とき (toki) Meaning Japanese Grammar - When
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The noun とき (
hour and also has the meaning of
when with the function of a conjunction used in time clauses.
We learn in this post the difference in usage and meaning of とき written in Hiragana and 時 transcribed in Kanji according to Japanese official texts and how they are actually used in everyday life.
We analyse together the various cases in which とき is used through real examples and material on the internet.
Differences between 時 and とき
とき transcribed in Kanji 時 is mainly used as a noun in its meaning of
If you want to do it, now is the time.
A popular ことわざ
- 時は金なり: "Time is money".
- 時をまつ: waiting for the (right) time
とき transcribed in Hiragana instead expresses a condition, a situation; it is translated with the temporal conjunction
when and in some cases with the hypothetical conjunction
Let's see the difference through 2 examples:
the passing of time; use as a noun
when / if I am in trouble; from the verb 困る in the past tense 困った; use as conjunction
Other examples of とき:
- 行けないときは: when / if I cannot go there
- いざというときは: it is a common Japanese expression that means
in case of need,
in case of emergency
とき as a conjunction can be replaced by the structure 場合は.
⇨ 行けないときは becomes 行けない場合は: in case I cannot go
場合は (baai wa) means
in the case of,
in some cases.
These are the main differences that we read in the official texts. However, we can also find the Kanji 時 when it has a conjunction function in time clauses.
When とき is used
とき is used to express the moment at which certain states exist or certain actions occur.
とき links two sentences: it expresses in the subordinate clause the moment when the state or action described in the main clause occurs.
- Example with a い Adjective:
When the weather is good, I go jogging.
とき preceded by the verb in the present tense
The verb preceding とき is in plain form and can be in the present or past tense.
First case: Time Clause 1 with とき and Main Clause 2 are in the present tense.
When I drink tea, add milk and sugar.
If you don't know how to do it, just ask me.
The use of the present tense often represents habitual actions.
- Example with a な Adjective:
In my spare time, I always play games.
とき expresses the time when the action takes place and depending on the sentence, can be translated as 'before' or 'after'.
Before eating, we say 'Itadakimasu'.
Second case: Time Clause 1 with とき in the present tense and Main Clause 2 in the past tense.
When booking tickets, a phone number was required.
Literally: it was necessary (to communicate) the telephone number
とき preceded by the verb in the past tense
In this case とき is preceded by the past tense form and the Main Clause can be in the present or past tense.
First case: Time Clause 1 with とき in the past tense and Main Clause 2 in the present tense.
When I forget something, I go home to get it.
The action in Time clause 1 with とき occurs before the action in the Main Clause 2:
⇨ I forgot something, I go home and get it.
When we have eaten, we say 'Go chisō sama'.
Second case: Time Clause 1 with とき in the past tense and Main Clause 2 in the past tense.
When I ate Japanese ramen, I was so impressed by how delicious it was.
In this case both actions occur in a past time.
Examples of とき
When you feel tired, please rest.
I came to Japan when I was 21 years old.
Here is a sentence from a website that provides psychological support to mothers in the communication with their children.
I can't ask for help when I'm in trouble. I can't explain what I'm struggling with.
In the previous 2 sentences we find the use of 2 potential forms expressed by the suffixes れる / られる and by the verb できる.
What to do if you delete your Instagram account and forget your password.
とき formally is a noun, so it can be followed by particles.
The literal translation of the last sentence is: 'Solution method (対処法) in the case you deleted your Instagram account and forgot your password'.
Sentence from a Japanese essay:
When the results are good, it is attributed to others. When the results are bad, it is attributed to oneself.
We can also translate as: "When the results are good, it is thanks to others. When they are bad it is our fault.
As I mentioned in the post, we can also find とき in Kanji 時 when it functions as a conjunction in the time clause.
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