851 - ～たところ
If you're studying for the N3 test, then I'm guessing that you know 所 (ところ) means something like "place."
And if you've read our other N3 lessons, then you will also know that ところ has a grammatical use: Talking about what just happened, is happening, or is about to happen.
In fact, that was our first N3 lesson: [NDL #303] - JLPT N3: ～ところだ.
In that lesson, we saw this dialogue:
もう しゅくだい は しました か。
Did you do your homework yet?
Literally: "already + homework + は + did + か."
ええ、 さっき おわった ところ です。
Yeah, I just finished it a little while ago.
Literally: "Yeah, + a little while ago + finished + ところ + です."
↑ Here, we can see that ～たところ means something like "just (did)."
That is not always the case, however.
～たところ can also refer to "when" something happened:
せんせい に そつぎょう ご の しんろ の そうだん を したところ、 きぎょう を すすめられた。
When I went to my [the] teacher to discuss my plans after graduating, he recommended starting my own business.
Literally: “sensei + に + graduation + -after + の + (future) route / course + の + discussion / consultation + を + did + ところ, + starting a business + を + was recommended.”
The usage of ～たところ we're covering in this lesson will not always be translated into "when" in our English sentences.
Things are rarely so simple, yeah?
Instead of worrying about a specific word to match up with ～たところ, I think it would help to consider the way in which it functions in a sentence, instead.
The patterns goes something like this:
(I) did something ＋ ところ ＋ something (out of my control) happened [was discovered]
There's a good chance that the "something" that happened or was discovered was not expected by the speaker. And the "something" that happened or was discovered will never be an action that is under the speaker's control.
In other words, this would sound strange:
✕ その ほん を よんだところ、 しゅっけ を けっしん した。
✕ After reading that book, I decided to become a monk.
✕ Literally: “that + book + を + read + ところ, + (becoming a) monk / nun / priest + を + decision / resolution + did.”
"Deciding to become a monk" is something completely under the speaker's control, so it would be odd to use ～たところ in this sentence.
Instead, the speaker could just use the て-form (the usage covered in this N4 lesson):
その ほん を よんで、 しゅっけ を けっしん した。
After reading that book, I decided to become a monk.
Literally: “that + book + を + read (and), + (becoming a) monk / nun / priest + を + decision / resolution + did.”
👷 Construction 👷
There's a good chance you've figured this one out already.
Put ところ after a verb in plain past tense:
V た ＋ ところ
Remember how I said there's a good chance that the "something" that happened or was discovered was not expected by the speaker?
When this unexpected "something" is a negative outcome, we put が after ところ：
はりきって ジム に いったところが、 きゅうぎょうび だった。
I was super hyped to go work out at the gym, but then it was closed.
Literally: “get hyped up (and) + gym + に + went + ところ + が, + business holiday + was.”
むね が ズキズキ いたむ ので びょういん に いったところが、 どこ に も いじょう は ない と いわれた。
I had throbbing pains in my chest, so I went to the doctor [hospital], but they didn’t find any abnormalities.
Literally: “chest + が + throbbing pain + hurt / ache + because + hospital に + went + ところ + が, + nowhere (=where + に + も) + abnormality / strangeness + は + there isn’t + と + was told.”
↑ Perhaps "they didn't find any abnormalities" doesn't seem like a "negative outcome?" The reason we can use が here is that the speaker was hoping to find out why her chest was hurting, but this anticipated outcome did not occur.
Last example, and then you'll be done:
じぶん で かみ を きって みたところ、 いがい に も かなり いい かんじ に しあがった。
I cut my hair by myself, and it actually turned out pretty nicely.
Literally: “by myself (=oneself + で) + hair + を + tried cutting (=cut [and] + saw) + ところ, + surprising + に + も + rather + good + feeling / impression + に + was done / was completed.”
Still feel like studying? Maybe go and check out these other uses of ところ we cover in our N1 lessons:
- [NDL #375] - JLPT N1: ～たところで
- [NDL #445] - JLPT N1: というところだ
- [NDL #833] - JLPT N1: ところを