とか

とか Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Conjunction

Essential Meaning: And / Or (in-exhaustive listing)

Construction: 

  • Noun とか Noun とか
    • E.g. 先生せんせいとか学生がくせいとか [Students and teachers (among others)]
  • Sentence informal + とか Sentence informal + とか + する
    • E.g. あるくとかおよぐとかする [Walking and swimming (among other things)]

Notes:

  • とか is a combination of the quotation marker and the alternative marking particle . It is used to provide an in-exhaustive list of examples from some larger list. This can be a list of nouns or a list of complete sentences. Note that when in-exhaustively listing sentences with the structure Xとか Yとかする, the overall tense of the sentence is indicated by する.
    • E.g. In-exhausting Listing of Nouns: わたしはバッハとかモーツァルトとかベートーベンがきだ。[I like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven (among others).]
    • E.g. In-exhaustive Listing of Complete Sentences: つかれたときはお風呂ふろはいるとかはやるとかしなさい。[When you’re tired, take a bath and go to bed early (among other things).]
  • The structure Sentence 1 とか Sentence 2 とかする is used to list general rather than specific items. When making a list that refers to a specific time or place, ~たり~たりする should be used instead.
    • E.g. *A: ニューヨークではどんなことをしましたか。B: ミュージカルをるとか美術館びじゅつかんくとかしました。[A: What sorts of things did you do in New York? B: I watched musicals and visited art museums (among other things).] This sentence is unacceptable because it expresses someone’s specific experience on a specific trip to New York rather than generally listing of things that can be done in New York or the things that the speaker generally does when he or she is in New York. The ~たり~たりする structure should instead be used in this example (more on that below).
    • E.g. A: 日曜日にちようびにはどんなことをしていますか。B: 音楽おんがくくとかほんむとかしています。[A: What sorts of things do you do on Sundays? B: I do such things as listening to music or reading books.] This example is acceptable because Speaker B provides a general list of things that he or she does on Sundays.
  • Sentence 1 とか Sentence 2 とかする can be interchanged with ~たり~たりする in some cases since both expressions represent in-exhaustive listings of items. The difference is that ~たり~たりする can be used in both general and specific situations, while Sentence 1 とか Sentence 2 とかする can only be used in general situations. Also, when ~たり~たりする expresses alternative actions or states, it cannot be replaced by とか.
    • E.g. 子供こども部屋へやたりはいったりしている。[The child is exiting and entering the room.]
    • E.g. *子供こども部屋へやるとかはいるとかしている。[The child is entering and exiting the room.] とか cannot be used in this type of sentence in which the subject alternates between actions or states.
  • Because of the presence of the quotation marker , とか is often paired with the verb う [To say / To tell]. とかう essentially expresses the same thing as , except the particle conveys the speaker’s uncertainty about the information he or she is reporting.
    • E.g. 佐藤さとうさんはいそがしくてけないとっていた。[Mr Sato was saying he can’t go because he’s busy.] In this example, the speaker is indirectly quoting Mr. Sato.
    • E.g. 佐藤さとうさんはいそがしくてけないとかっていた。[Mr Sato was saying he can’t go because he’s busy or something.] In this example, the speaker is indirectly quoting Mr. Sato and also expressing uncertainly about the veracity of the information.
    • E.g. 野口のぐちというひとた。[A person named Noguchi came.]
    • E.g. 野口のぐちとかいうひとた。[A person named Noguchi or something like that came.] In this case, the speaker is conveying doubt that the person is actually called Noguchi.

Example Sentences:

わたしはバッハとかモーツァルトとかベートーベンがきだ。[I like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven (among others).]

つかれたときはお風呂ふろはいるとかはやるとかしなさい。[When you’re tired, take a bath and go to bed early (among other things).]

日本にほん茶道さどうとか生花いけばなとかいうものをよくらない。[I don’t know much about things such as Japanese tea ceremonies or flower arrangement.]

A: どんな日本にほん映画えいがましたか。B: 黒沢くろさわの「七人しちにんさむらい」とか「きる」とか「影武者かげむしゃ」をました。[A: Which Japanese films did you see? B: I saw Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai”, “Ikiru”, and “Kagemusha”, among others.]

A: 日曜日にちようびにはどんなことをしていますか。B: 音楽おんがくくとかほんむとかしています。[A: What sorts of things do you do on Sundays? B: I do such things as listening to music or reading books.]

WILD Examples:

At :2:57, listen for this line: きだ」とかえたらいいな [I wish I were able to say things like “I love you” irresponsibly]

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