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:

  1. To connect nouns and pronouns
  2. To express that an action was performed jointly
  3. 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.

わたしは 小説しょうせつ 手紙てがみを きます。
I will write a letter and a novel.
山田やまださんは 時計とけい 携帯けいたいを わすれました。
Yamada-san forgot his watch and mobile phone.
村本むらもとさんは 大学だいがくの 教授きょうじゅ 会社かいしゃの 社長しゃちょうです。
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.

おとうとは 渋谷しぶやで 山田やまださん あそびました。
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”).

おとうと 山田やまださんは 渋谷しぶやで あそびました。
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”.

山口やまぐちさんは 公園こうえんで 彼氏かれし はなしました。
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.

かれは 大地だいち 幸子さちこ 食事しょくじを します。
He will have dinner with Daichi and Sachiko.
わたしは 彼女 二人ふたりで 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.

友達ともだち 5人ごにんで 北海道ほっかいどうに 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.

かれの めがねは わたしの めがね おなじです。
His glasses are the same as mine.
【A】は 【B】 ちがいます。
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 日本語にほんごを 勉強べんきょうする 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.

明子あきこは 誕生会たんじょうかいに  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.

わたしは 学生がくせい いました。
I said that I’m a student.
わたしは 学生がくせい 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.

えき おもいます。
I think it’s a train station.

Without the auxiliary verb this becomes “I think train station” which makes no sense.

便利べんり おもいます。
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.

あたらしい仕事しごとを さが めました。
I’ve decided to search for a new job.
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