Example from Minna No Nihongo:

Lesson 4 : あした 6 時に起きます。

Lesson 9 : きょう  早く 帰ります。

Why is は sometimes used with such a time words and sometimes not?

  • As in many other situations 'は ha/wa' can denote a special significance this time. For example あした 6 時に起きます。plainly states that the subject of the sentence will wake up at 6 tomorrow.
  • For the other example, きょう は 早く 帰ります。 there is a 'は ha/wa' inserted so it would add a nuance that I am waking up early today AND that this is not common for me to do this, i.e. normally I would wake up later.

In spoken English you might accentuate the "Today" as in "TODAY, I'm waking up early."



  1. Denotes the topic.

  2. For comparing, emphasis

So in your second example

きょう は 早く 帰ります。

You wanna emphasize TODAY, you may always go back home late, but not today.

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