I'm confused about how と is used in this sentence (乗るとすぐメールを・・・). What purpose does it serve?



English speaking learners of Japanese are usually first exposed to as being something like "and" (though it's not technically "and"), as in りんごとオレンジとバナナ. However, that's just one use, and you can see some more explanation of and it's implications of consequence at the top of this answer.

乗るとすぐメールを・・・ means roughly something like, "when they get on the train...". Given the context of the longer sentence, it's saying, "when they get on the train, they soon start mailing with their phone..."

It might be tempting to translate your sentence as "they get on the train and then they soon mail," because that makes a certain sense in connecting the kind of in りんごとオレンジとバナナ with the kind of in your sentence. Which I say because that was a mistake I was making. However, "and then" would be そして. In this case, this in your sentence isn't a variation on the used to list things. It's just "when", as in "when X happens, then Y".

Hope that helps.

  • Thank you! The only thing I am confused about then is why と is used here, rather than て-form? Isn't て-form usually used to connect phrases with "and," (ミルクをかって飲みました) and と used to connect nouns (家族と友達)?
    – jeelbear
    Sep 13 '13 at 17:23
  • 5
    I wouldn't say と is usually "and". I would call this と something like the "consequential-と". Although it's not in the question, it is addressed in the accepted answer in this post: Differences among -たら、なら、-んだったら、-えば, etc.
    – istrasci
    Sep 13 '13 at 17:25
  • 3
    と which connects to verbs is different from the one that connects to nouns. It's misleading to associate the former with "and".
    – user4092
    May 8 '14 at 4:55
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    In the first place, there are no English equivalents that really match (noun)+と. Because (noun)+と makes it into a case (like noun inflection in latin), while "and" is a conjunction, which really is parallel to "(noun)および(noun)" in Japanese. On the other hand, (verb)+と makes it into a conditional clause like "if ..." or "when ...". One beginner's common mistake is repeating stand-alone と as if it's "And, ...". Likewise, they don't find 楽しいの人 or 早いだから really odd because they are not aware of connection. What generates the meaning is not the particle per se but how it's connected with what.
    – user4092
    May 8 '14 at 14:52
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    One way to see that the とs are different is to look at the grammar: The と in NounとNoun is a coordinator, meaning you're putting multiple things of the same type together. You can add it to as many nouns as you want: AとBとCとD And although the final と is very often omitted, it doesn't have to be: AとBとCとDと is okay, too. But with Verbと, you aren't coordinating anything. It just goes on one thing (the verb), and the thing after it can't have と. So in terms of grammar they're two different things. (By the way, I like your edit, I just thought I'd try my hand at clarifying :-)
    – user1478
    May 9 '14 at 17:21

This と means "when", not "and".

That it might make sense "in English" if you use "and" when translating the sentence into English is of little importance as we are discussing Japanese here.

「 (Verb phrase A) + と + すぐ + (Verb phrase B)」 =

"(B happens) as soon as (A happens)." or

"(B happens) in no time when/whenever (A happens)."

I am sure some of you have seen this と when it means "if". Its usage as "when" is actually very similar to that.


@Dave M G's comment:


  • "they get on and soon they mail" = 乗る、そしてすぐにメールを打つ
  • "they soon mail when they get on" = 乗るとすぐにメールを・・

And yes バナナとりんご is a "case".

English has two three categories of cases, [banana], [bananas] and [banana's], and you can say (1)"I buy a banana and an apple" as well as (2)"I buy a banana". In both sentences, the 'banana' appears as it is in common, but you have to say "mom's apple" instead of "mom apple".

In Japanese, you have to use different noun forms even between (1) and (2), and say "I buy a bananato and an appleto" instead of "I buy a banana and an apple". But some parts are optional and you can reduce it into "I buy (a) bananato (and) (an) apple/appleto". i.e. バナナと、そして、りんごとを買う → バナナと(そして)りんご(と)を買う

Likewise, although you have to say "I bought it yesterday" instead of "I buy it yesterday", you can say (3)"if they board" as well as (4)"They board." But in Japanese you have to use differnt verb forms even between (3) and (4), like "if they boardto". (Japanese doesn't have any words that REALLY match 'if')

Suffix [s] as in 'thinks' and the one as in 'things' are different though they are both [s].

  • 1
    I'm sorry... this answer makes no sense in terms of the English. バナナと is not generally considered a "noun form" in contemporary Japanese grammar. There was a > 90 year-old book written by a Westerner that thought particles were noun declensions, but no one thinks that now.
    – virmaior
    May 9 '14 at 9:34
  • @virmaior: I, either. But case particles are much closer to suffixes than conjunctions. My purpose is letting him understand that.
    – user4092
    May 9 '14 at 23:58
  • @DaveMG: て form or adverbal form (a.k.a pre-masu form) are like a gerund used as an adverb. 乗って、すぐにメールを打つ directly translates to "Boarding, they soon mail". But "they board and soon mail" is more natural.
    – user4092
    May 10 '14 at 0:11
  • @user4092, thank you for your patient explanations. Your answer and comments have helped educate me about , and I hope my answer is now concise and accurate.
    – Questioner
    May 10 '14 at 3:29

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