The most basic usage of the connecting particle と is—wait for it—to connect things. When used to connect nouns we can translate と as “and” or “with”. In fact, と is the one particle for which it is truly difficult to give it a succinct name because its grammatical usages vary so widely. Here we will introduce its three main usages:
- To connect nouns and pronouns
- To express that an action was performed jointly
- To phrase a clause (form a quotation)
1. Connecting Nouns & Pronoun
The と particle can connect nouns or pronouns together so that the verb takes action on them as a set.
|私は 小説と 手紙を 書きます。|
|I will write a letter and a novel.|
|山田さんは 時計と 携帯を 忘れました。|
|Yamada-san forgot his watch and mobile phone.|
|村本さんは 大学の 教授と 会社の 社長です。|
|Muramoto-san is a university professor and a company CEO.|
2. Joint Actions
When translating as “with” the と particle connects the preceding noun or pronoun to the verb.
|弟は 渋谷で 山田さんと 遊びました。|
|My younger brother hung out with Yamada-san in Shibuya.|
It is worth comparing the nuance when we shuffle the sentence around to make the と particle modify the topic (where it thus translates as “and”).
|弟と 山田さんは 渋谷で 遊びました。|
|My younger brother and Yamada-san hung out in Shibuya [a place in Tokyo].|
The verb あそぶ actually means “to play”, but the direct translation sounds inappropriate in English when referring to adults so it is better thought of as meaning “to hang out”.
|山口さんは 公園で 彼氏と 話しました。|
|Yamada-san spoke with her boyfriend in the park.|
“To say” can take either に or と; although the latter is probably more common. The nuance is one of reciprocity, と placing more emphasis on the fact that the conversation was two-way.
Of course there’s nothing stopping us using と more than once.
|彼は 大地と 幸子と 食事を します。|
|He will have dinner with Daichi and Sachiko.|
|私は 彼女と 二人で デートしました。|
|I went on a date with my girlfriend.|
In the above sentence the で particle is used to emphasise that it was just the two of you on the date (the state in which the action took place). This combination is common when you want to state with how many people you went for dinner, had a conversation, etc. Note that the number includes yourself.
|友達と ５人で 北海道に 行きました。|
|I went with four friends to Hokkaido.|
Note that when you want to say that you did something with x number of people in Japanese you include yourself in the total. A more literal translation might be: “I went with friends as a group of 5 people to Hokkaido”.
Theと particle is often used with the adjectival noun (nouns that can be used as adjectives) “same” (おなじ) and the verb “different” (ちがう). The logic is similar—it is joining the verb to another noun other than the topic of the sentence.
|彼の めがねは 私の めがねと 同じです。|
|His glasses are the same as mine.|
|【A】は 【B】と 違います。|
|A is different to B.|
3. Phrasing a Clause
と can also be used to phrase a clause. What do I mean by this? Well, perhaps the easiest example to give is using the verb “to say”.
|マイクは 日本語を 勉強すると 言いました|
|Mike said (that) he will study Japanese.|
In this case, the phrase between the topic particle and the ending verb “to say” is the quoted clause.
|明子は 誕生会に 来ると 言いました|
|Akiko said (that) she’d come to the birthday party.|
In the above sentences we are directly quoting the preceding clauses by adding と to the standard form of the verb. For na-adjectives and nouns, however, care needs to be taken with the use of the auxiliary verb.
|私は 学生だと 言いました。|
|I said that I’m a student.|
|私は 学生と 言いました。|
|I said “student”.|
The latter sentence is not grammatically incorrect, just not likely the intended meaning. The auxiliary verb is needed because you want to declare that you are a student. If the inclusion or omission of the auxiliary particles for na-adjectives and nouns is a little confusing just remember that in the vast majority of cases, the auxiliary verb will be required.
|I think it’s a train station.|
Without the auxiliary verb this becomes “I think train station” which makes no sense.
|I think it’s convenient.|
As you can see from the above sentences, it’s not only the verb “to say” that can take the と particle.
|新しい仕事を 探すと 決めました。|
|I’ve decided to search for a new job.|