I read this sentence in a book for beginners, but I can't find the grammar in any of my books or online:


Which I translate as

While the old woman was washing in the river, a big peach came floating down from upstream (with some sound effects).

However, I can't find any references that mention that the verb in -ている form followed by と should mean "while". Or indeed any references to such a construct at all. Can someone please explain this grammar, how common it is, and when it is right to use it? Note that I am familiar with the verb-ている form when referring to "verb-ing" or when there is a change of state. I'm also happy that と after a verb can mean "if", but that doesn't seem to work here.

Many thanks

1 Answer 1


It is indeed the conditional と but takes more of the form of 'when' rather than 'if', in a similar way to how とき is used. You'll see it used in this way quite a lot. This also means that anything before と doesn't necessarily have a cause-effect relationship. It's not because the the women was doing her laundry by the river that the peach came.

それは先生に聞くとすぐ分かった (I understood immediately when i asked my teacher) - DOBJG pg.481


  • I was led to believe that in the construction "condition と result", the result has to be a logical or expected consequence of the condition. That wouldn't seem to apply in this case. Am I wrong? Apr 11, 2015 at 17:28
  • Just spotted the last comment in your link "When と (to) is used in the meaning "when" it implies that something happened abruptly.". That sounds like it could apply here. Thanks Apr 11, 2015 at 17:32
  • The entry in the dictionary 明鏡国語辞典 might help too:「あることが起こるのと前後して次のことが起こるという関係を表す」 It gives as an example 「町を歩いていると呼び止められた」
    – blutorange
    Apr 11, 2015 at 18:20
  • In your link to wiki, マンハッタンへ行くと for "When I went to Manhattan" is wrong unless it's a habitual past (i.e. "I would meet"). You can't apply it to your (1st person's) own volitional action in a simple past.
    – user4092
    Apr 12, 2015 at 1:54
  • @user4092 Can you explain why the 'Manhattan' sentence and Joe's 'teacher' sentence are different please? Is it the difference between going to Manhattan for the purpose of seeing a friend, and just happening to bump into a friend when you went to Manhattan? In the latter case I don't see why this construct doesn't work. Apr 12, 2015 at 9:38

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