Hiragana (平仮名, ひらがな or ヒラガナ?) is a Japanese syllabary, one basic component of the Japanese writing system, along with katakana, kanji, and in some cases the Latin-script alphabet (referred to in Japanese as romaji). Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems; they have corresponding character sets in which each kana, or character, represents one mora (one sound in the Japanese language). Each kana is either a vowel such as "a" (hiragana あ); a consonant followed by a vowel such as "ka" (hiragana か); or "n" (hiragana ん), a nasal sonorant which, depending on the context, sounds either like English m, n, or ng ([ŋ]), or like the nasal vowels of French.
Hiragana is used to write native words for which there are no kanji, including particles such as から kara "from", and suffixes such as さん ~san "Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms." Likewise, hiragana is used to write words whose kanji form is obscure, not known to the writer or readers, or too formal for the writing purpose. There is also some flexibility for words that have common kanji renditions to be optionally written instead in hiragana, according to an individual author's preference. Verb and adjective inflections, as, for example, be-ma-shi-ta (べました) in tabemashita (食べました?, "ate"), are written in hiragana, often following a verb or adjective root (here, "食") that is written in kanji. Hiragana is also used to give the pronunciation of kanji in a reading aid called furigana. The article Japanese writing system discusses in detail how the various systems of writing are used.