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Today while I was self studying my Japanese textbook, I noticed this sentence which was translated roughly from "today I am returning to japan"

わたしは 今日 日本 に かえります。

This seemed a bit odd to me since it didn't really sound that great following up 今日 with 日本 as there was no particle in between them.

So I was wondering if these sentences I came up with would make more sense/would be more commonly used

formal: 今日は わたしが 日本 に かえります。

casual: 今日は 日本 に かえります。

If there are any better ways to say this then please let me know, I'm a beginner so my Kanji vocabulary is next to nothing so answering in mostly Hiragana would be appreciated. Thanks

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  • 4
    Perhaps you already know this, but note that the verb you use depends on where you actually live. If you live in Japan, went abroad, and are now returning, then かえります (帰る) is correct. However, if you live abroad and are "going back" to Japan again in a non-permanent sense (like on a business trip, etc.), then you need to use もどります (戻る). – istrasci Jan 30 at 15:58
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    @istrasci And then there's MFW I'm asked things like 国に帰ったりしないですか? even though they know I live in Japan... – Will Jan 30 at 23:38
  • @istrasci More importantly, note that 帰る and 返る are different. – User that is not a user Jan 31 at 2:05
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わたしは今日、日本にかえります。

This is actually the most natural (or perhaps I should say neutral) word order and topic marking here. It’s common in speech to place a slight pause after 今日 (represented by a comma here).

The reason for this is because it’s most natural for the subject of the predicate to become the sentence topic in Japanese. This is what happens by default, and as a result it doesn’t add any layer of extra nuance or markedness.

You can mark other things in the sentence as a topic, such as the indirect object (日本 here), time adjuncts (今日, 今{いま}, 明日{あした}, etc.), objects (no example available from this sentence), but this goes against the default, which means there is some reason for doing so in terms of how you are trying to structure the information.

The basic function of a non-default usage of は is to pick something out of the discourse and make a comment specifically about it (and not other things).

So if you said 「今日は日本にかえります」, then that would only be natural if someone had either already brought up “today” (e.g., by asking you what you’re doing today) or you are for some reason bringing it up yourself (e.g., to contrast with what you’re doing tomorrow, or to give it a sense of ‘at long last’ by contrasting it with all the days up to this point).

If you said 「日本には今日かえります」 without someone else having already brought up 日本, it’d be a little odd, because you can normally only かえる to one place anyways, so there is no need to emphasize that you are not かえるing to some other place also. But following a question of 「日本にはいつかえるのですか?」 (which itself would only be a natural question if there is some reason to believe they are already determined to go back to Japan), it would work (though in almost all cases you would just say 「今日です」 or 「今日かえります」 to be more succinct).

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  • ありがとう! So if someone already brought up "today" in the conversation, then would saying the first line still be more natural than 「今日は日本にかえります」? – Blue Jan 30 at 19:30
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    It’s hard to make a really clear statement without specifying the exact lines that came before. If someone just ‘mentions’ “today”, like 俺今日友達に会いに行くんだよね, that’s not sufficient to really bring it into the set of topics available to safely pick from in a response without contrasting, but 今日何するの? or 今日の日程を教えてください or 今週のスケジュールはどんな感じ? or ... do all make it acceptable to start the response with 今日は fairly neutrally. The last example is particularly interesting because there’s a bit of a super/subset semantic interaction happening there. – Darius Jahandarie Jan 30 at 21:41
  • Though oddly, in response to 俺今日友達に会いに行くんだよね, a response something like 今日は何か特別な日なの? would be just fine (the は feels neutral), so it seems like the exact comment you’re making is also relevant... sorry for not being any clearer, but hopefully these examples are helpful. – Darius Jahandarie Jan 30 at 21:55
  • Maybe the unifying idea for the above examples is whose “today” it is! Even though it’s the same word, the semantic concept is that you’re talking about someone’s day, so the thing that’s actually raised into discourse and can be safely used as a topic neutrally is “X’s day(/schedule)”. So if someone talks about their day and then you respond about a sentence of 今日は... talking about what you’re going to do, that will end up being constrastive, while if they talk about your day your 今日は becomes neutral. – Darius Jahandarie Jan 30 at 21:58
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    Oh, I failed to actually answer your question. In the case that someone does bring up 今日 in the way described above, I would say responding with 私は... is odd. Or at least you would need to also mark 今日 with は (but this is quickly getting into advanced territory with multiple はs). – Darius Jahandarie Jan 30 at 22:06
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わたしは今日, 日本にかえります is natural and best, if you don't want to mean any other nuance.

は is used as a topic marker, emphasize and contrast. so I feel 今日は日本にかえります focuses "today", which is the day you return to Japan.

In Japanese language, the first person is often omitted, so I feel 今日はわたしが日本にかえります focus "I", which is the person who returns to Japan today.

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  • ありがとう! I actually didn't know first person was often omitted since there were some words like ほしい that can only be used in first person, so first person was what I was originally going for. – Blue Jan 30 at 19:44
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You can also say 今日、わたしは日本にかえります。Either way, は should not come directly after 今日 because that would alter the meaning.

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  • Oh I much prefer saying that, thank you! – Blue Feb 3 at 10:35

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