentioned, katakana is (or was) used in transcription contexts, such as telegrams, military signals and computer input forms, where accuracy is/was particularly important. Its angular shape makes it hard to misinterpret.

In normal, written Japanese, you’ll find hiragana and kanji interspersed in the same sentence, doing different things. Basically, the kanji carry concepts, and the hiragana carry grammar. And there may be katakana in there as well. So it’s not unusual to find something like this (“Mary drank the milk.”):

“**メアリーさんは牛乳を飲みました**” (“Mearī san wa gyūnyū o nomimashita”).*

Which breaks down as follows (and I apologise to anyone who speaks better Japanese than me if any of this is slightly techincally incorrect):

* **メアリー** (Katakana. Foreign name; best-efforts transliteration.)
* **さん** (Hiragana. Polite suffix. Grammar.)
* **は** (Hiragana. Indicating that Mary is a new sentence topic. Grammar.)
* **牛乳** (Kanji. Cow’s milk. Concept.)
* **を** (Hiragana. Indicating that cow’s milk is the sentence object. Grammar.)
* **飲** (Kanji. “no…”. Drink. Concept.)
* **みました** (Hiragana. “…mimashita”. Modifies the preceding concept – “drink” – to be a verb in the (polite) past tense – “nomimashita”. “(someone) drank”. Grammar.)

Mary (polite) (new topic) cow’s milk (object) drink (polite past tense).

In a different context, **飲** could be a noun, or part of one, likely with a different pronunciation entirely – but the concept of “drink” would be there.

(And just to put the icing on the cake – actually, I could have thrown in some latin letters there as well, by picking something like, say, “Mary bought a CD” – “**メリーさんはCDを買いました**”. There are some foreign abbreviations that normally get written as-is.)

*The horizontal bars over the latin letters ī and ū, and at the end of “**メアリー**”, indicate long vowel sounds.

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