Skip to Content

Is red in Japanese aka or Akai?

Is red in Japanese aka or Akai?

The words for the color red in Japanese can sometimes be confusing for learners of the language. The two main words used to refer to the color red in Japanese are “aka” (赤) and “akai” (赤い). Knowing the difference between these two words and when to use each one is important. In this article, we will examine the meanings, uses, and grammar of “aka” and “akai” in order to understand how to properly say the color red in Japanese.

The Meanings of Aka and Akai

The word “aka” in Japanese is a noun that means “red” or “red color.” Some examples of using aka as a noun include:

– Aka ga suki desu – I like red
– Konna aka no fuku wo kite imasu – She’s wearing such a red dress

“Akai,” on the other hand, is an i-adjective in Japanese that means “red,” “crimson,” or “scarlet.” When used to describe nouns, it functions like an adjective in English:

– Akai hon – a red book
– Akai tsumetai – crimson nails

So while both aka and akai refer to the color red, aka is a noun that means “red” itself, while akai is an adjective used to describe nouns as being red.

Grammar Differences

The grammatical differences between aka and akai are important to understand.

As a noun, aka cannot directly modify other nouns. To use it to describe something as red, you need to use it with the particle “no” (aka no) or use it in a clause connecting it to the noun.

– Aka no hon – a red book
– Aka de aru hon – a book that is red

Akai, as an i-adjective, can directly modify nouns:

– Akai hon – a red book

This is why akai is more commonly used to designate color – it grammatically functions like an adjective, so it can easily describe nouns.

Aka, on the other hand, is used in other constructions where a noun is required. For example, you would use aka when listing colors:

aka red
ao blue
kiiro yellow

And you would use aka when using color nouns by themselves:

– Aka ga ii desu – Red is good
– Ao yori aka no hou ga suki – I prefer red over blue

So the grammar determines whether aka or akai is appropriate – aka for nouns, akai for adjectives modifying nouns.

Usage in Sentences

Let’s look at some example sentences using aka and akai:

– Aka no kuruma desu – It’s a red car
– Sono hon wa akai desu – That book is red

– Kanojo wa akai lipu wo shite imasu – She’s wearing red lipstick
– Aka no skirt wo kite kudasai – Please wear a red skirt

– Akai ga suki desu – I like red
– Aka yori ao ga motto suki desu – I prefer blue to red

In sentences where red is used as a noun, aka is used. When modifying nouns to indicate they are red, akai is used. And aka can stand alone or use particles like no, while akai requires a noun to modify.

Formal vs. Casual Use

Both aka and akai can be used in formal and casual settings.

In formal Japanese, full forms are preferred:

– Akai desu – It is red
– Aka no desu – It is red (noun)

In casual Japanese, you could use abbreviations:

– Akai – (It’s) red
– Aka no – (It’s) red (noun)

So both aka and akai can work for speaking formally or informally. However, in casual conversation, akai may be a bit more common since using adjectives is simpler than turning aka into a modifying noun with particles like no. But aka can still be used casually for sentences like “Aka ga ii” (Red is good).

Aka vs Akai: Key Points

In summary, here are the main distinctions between aka and akai in Japanese:

– Aka is a noun meaning “red” or “red color”
– Akai is an i-adjective meaning “red” to modify nouns

– Aka requires particles or clauses to modify nouns
– Akai directly modifies nouns as an adjective

– Use aka for color nouns and lists
– Use akai to describe things as red

– Both can be used formally and informally
– Akai may be more common in casual speech

As long as you know whether you need a noun or adjective for red, you’ll be able to decide between using aka or akai correctly in Japanese. With a little practice, discerning when to say “aka” or “akai” for the color red will become second nature.


In conclusion, while aka and akai both mean red in Japanese, there are some important grammar and usage differences to understand. Aka acts as a noun, while akai is an i-adjective. Aka can stand alone or use particles like no, while akai is used to directly modify nouns. In practice, akai tends to be used more often to describe things as red, while aka is reserved for when a color noun is required. By learning when each is appropriate, you’ll be able to confidently say “red” in Japanese, whether you need aka or akai. With this guide to distinguish these two words, you’ll be able to avoid mistakes and express the color red accurately.