I am having a hard time figuring these out, it turns out that I get corrected by native speakers a lot, when I use one of them, they will correct me saying that another particle should be used instead.




At this point I am completly at lost in how different these should be, one guess would be that に should be when I wanna talk what happens in that "moment" and は when I wanna talk about that "moment" directly.

If my example is bad, please use a better one for exaplining the matter.

ps: The only related answer I found was this What is the difference between 時に and 時は but it didn't clear out much for me, honestly.

  • 1
    What's 夜んだ? .....
    – user4092
    May 14, 2017 at 2:40
  • @user4092 sorry, corrected it! May 14, 2017 at 2:55
  • From my brief research: に adds more emphasis to the timing. Someone called a 'crosshairs'. は makes it contrastive, emphasising what follows: it makes the fact it is already night more surprising. There is a greater break in the sentence. Also, unlike が, it can pick up something already mentioned/known to the listener. には likely gives emphasis to both the timing and makes the impact of もうよるなんだよ stronger.
    – Robert
    May 14, 2017 at 5:07
  • 1
    This page deals with a similar question: oshiete.goo.ne.jp/qa/2343597.html
    – Robert
    May 14, 2017 at 5:31

3 Answers 3


I'll show you the difference by some examples like:

  1. 大学に行く時、雨が降る。
  2. 大学に行く時、雨が降る。しかし、大学に行かない時は、雨が降らない。
  3. (今は雨が降っていないが、)大学に行く時には、雨が降るでしょう。

The sentence example 1 is a normal expression, which means when I go to college, it rains.

in the example 2 is a topic marker, and 大学に行く時 in the former sentence is contrasted, in this example, to 大学に行かない時 in the following sentence by the use of instead of . The whole meaning of the example 2 would be "In contrast to the other case, it rains when I go to college. But, it would not rain when I don't go there".

には in the example 3 is used to give the sentence a certain condition or situation; in this sentence the condition is the time when I depart to college. The meaning of the sentence example is that "As for the time, it will rain when I go to college, (though it's not raining now).

  • Thanks a lot, this answer exaplains a lot, I had forgotten that は can be used as to show contrast. Am I right to assume that using は I am showing contrast for the situation (going to college) and when using には I am showing contrast for the time itself? "In contrast from NOW that it's not raining, it rains when i go to college" May 14, 2017 at 6:48
  • 1
    @Felipe Oliveira I appreciate your sincerity in learning Japanese. To tell you the truth, I'm not familiar with Japanese grammatical parsing, so I searched for the answer in order to answer your question written in the comment. I found a proper article here by Derek Schaab which could answer your question about the difference between に, and には. I appreciate the article a lot, because it is very logical. I will also edit my answer based on this article. japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/1096/…
    – user20624
    May 14, 2017 at 12:33

大学に行く時に もう夜なんだ is "it's when we go to our college that it has already been evening". It's because this sentence lacks topic parts, but nevertheless is an independent sentence (without hidden informations) of statement that expresses your assumption. So, it has to be interpreted as the so-called exhaustive listing が usage.

大学に行くときは and 大学に行くときには can be used similarly but usually, the former is more likely a plain main topic, as someone says, while the latter には version tends to convey a sense of concession, that is, "it will have already been evening when we go to our college, no matter how late".



Simply modifying the main part of the sentence by adding the information of the time.


The time is the main topic of the sentence.


When you leave for the university is the main topic.

I guess in English and many other languages these constructions are same and use other things to make nuances and that is the problem that confuses many people.

  • hmm so it's just about the nuance, not really the translation right? from your explaining I got that sentence 1 - The fact that is night is tha main thing in the sentence. 2 - the especific time when I leave for college is the main thing in the sentence. 3 - The fact that I leave the college is the main thing, right? May 14, 2017 at 3:02
  • Also, if you were given the sentece "When I go to college, It's already night" without much context, which form would you choose? What is the most common one? May 14, 2017 at 3:03
  • 3 is hard to explain the nuance because there are many ways to interpret it, but it gives off a nuance of "when I tried to go to the college." 大学に行く part has more focus than 時. As for "When I go to college, It's already night", it depends on the context. As I said it depends on the nuance whether you want to say "it's already night", "the time when I left for the college", or "when I (tried/got/etc to) leave for the college.." But anyway, 大学に行く時にはもう夜でした。
    – someone
    May 14, 2017 at 3:52
  • Yeah it's very complicated :(, I'll wait and see if anyonelse has a different approach to this, if not I'll accept the answer, Thanks a lot May 14, 2017 at 4:15

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