I’m very confused when to use which because they both mean “time” and if any of you could help me out it would mean a lot

1 Answer 1


First, 時 is a wago, and 時間 is a kango. See . This means that 時 is more tightly integrated into the grammar of Japanese, and it sometimes carries a good literary flavor. Conversely, 時間 is used more as an objective or technical term.

Unfortunately, for basic words such as 時間 and 時, there are many usages that cannot be explained solely by such principles. Ultimately, you have to remember which to use for each expression. Still, keeping the principles in mind can be helpful.

  • To say "when" (e.g., それを見たとき "when I saw it"), とき is always used. Similarly, many common set phrases, including その時 ("at that time"), use 時. Outside such set phrases, we mainly use 時間 in ordinary conversation.
  • In scientific discussions about time, such as in the context of the theory of relativity, 時間 is almost always used.
  • As a unit of time ("hour"), 時間 is used. Note that the idea of hour is imported to Japan about 150 years ago, which means it's a relatively "new" term. Before that, we used a different time system.
  • In some expressions including {時間/時}が経つのは早い ("time passes quickly") or 魔法で{時間/時}の流れを止める ("to stop the flow of time with magic"), it's fine to use either of them. 時 tends to have a slightly more literary nuance, but the difference is subtle.


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