I've been trying to make proper sentences using the word きょう when I realized that I'm not really actually sure when I'm suppose to mark it with は. I know relative time expressions tend to stand alone meaning it's not followed by に and because of this its not uncommon for it to be followed directly by another word with no particle in between. This is where I start to get confused however when I see a sentence like this one


and then a sentence like this

今日{きょう}は 京都{きょうと}に いきます

I'm pretty sure the reason I'm having a hard time understanding this is due to my terrible understanding of は, regardless any help on when I should mark a time like this with は and when it would be better left unmarked would be appreciated.

  • You may want to wait a day or two before accepting an answer. That way you give other people time to write alternatives, and you can see how people vote and comment :-)
    – user1478
    Sep 15 '15 at 6:13
  • 2
    Partialy related to help you understand は : japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/18475/… My advice as a fellow learner : Try to think of the (hypothetical) question the sentence is the answer to.
    – Alox
    Sep 15 '15 at 8:53

1) 今日、京都に行きます。
2) 今日、京都に行きます。/ 京都に、今日行きます。

I would use #1, with a stress on 京都, as a reply to "Where will you go today?" or "What will you do today?", and #2, with a stress on 今日, as a reply to "When will you go to Kyoto?" Here, the は is the topic particle. 今日は in #1 and 京都には in #2 are old information (既知情報), and 京都に(行きます) in #1 and 今日 or 今日行きます in #2 are new information (新情報).

You would use #1 in a conversation like this:

(on the phone)
A: もしもし。今日、暇?今から遊びに来ない?
B: あ、ごめん、今日京都に行くから無理。(not just 今日)

The は can also be the contrastive particle. For example:

1') 昨日は大阪に行きました。(でも、)今日京都に行きます。
I went to Osaka yesterday. (But) today, I will go to Kyoto.
1") 今日、京都に行きます。 (with a stress on 今日は)
Today, I am going to Kyoto (but on another day I didn't / won't go there).

When I just tell someone that I am going to Kyoto on that day (i.e. when 今日 and 京都 are both new information), I would use:

2') 今日、京都に行きます。(without a stress on 今日)

for example, in a context like this:

(on the phone)
母: もしもし。
娘: あ、お母はん?あのさ、今日、京都行くねんけど、なんか伊勢丹で[買]{こ}うてきてほしいもんとかある? (not 今日は.)


は here is a topic marker and it changes what you accentuate in the sentence.

By 「今日、京都に行きます」 you simply state "I am going to Kyoto today".

Using は next to 今日 it sounds like "Today I am going to Kyoto" meaning "As for today I am going to Kyoto".

I think the pattern comes more naturally in dialogs:

お昼一緒に食べませんか? Why don't we have a lunch together? (early morning conversation)

すみません、今日は京都に行きます。 Oh, today I am going to Kyoto, I am sorry.

You can stress "today" even more with 今日こそ or 今日という今日 (isn't it a bit archaic though?) like in:

「今日こそ早く帰って、特別な夕食を作ろうと思います」 (context: today is our anniversary, so...) "especially today I am going to come back earlier and prepare a special dinner"

  • 2
    There was some relevant discussion on a recent related question: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/27534/…
    – user1478
    Sep 15 '15 at 5:15
  • 1
    Hmm.. "It is today that I am going to Kyoto" is more like 京都には、今日行きます, and 今日は、京都に行きます is more like "It is Kyoto that I am going today", no? I'd say 今日は京都に行きます (今日 is 既知情報 and 京都 is 新情報) as a response to "Where are you going today?" , and 今日、京都に行きます or 京都には、今日行きます (京都 is 既知情報 and 今日 is 新情報) as a response to "When are you going to Kyoto?"
    – Chocolate
    Sep 15 '15 at 5:52
  • 1
    "It is today that ...." sounds to me 京都に行くのは今日だ or 今日京都に行く.
    – user4092
    Sep 15 '15 at 6:47
  • @Choco I think explicating it as an answer to a question is the correct way to help someone understand the difference between は and nothing (or between は and が for that matter). You should write that as an answer, it's really helpful.
    – Alox
    Sep 15 '15 at 8:51

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