Confounding the Years

年内 and 年中

ねんない—within a year

(Maybe) counterintuitively this doesn’t mean anything like “in this/a year”, but rather within the/a year or by the end of the year. It can be further modified by adding a number in front like in:

このごとは2 ねんないわらせなければならない。
This work must be finished within two years.

ねんじゅう—the whole year

Again, this one is kind of counterintuitive as it doesn’t have anything to do with the “middle of the year”, but the whole year.

年来 and 来年


This means for some years and can be specified by adding a number in front of it like:

for five years

らいねん—next year

Now that one is a little bit nicer than the rest since it can be translated word by word, since next+year is next year.

先年 and 去年

せんねん—former years

That’s a particularly nasty one: Previous+year does not mean previous year which would not seem to be too far-fetched after learning 先月=last month), instead it means former years or a few years ago.

きょねん—last year

At least past+year means last year. There is still hope!


Another “exception” that doesn’t really fit into this article’s structure but will be pointed out nonetheless is 近年, meaning recent years. I find it a little bit confusing because of 近日, which does not mean recently, but soon.