What are the differences between these sentences? How do I properly translate them?

  1. 日本に行くとき(に)、パスポートをとります。
  2. 日本に行くとき(に)、パスポートをとりました。

  3. 日本に行ったとき、きょうとでさくらをみたいです。

  4. 日本に行ったとき、きょうとでさくらをみました。

In my exercises, it just says that when the verb (in the first part of each sentence) is in the present tense, then it means we are about to do that action (still referring to the first part). Instead, if the verb is in the past tense, what does it mean?

To me, they all look pretty similar, but of course there's something wrong with my reasoning.

1 Answer 1


1.When I go to Japan, I will get my passport.

2.When I went to Japan, I got my passport.

3.When I go to Japan, I want to see sakura in Kyoto.

4.When I went to Japan, I saw sakura in Kyoto.

行く in No.2 is present tense, but the following sentence is past tense, so it means "when I went to Japan". た in No.3 sentence is not past tense but perfect tense, so it is used in future things.

In addition, 日本に行くとき means " You have not arrived to Japan yet", 日本に行ったとき means "You have arrived to Japan".

  • 1
    Would it be wrong if I modified No.3 and wrote 日本に行くとき、きょうとでさくらをみたいです ?
    – leqo
    May 6, 2018 at 13:26
  • 1
    And also, is it ok to modify No.4 so that it looks more similar to No.2? Like: 日本に行くとき、きょうとでさくらを見ました
    – leqo
    May 6, 2018 at 13:37
  • 1
    "た in No.3 sentence is not past tense but perfect tense" -- Really?
    – user4032
    May 6, 2018 at 13:46
  • @leqo 日本に行くとき means "the way(道のり) you arrive to Japan", so 日本に行くとき、きょうとでさくらをみたいです and 日本に行くとき、きょうとでさくらを見ました are unnatural. May 6, 2018 at 14:01
  • @ l'électeur I think so because past tense is not used in future things. Right? I think this た is the same as た in 明日は、朝ご飯を食べた後、学校に行く. May 6, 2018 at 14:11

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