A Beginner's Guide to Japanese: How to Say Zero in Japanese

Published January 19th, 2023

Imagine learning Japanese for months and getting a good handle on the language. However, you start to realize that you don't know the word for zero in Japanese.

Luckily, it's never too late to learn how to say the number, and you even have more than one option. Read on to learn the different ways to say and write the number zero in Japanese.

The Number Zero in Japanese

When learning Japanese, you shouldn't forget to learn the number zero. It can be easy to start with one and increase from there, but you never know when you may need to use the number 0 in Japanese.

For better or worse, you can say zero in multiple ways when speaking Japanese. You can technically interchange when you use each version, but it helps to know all of them so that you can understand other speakers.

One of the standard ways for how to stay zero in Japanese is to say "rei." Another option that's becoming more common is to simply say "zero" like you would in English.

You can also say "maru" when referring to the number zero. Each variation has different uses, but they all mean the same thing.

When to Use Each Word in Japanese for Zero

If you want to choose the best word in Japanese for zero, you should compare your options. While you could argue they're interchangeable, some varieties are better in certain circumstances.

As you learn how to speak the Japanese language, you should keep the following in mind.

Using "Rei"

The standard way to say zero in Japanese is to use the term "rei." You can use this version in almost any setting, and most speakers should understand what you're saying.

Whether you're counting or simply stating there's zero of something, this variation works. It's a suitable choice in schools, at work, and in other formal settings.

Now, this term isn't as common as it used to be, so some younger speakers or beginners might not understand. Still, if you're learning Japanese, it's good to know how to say it so that you can listen for it.

Using "Zero"

Recently, Japanese speakers have started to say "zero" more than "rei" when talking about the number zero. It sounds the same as it does in English, so this is a great choice for English native speakers.

You can use it when conversing with other English speakers who are learning Japanese. Then, you won't have to worry about learning quite as much vocabulary, especially as a beginner.

Even other Japanese speakers should understand what you're saying. If you're struggling with how to pronounce certain words, saying "zero" can be a good option.

You may be able to use it in school or at work when speaking Japanese. While it's not as standard as "rei," it's gaining popularity.

Using "Maru"

While the other two ways to say zero in Japanese are similar, "maru" is a bit different. This translation is most similar to how in English, we say "oh" instead of the number.

That makes it an excellent choice if you ever need to spell out a list of digits. For example, you may need to give someone your phone number or address.

Or maybe you need to share a large number, but you don't yet know how to say the number itself. You can list the digits to still get your point across.

Don't Skip Over Learning Zero

When you first learn your Japanese numbers, you'll probably start by learning how to say one through ten. This makes sense since that's the case with other foreign languages.

However, it can be easy to move on to larger numbers up to 100 or 1,000. If you focus on learning larger numbers, you might forget to learn how to say zero in Japanese.

Consider learning the words for zero along with other small numbers. Then, you'll be able to count all of the numbers or list out any digit you come across.

Even if you've already learned other Japanese numbers, you can still learn how to say zero. Make sure you include the number in your list of vocabulary.

Spend time learning all three variations on how to say the number. That way, you can speak and understand Japanese, and you can keep working toward fluency.

Learn to Write Each Variation of Zero

After you learn how to say zero in Japanese, you should learn how to write it. The writing system can make Japanese one of the most difficult languages for English speakers, and it doesn't help that you have multiple writing systems.

The Kanji for zero is 零. Specifically, this is the way you'll write the term that you'd pronounce as "rei" when speaking.

Meanwhile, the zero in Japanese hiragana is ぜろ/れい. You'll use the same pronunciation, so this is a good option for formal writing or school papers.

If you prefer to say "zero," you'll want to write it as ゼロ. To write "maru," you'll use these symbols マル.

When writing zero in Katakana, you'll use the symbols ゼロ. It's identical to how you'd write the Japanese word "zero."

Learn Zero as a Beginner

Beginner Japanese lessons on numbers don't always include the number zero. However, they should because it's a foundational part of the language.

If you can't say all of the numbers or at least all of the digits, you'll struggle to communicate. As you learn Japanese, don't be afraid to study the number zero, even if your lesson materials don't cover it.

The more you understand it now, the less you'll have to learn later. Then, you can focus on other aspects of the language, such as advanced grammar and vocabulary.

How Will You Say Zero in Japanese?

You can say zero in Japanese in three different ways. Be sure to consider who you're speaking to and what environment you're in to help decide.

It also helps to know if you want to say the word "zero" or something like "oh." Keep those things in mind as you learn the different variations.

Do you want to start learning more Japanese? Start with our introductory lesson today.