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All About Japanese Particles: と (to)

I. Follows nouns; indicates such meanings as “and” and “with,” and sets off names.

1. Joins nouns, usually two or three (but not phrases and clauses): “and.” 

Note: Contrast with ya (#8, no. 1).

アランさんポールさんはフランス人です。
Aran-san to Pōru-san wa Furansu-jin desu.
Alain and Paul are French.

白いゆり赤いばらの花を買いましょう。
Shiroi yuri to akai bara no hana o kaimashō.
Let’s buy some white lilies and red roses.

2. Indicates a comparison or contrast: “and” or (when a choice is asked for) “or.”

Note: In this usage, to must follow each of the nouns.

この会社その会社では、資本金が違います。
Kono kaisha to sono kaisha to de wa, shihon-kin ga chigaimasu.
This company and that company have different amounts of capital.

りんごみかんどちらが好きですか。
Ringo to mikan to dochira ga suki desu ka.
Which do you like better, apples or mandarin oranges?

3. “Together, with.”

社長は部長食事をしています。
Shachō wa buchō to shokuji o shite imasu.
The company president is eating out with the division manager.

明日この問題について、先生話すつもりです。
Ashita kono mondai ni tsuite, sensei to hanasu tsumori desu.
Tomorrow I intend to discuss this problem with my teacher [instructor, doctor, lawyer, etc.].

*4. Indicates a change or result (commonly used in the phrase to naru)

Note: Ni (#13, no. 8) is also used in this pattern; to is more formal and is commonly used in writing.

オリンピックの開会式の日なった。
Orinpikku no kaikai-shiki no hi to natta.
The day of the opening ceremony of the Olympics arrived. (Lit., It became the day of the opening ceremony of the Olympics.)

今年の海外旅行者は、1000万人なった。
Kotoshi no kaigai-ryokōsha wa, issen-man-nin to natta.
[The number of] overseas travelers this year reached ten million.

*5. Following an expression of quantity, reinforces the negative idea of the sentence: “(not) as much as.”

あの山に登るには、2時間かかりません。
Ano yama ni noboru ni wa, ni-jikan to kakarimasen.
It won’t take as long as [won’t take even] two hours to climb that mountain.

あの会社とは2取引きをしたくない。
Ano kaisha to wa nido to torihiki o shitaku nai.
I don’t want to have dealings with that company ever again. (Lit., I don’t want to have dealings with that company two times [because I’ve dealt with them once already and know what they’re like].)

II. Used after onomatopoeic adverbs, or follows a word, clause, or sentence and precedes such verbs, as iu, kiku, and omou to indicate what someone said, asked, thought, etc.

1. Indicates what someone said, ordered, asked, etc.

山本さんが、あとで電話するおっしゃいました。
Yamamoto-san ga, ato de denwa suru to osshaimashita.
Yamamoto said that she would phone later.

母が先生によろしく申しておりました。
Haha ga sensei ni yoroshiku to mōshite orimashita.
Mother said to give her regards to you (who are my teacher, doctor, etc.).

渡辺さんが9時までに事務所に来るように、言っていました。
Watanabe-san ga kuji made ni jimu-sho ni kuru yō ni, to itte imashita.
Watanabe said that you should come to his office by nine o’clock. / Watanabe asked that you come to the office by nine o’clock.

2. Indicates what someone thinks or feels.

来年は、アメリカへ行こう考えています。
Rainen wa, Amerika e ikō to kangaete imasu.
I’m thinking of going to the United States next year.

電車は9時に出る思いましたが、10時でした。
Densha wa kuji ni deru to omoimashita ga, jūji deshita.
I thought the train would leave at nine o’clock, but [it left at] ten. / Or, I thought the train was going to leave [was scheduled to leave] at nine o’clock, but it turned out to be ten.

3. Indicates the name of something, about which an explanation follows; usually used when the name alone would not be under-stood. Always used in the form to iu (or some variation): “that (who, which) is called, known as.”

