First, I came across this sentence using と in a way I've never encountered before.


My translation: When/As Pinocchio tells lies his nose becomes longer.

After a little research and based on the context of the sentence I figured this use of と must mean 'when' or 'as' as opposed to the 'and' meaning but then I started wondering what the difference is between this 'when' and the 時【とき】 'when' and the たら 'when' in terms of usage.

  • Do you focus on “one-time when” e.g. 戸を開けて見ると誰もいない or “recurring when” as in “春になると花が咲く”. I think they will make great difference. (All とき, と, たら, ば have these two usages) – Yang Muye Apr 27 '14 at 16:00

They could all be translated to 'when' in English but:

AとB in this case indicates that A first happens, then immediately after B happens. This is the case in your example!

たら can have more uncertainty in it, i.e. it can be used to express sentences where you'd use 'if' in English.

I think of とき as 'the time when' or 'everytime when'.

Just offering my two cents here. I am still learning too!:) I'm not good enough to provide the lengthy grammatical replies you usually get on this site, so sorry if it's a bit short. Anyway, at this level I find shorter answers more helpful. Hope you agree:)

  • 1
    You use と when B always happens when A happens (as in a rule). I think that's why it was used here: Pinocchio's nose grows every time he tells a lie. – Szymon Apr 27 '14 at 20:11
  • Good answer, but the last paragraph is both irrelevant to the topic of the question, and not appropriate for this site. If you want to build a consensus on what length answers should be on the site, take it up on JLU Meta. It's also a little disrespectful... the people who write long answers are trying to be helpful by being complete, and even if it's not for you, some people appreciate that effort. – Questioner Apr 28 '14 at 2:58
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    I don't think the intent of that comment was to speak down on the concept of long answers. I agree that short and simple answers are probably more helpful to people at lower levels of learning even if they gloss over some finer details. – ssb Apr 28 '14 at 6:39
  • That was definitely not the intention of my last paragraph:) edited now! – kinbiko Apr 28 '14 at 16:53


In broad terms, I've noticed three kinds of constructions that loosely correlate to "if / then". The main differences between these appear to be differences in emphasis and causal relationship.

  • 行くと XX
    Tells us whenever someone goes, XX happens. XX is an inevitable consequence of the verb.
  • 行けば XX
    Tells us that only if someone goes, XX happens. The verb is a precondition of XX.
  • 行ったら XX
    Seems to be the most neutral. If [verb], then XX; or possibly, after [verb], then XX. This is less causally strict, and seems a bit more casual in that respect: "if you happen to go, or on the off chance that you go, then XX".


Various constructions are used to describe the order of events. Among these,

  • 行くと XX
    This still has strong causal overtones, so this is probably best glossed as "whenever [verb], XX".
  • 行ったら
  • 行ってから
    These two are often regarded as synonymous when describing the order of events. One teacher of mine even suggested that -たら was a contraction of -てから, though it bears noting that Shogakukan, Daijirin, and others state that the -たら ending is the potential form of past auxiliary た, itself a contraction of たる, a contraction of て + ある.
    The basic sense is "[verb] happens, and then ..."
  • 行くとき
    Literally, "the time when [subject] goes". This more specifically refers to the point in time when the [verb] happens.

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