In this sentence, a fox called ごん has run all the way home to escape an angry fisherman who he stole an eel from.

Why is と the conditional used here? I could understand had it been たら because that one is like sequential, but と isn't is it? I thought that if you had a conditional with a past tense S2 (Sentence two) then it was meant to indicate a surprising result. What is と doing in this sentence?


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    Do you mind if I ask what this quote is from? I thought it was from ごん狐 but I don't see this sentence in there. – snailplane May 10 '14 at 3:51

ごんは、家に着いた (then what happened?) すると、ウナギを家の外に置いて、言いました。

と puts a little more emphasis on what happens next. It makes your narration sound vivid. It can also imply some kind of relation between two consecutive actions. e.g. causality or immediacy.

と seems very common in stories and novels. すると is also a conjunction.


I found an explanation in 庭三郎's 現代日本語文法概説


(One of the basic usages of と is to narrate events in the past objectively. It's frequently used in descriptions in novels.)



(と can be used to describe sequential actions of the same agent while たら cannot.)

豊田豊子 wrote a series of papers on と.

  • The use of すると in stories is good way to explain the use of と but, consistent with my deleted explanation, S2 is "what happend next", which is something beyond the control of the subject/main actor in S1. How did you parse ウナギを家の外に置いて? This seems to be an action under ごん's control. – Tim May 10 '14 at 11:15
  • @Tim, yes, it's volitional actions controlled by Gon. 庭三郎 says と can be used because it's an objective description. But according to my feeling, it seems to be the “surprise” conveyed by たら that makes it impossible to describe the speaker's volition. と seems to work in a way of predicting the listener's interest. 顔を洗ったら学校に行った (invalid) 顔を洗うと歯を磨いた (not good, trivial) 顔を洗うと学校に行った (good) – Yang Muye May 10 '14 at 13:41

Both events in your sentence take place in the past and the application of 〜たら and 〜と is slightly different.

As Yang Muye says, と is often used in stories to objectively describe events and the conjunctive すると is often used to set up the scene for what happens next. Momotaro, the peach boy is sometimes given as an example of this use of と.

〜たら on the other hand cannot be used if the actor has control over the sequence of events which is the case here.

This use of と is different from the "conditional-と" which is used to mark a condition that brings about an uncontrollable event. In such cases S2 cannot be volitional and the following sentence (not set in the past) is ungrammatical:


Objectively is the operative word in all this. The following sentence is incorrect because the writer is too closely involved in the events:


The て-form is more natural:


And the following sentence is acceptable because even though the writer is describing his own activities, he has distanced himself from them:


Reference: A students' guide to Jpse Grammar by Naomi Hanaoka McGloin

  • Isn't ウナギを置く a volitional action? – Szymon May 10 '14 at 3:33
  • I know, I checked the same source and that made me a bit puzzled. – Szymon May 10 '14 at 3:49
  • @Szymon: Should be clear from the above revised answer. – Tim May 11 '14 at 3:31

I'm Japanese.

The differences between ば/と/たら are difficult.

Japanese also ask similar questions: http://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1115354691

In short, "と" needs proof of happening for next sentence. "たら" don't need proof, wishful word also used after たら.

Assign these three sentence to variables for simplicity.

S1する(means "do S1") = ごんは、家に着く

S2する(means "do S2") = ウナギを家の外に置い

S3する(means "do S3") = 言いました

and then,


can transform to

S1すると、 S2して、S3する。

Do S1, and then, do S2, and do S3.

Simply stated, there is little difference. But, と implies to us the "certainty of next sentence" after the former sentence, we can read it comfortably.

  • 1
    一様色々な英語の文法ミスを直しましたが、質問とちょっと合わない答えだと思います。特に、質問の重要なポイントはタイトルに書かれた:「なぜとの最後の部分に過去形に変化しましたか」。 – virmaior May 10 '14 at 4:08
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    英語の文法ミスを直してくださったことについてはありがとうございます。まだまだ勉強中の身でして。 Yang Muye's answer is grammatical good! In the view of Japanese, I remark a note. these changed sentence is also good for my feeling :) 「ごんは、家に着いた。そしてウナギを家の外に置いて、言いました。」 「ごんは、家に着いた。ウナギを家の外に置いた。そして言いました。」 「ごんは、家に着いて、ウナギを家の外に置いて、言いました。」 「ごんは、家に着くと、ウナギを家の外に置いて、言いました。」 「ごんは、家に着いて、ウナギを家の外に置くと、言いました。」 but, 「ごんは、家に着くと、ウナギを家の外に置くと、言いました。」 is little weird. Sequential "と" feels bad(Sorry for emotional logic...) – shogochiai May 10 '14 at 6:59
  • hmm, sorry for no-newline(I want to say about '改行') – shogochiai May 10 '14 at 7:02
  • Not a problem! We appreciate your help. – virmaior May 11 '14 at 3:40

Here, this 接続助詞 "と" works not as conditional. It simply connects another sentence which happened immediately after that. Almost the same meaning as "すると" or "そして".

This site explains several uses of 接続助詞 "と":



  • 学校につくと、ベルが鳴った。
  • 家に帰ると日が暮れた。
  • 道を右に曲がると、駅が見えた。

The last one translates not as "If I turned right, I saw a station", but as "I turned right, and then I saw a station." And so on.

  • 異なった主体 >>> But the sentence in the question seems to be 同一の主体 :-( – Yang Muye May 10 '14 at 6:10
  • Oh, you're right. So in this case 「5.同一の主体が二つの動作と作用を継続進行する場合」 applies. – naruto May 10 '14 at 6:41
  • What seems wired to me is, the example sentences under 5 are not 同一の主体 at all. They are interchangeable with なら. – Yang Muye May 10 '14 at 6:42
  • That's why I hesitated to cite the examples under 5. Either way, this "と" is simple connection to describe something immediately followed by another, and the subjects can be the same or different. The example you gave us looks perfect. – naruto May 10 '14 at 7:33

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