I read that -たり form can either be translated as "and" or "or", and that it indicates no particular chronological order.

My question is, how do you know when which is which?

For example, I came across these sentences:

  • シャワーをあびたり、晩{ばん}ご飯{はん}を食{た}べたりします。

I take a shower or I have dinner.

  • 夏{なつ}にはウインドサーフィンをしたり、サーフィンをしたりします。

In summer, I do windsurfing and surf.

Why were they not translated as:

I take a shower and I have dinner.

In summer I do windsurfing or surf.

Does that have something to do with use -て form for listing actions rather than -たり form?

  • 4
    Doesn't 「XたりYたりする」mean 'do things like X and Y'?
    – Angelos
    Sep 24, 2018 at 6:47
  • I'm not sure but it sounds like it could be used to say that
    – CCR
    Sep 24, 2018 at 11:34
  • @AeonAkechi : Maybe you're right, and maybe the best/safe way to translate it would be not to use any word, like "I do this, that, etc…" (?)
    – CCR
    Sep 27, 2018 at 10:44

1 Answer 1


You can translate it as “do things like windsurfing or surfing” but the context generally communicates the meaning. “We filled the long summer months of our childhood with surfing, hiking, and bonfires on the beach” is the kind of thing that wd get translated with 〜たり forms in Japanese.

Remember, real language has context. Single-sentence examples in textbooks are not real language.

  • So, are you saying that both translations are correct? Or maybe that none of them trully render the nuance of 〜たり and that we shouldn't use either "or" or "and" to translate it?
    – CCR
    Sep 27, 2018 at 10:36
  • Both translations are correct, with the right context.
    – Marc Adler
    Sep 27, 2018 at 11:11

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