Quite often “とき” is the first word that you meet to say ‘when’ in Japanese. The kanji (時) we have seen in previous examples as the time marker.

とき is used with the standard form of the verb. Note that we need the target particle to mark the time of the action.

担当者たんとうしゃがいないときに、待合室まちあいしつってください。
Please wait in the waiting room when the person in charge is not here.
大学だいがく卒業そつぎょうして仕事しごとはじめたときに、毎日まいにちがつらかった。
When I graduated from university and started work every day was tough.

Quite often the particle following とき is omitted.

図書館としょかん勉強べんきょうしていたとき祐介ゆうすけはいたよ。
When was studying in the library Yusuke was there.

We can also use とき to modify the noun (something we can’t do with the conditionals).

かれったとき第一印象だいいちいんしょうがよかった。
I had a good first impression when I met him (the first impression of the time I met him was good).
としったおや介護かいごするときがいつかにるだろう。
The time will come when you will look after your parents.

Incidentally, you may recall that we have already seen one way to say ‘when’ by using the conditional ~たら.

仕事しごとわったら有楽町ゆうらくちょうく。
When work has finished I’ll go to Yurakucho.
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