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I have read about the different uses of the different particles in Japanese but often become confused as to how it should be translated in different sentences. In other words the actual intent of the particle sometimes looks ambigious to me. Now the particle と has atleast these four uses:

1) Quotation particle. It could be quoting a thought or speach.
2) Conditional particle. It expresses natural cause and effect statements only.
3) List of things. It can be used to express the word "and" for an exhaustive list of things.
4) With. Expressing relationship between two things, translated as "with" in English.

Now often I get confused which way the particle is being used when we have sentence before and also after the particle.

If I have just one sentence ending verb after the particle like 書く、思う、話す、言う、then I know we are quoting something. If we have list of nouns seperated by と then we know that here we have an exhaustive list of things. The problem is that while this is true, the particle is used in more complex situations as well with in paragraphs and then sometimes I cannot make out how to translate it.

Could you elaborate on how to know for sure which way the particle is being used?

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I'm not sure if this question as it is now will be easy to answer. You are aware of different uses of と already. Can you maybe provide some examples that confuse you? – Szymon Apr 10 '14 at 12:07

You're 90% there. Let's take your list in order, shall we?

1. Quotation Particle

As you noted, if you see it followed by a verb indicating expression (思う、言う、話す, etc.) then it's being used in this manner.

2. Conditional Particle

The following sentence is the way I was taught to use this one:

秋になると、葉が落ちる。 "When autumn comes, the leaves fall."

In other words, it's used to join two sentences and follows the dictionary form of the verb. What happens in the second sentence must be a direct consequence of what happened in the first.

3. List of Things

A more exhaustive answer for this one can be found here, but the short of it is like you said, if you see several nouns grouped together by と then this is the most likely usage. Also, the last item in the group usually takes the same particle that a single item would have taken, on behalf of the group. So, for example:


ピーマン takes を because if we were buying just one item we would have used を. と is then used between everything else on the list.

4. With

Often with this usage one item is expressed independently using は, after which other people or items are added to the group. For example:

私は武【たけし】と東京へ行った。 "I went to Tokyo with Takeshi."

I'm using と in this sentence to add Takeshi to the group. Additional people can also be included using XとYと..., but beyond two it can start sounding a bit ridiculous.

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