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Why do we use は rather than に in the following sentence?

インタネットがとても遅い時は、切腹したいです。

In my opinion it should be

インタネットがとても遅い時に切腹したいです。

Any comments are welcome.

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    Because インターネットが遅い時切腹したいです。 sounds like you're responding to a question "When do you want to do ritual suicide?" – Chocolate May 30 '15 at 7:39
  • @Unknown: And how about は? – Friendly Ghost May 30 '15 at 8:00
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    は marks a topic. インターネットが遅いとき indicates that the topic of this sentence is "when my Internet connection is slow", not "when I wanna do ritual suicide". It'd sound like "When/If the Internet connection is slow, I..." – Chocolate May 30 '15 at 8:09
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    @choco: 英語でも「セップク」それとも「ハラキリ」とそのままで言われています。We don't translate it and say "ritual suicide". You'd probably just hear, "When the internet is slow, I want to commit seppuku". – istrasci Dec 4 '15 at 23:53
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Both formulations are valid, and very likely mean the same thing.

"したいです" very unambiguously refers to the speaker, as if the subject was someone else, it would be more appropriate to say "したいそうです" or "したいらしいです" (or even "したいですと".)

The greatest difference of these two sentences is the context where it would be appropriate to use. It would be more appropriate to use the second formulation if it was an answer to a specific question.

A: どのタイミングで[ACTION]したいですか。

B: インタネットがとても遅い時に[ACTION]したいです。

or perhaps more naturally:

A: どのタイミングで[ACTION]したいですか。

B: インタネットがとても遅い時(です)。

Using the first formulation (インタネットがとても遅い時) is less appropriate when the topic already has been established by the questioner. It might sound like you aren't listening.

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    In what sense do the two sentences in the question mean the same thing? They are used in different contexts, and I cannot think of a circumstance in which they can be used interchangeably. – Tsuyoshi Ito Dec 5 '15 at 4:20
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    Then you should just say “The two sentences become the same if translated to English.” The meaning of a sentence in one language is not decided by its translation to another language. – Tsuyoshi Ito Dec 5 '15 at 4:40
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    This is my last comment in this thread. Both sentences could be used as the opening of a conversation, but they mean different things because of the difference in implied contexts (as you wrote in the answer!). To be honest, now I have to doubt that you understand your own answer. – Tsuyoshi Ito Dec 5 '15 at 4:55
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Amani Kilumanga Dec 5 '15 at 5:05
  • Oops, I didn't realize chat would eventually disappear. For reference, my statement in regards to "a circumstance in which they can be used interchangeably" was "as the opening statement of a dialog". Then, to the best of my knowledge, they would effectively and literally, mean exactly the same thing. – Amani Kilumanga Jan 27 '16 at 10:41

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