「世界」いう雑誌を知っていますか。
“Sekai’ to iu zasshi o shitte imasu ka.
Do you know the magazine Sekai?

ブリー・スカイズいうホテルに泊まりました。
Burii Sukaizu to iu hoteru ni tomarimashita.
I stayed at a hotel called Blue Skies.

まず、田中いう部長に書類をもらって下さい。
Mazu, Tanaka to iu buchō ni shorui o moratte kudasai.
First of all, get the documents from a section manager named Tanaka.

4. Used after onomatopoeic adverbs.

小川がさらさら、道のそばを流れていた。
Ogawa ga sarasara to, michi no soba o nagarete ita.
A sparkling brook flowed alongside the road.

星がきらきら輝いています。
Hoshi ga kirakira to kagayaite imasu.
The stars are twinkling.

III. Follows verbs and adjectives to form a conditional: “if, unless, whether or not.”

1. Indicates that a second action follows immediately upon the action preceding it; often used with sugu (immediately, right away): “as soon as.”

Note: -Tara (#35, no. 5) and nari (#46, no. 3) can be used here with much the same meaning.

朝起きるすぐ、カーテンを開けます。
Asa okiru to sugu, kāten o akemasu.
As soon as I get up in the morning, I open the curtains.

昨日は会社の仕事が終わる、まっすぐ家に帰った。
Kinō wa kaisha no shigoto ga owaru to, massugu ie ni kaetta.
Yesterday, as soon as work was over, I went home. / I went straight home after work yesterday.

2. Indicates the inevitability of a second action following the one preceding it: “when, as.”

日本では春になる桜が咲きます。
Nihon de wa haru ni naru to sakura ga sakimasu.
When spring comes in Japan, the cherry trees bloom. / In Japan, the cherry trees bloom with the coming of spring.

車が多くなる交通事項が増えます。
Kuruma ga ōku naru to kōtsū-jiko ga fuemasu.
As (the number of) cars increases, the (incidence of) traffic accidents rises. / The more cars there are, the more traffic accidents occur.

不景気になる失業者が増えます。
Fu-keiki ni naru to shitsugyō-sha ga fuemasu.
When there is a recession, the number of jobless increases.

3. Indicates a hypothetical condition: “if, unless.”

Note: -Ba (#34, no. 1) and -tara (#35, no. 1) have much the same meaning. Compare also -ba (#34, no. 2).

山田さんが来ない会議が始められません。
Yamada-san ga konai to kaigi ga hajimeraremasen.
If Yamada doesn’t come, the meeting can’t be started. / We can’t start the meeting unless Yamada comes.

明日、天気がいい野球ができます。
Ashita, tenki ga ii to yakyū ga dekimasu.
If the weather is good tomorrow, we can play baseball.

4. Indicates that something has been learned as a result of a certain action: “when, after, as a result of.”

Note: -Tara (#35, no. 4) can also be used with this meaning.

銀行へ行く、もう閉まっていた。
Ginkō e iku to, mō shimatte ita.
When I went to the bank, [I found] it was already closed.

交番で道を聞く、その会社はすぐ見つかった。
Kōban de michi o kiku to, sono kaisha wa sugu mitsukatta.
After asking the way at a police box, I found [located] the company right away.

5. Used with two verbs (either two different verbs ending in -yo/-o, or the same verb repeated, the first ending in -yo/-o, the second in the negative -mai); indicates a lack of concern over which of the two events occurs: “whether … or (not).”

「円」が強くなろう弱くなろう、私の生活には関係ありません。
“En” ga tsuyoku narō to yowaku narō to, watashi no seikatsu ni wa kankei arimasen.
Whether the yen gets stronger or grows weaker [rises or falls], it has no effect on my [daily] life.

彼女が一人でパーティーに行こう行くまい、私はかまいません。
Kanojo ga hitori de pati ni ikō to iku mai to, watashi wa kamaimasen.
I don’t care whether she goes to the party alone or not.

– Source: All about particles – A handbook of Japanese function words

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