637 - と ([direct quotation])

Get excited, particle-loving nerds:


JLPT N4: と (says; said [for direct quotation])

The particle と comes after quotations of things that people said or wrote.

This is possible to do both when you are directly quoting someone (e.g. Mike said, "I'll stay home") and when you are indirectly quoting someone (e.g. Mike said he'll stay home).

In this lesson, we'll look at examples of direct quotation, and in the next lesson, we'll look at examples of indirect quotation.


When we are directly quoting someone, we use quotation marks!

Only, in Japanese they're more like brackets: 「quote」.

Brackets are also used to mark the titles of books and things, only sometimes those look a bit different: 『book』.

Actually, you'll probably come across English-style quotation marks in Japanese, too: "book".

Since we are using direct quotes in this lesson, all of our examples have quotation brackets.

Here's our first example:


本田先生は「今朝ホットケーキを食べました」言いました。
ほんだ せんせい は 「けさ ホットケーキ を たべました」 と いいました。
Honda-sensei said, “This morning I ate pancakes.”
Literally: “Honda-sensei + は + ‘this morning + pancakes (=hotcakes) + を + ate’ + と + said.”

Note that comes after the quotation.

Note also that this sentence would sound very, very strange if you removed .


In spoken Japanese, it is common to use って instead of


昨日、彼女に「別れよう」って言われた。
きのう、 かのじょ に 「わかれよう」 って いわれた。
Yesterday, my girlfriend told me, “Let’s break up.”
Literally: “yesterday, + girlfriend / she + に + ‘let’s break up’ + って + was told.”


I never put that much thought into dividing "direct" and "indirect" quotations when looking at the usage of と... until I set out to write this lesson and found this distinction being made in my grammar books.

To be honest, it doesn't really make very much sense to me, as those grammar books are saying that sentences like these fall under the category of direct quotation:


小さい子は、「車」「電車」言わないで「ブーブー」「ガタンゴトン」など言います。
ちいさい こ は、 「くるま」 「でんしゃ」 と いわないで 「ブーブー」 「ガタンゴトン」 など と いいます。
Little kids do not say things like “car” or “train,” but rather “vroom vroom” and “choo choo.”
Literally: “little + child + は, + ‘car’ + ‘train’ + と + don’t say (and) + (baby word for) car (=vroom vroom)’ + ‘(baby word for) train (=[the sound of the train’s wheels spinning on the tracks])’ + など (=and so on) + と + say.”

At first I thought that maybe the books are calling the above type of sentence a direct quotation because it has quotation brackets in it.

But those same books are saying that sentences like this are indirect quotations:


日本語の「こんにちは」は、中国語で「ニーハオ」言います。
にほんご の 「こんにちは」 は、 ちゅうごくご で 「ニーハオ」 と いいます。
“Hello [Konnichiwa]” (in Japanese) is “nǐ hǎo” in Chinese.
Literally: “Japanese (language) + の + ‘hello’ + は, + Chinese (language) + で + ‘nǐ hǎo’ + と + say.”

I suppose it's because the sentence is hard to read without quotation brackets, but the person saying them is not imagining that he/she is quoting what an actual person says...?

Hmm...

After a lot of deep, brow-furrowed pondering, I think I've figured out the problem: No one cares!

comes after both direct and indirect quotes.
↓ ↓ ↓
comes after quotes.

Still, since understanding how と is used to mark quotations is such an important part of Japanese grammar, I still decided to split this into two lessons: one for "direct quotations" and one for "indirect quotations."

That way we have more space to look at lots of example sentences.


Last of all, it is worth noting that we do not have to always use the verb 言う (いう // to say) after と.

We can use other verbs, too:


マクドナルドを、東京の人は「マック」、大阪の人は「マクド」呼ぶ。
マクドナルド を、 とうきょう の ひと は 「マック」、 おおさか の ひと は 「マクド」 と よぶ。
People in Tokyo call McDonald’s “Makku,” and people in Osaka call it “Makudo.”
Literally: “McDonald’s + を, + Tokyo + の + person + は + ‘makku’, + Osaka + の + person + は + ‘makudo’ + と + call.”


As mentioned above, we're going to have another lesson on "quote-marking と" right after this one.

Even with those two lessons, though, I think the key to really mastering と―or any particles, for that matter―is hearing them used thousands and thousands of times by Japanese people in books, shows, games, and real life conversations.




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