I've seen several posts saying that と cannot be used to mean 'and' when linking clauses. They say it should be treated as 'when'. I have come across several sentences in my studies that do not support this conclusion e.g.


The ogre spit out 一寸ぼうし 'and' hurriedly ran away.

*When the ogre spit out 一寸ぼうし he hurriedly ran away

It doesn't feel right to interpret と as 'when' here because that would imply that I already knew the ogre had/was going to spit him out (I don't know this from the prior sentences in the story).

Furthermore, grammar books tell me that と should be used to mean 'when' only if the main clause is a natural consequence of the condition. Here's another sentence from the same story


When he arrived at the capital, いっ寸ぼうし went to the nobleman's house.

Using 'when' makes sense here since I already knew he was going to the capital, but, going to the nobleman's house isn't a natural consequence of arriving in the capital (in fact, I would claim it was volitional. And volitional statements are explicitly banned when using と to mean 'when'). If I move いっ寸ぼうしは to the front of the sentence I could equally well translate the sentence as "いっ寸ぼうし arrived at the capital and went to the nobleman's house." Can someone please provide some insight into the use of と in sentences like these. Also, could I write 鬼は、一寸ぼうしを吐き出して、大急ぎで逃げていきました for the first sentence, and how would it differ in meaning/nuance?

  • Do you know if the reading for 一寸 is いっすん, ちょっと, or something else?
    – istrasci
    May 25, 2015 at 17:40
  • @istrasci It's supposed to be いっすん as in one weird unit of length measurement. The story is inch high samurai. May 25, 2015 at 18:21
  • I asked that as more of a suggestion to edit it into the question.
    – istrasci
    May 25, 2015 at 22:15

2 Answers 2

  1. 鬼は、一寸ぼうしを吐き出すと、大急ぎで逃げていきました is a lot closer to "When the ogre spit out 一寸ぼうし he hurriedly ran away" than "The ogre spit out 一寸ぼうし 'and' hurriedly ran away.", which is close to 鬼は、一寸ぼうしを吐き出して大急ぎで逃げていきました.

  2. と should be used to mean 'when' only if the main clause is a natural consequence of the condition, which means the main clause should be conditional or habitual past instead of indicative past indicative, that is, statement of a realized fact. Now, the example sentence is past indicative, or statement of a fact. So, that explanation above is irrelevant to your example.

Edit: "natural consequence of the condition" doesn't mean if you know it or not, but that a thing that the main clause stands for happens regardless of your intention under the condition, or so.

  1. Simple temporal usage of と is rare (should I say hardly heard?) in everyday conversation, but frequently used in narrative.
  • 1. Perhaps the confusion here is one of tense. If I say 'When I go to the shops I buy bread', the statement stands alone and makes sense. If I say 'When I went to the shops I bought bread', that would be a strange thing to say unless I'd already talked about going to the shops. That's the problem I have with the first sentence. 2. I'm confused. If he didn't go to the capital then he couldn't have gone to the house, so the main clause is not independent of the condition. 3. What is used instead of と in everyday conversation? May 25, 2015 at 17:53
  • 1. Then, translating it to English doesn't really help, or maybe, "The ogre spit out 一寸ぼうし AND THEN, hurriedly ran away" might work, anyway, that (predicate)と" is completely differen from (noun)と as in "with (noun)" or "(noun) and (noun)" but is the same thing as と as in "if" or "when". It would be like saying "the plural form of "apple" is "apples", then "eats" means to eat repetitively!". 2. "Natural consequence" or whatever is irrelevant here. 3. It's ...たら.
    – user4092
    May 26, 2015 at 1:45
  • 1
    Sorry for being so slow but, you say that と means 'when' only if the main clause is a natural consequence of the condition, but then go on to say that the main clause doesn't fulfill this condition. I can only conclude from this that と does not mean 'when' in this case. What am I missing in your explanation? May 26, 2015 at 18:02
  • The conclusion is not "that と does not mean 'when' in this case" but "that the main clause is not necessarily a natural consequence of the condition".
    – user4092
    May 26, 2015 at 21:07
  • 1
    1. If you rephrase 鬼は…吐き出すと、逃げた, it's 鬼は…吐き出したら、逃げた rather than 吐き出して逃げた. 2. You don't say 私は…吐き出すと 逃げた or 私は…吐き出したら 逃げた unless they are a dipction in a novel (from an objective view-point). However, 私は…吐き出して逃げた is fine.
    – user4092
    May 27, 2015 at 0:18

I found this site. Construction 4 of 4 says "Shows a sequence of two events A and B (These events do not necessarily need to have a cause/effect relationship)". The grammar is:

A (Verb: Dictionary Form) + と + B (Verb: Casual, past (た))

And some example sentences are supplied:


I watched a movie and ate popcorn.


I finished my homework and came back home

I don't know how reliable this web site is but it certainly seems to fit some of the sentences I've seen better than a conditional と.

It doesn't, however explain why I should choose this form over て. I'de be very interested to know if people find this grammar/interpretation credible.

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