One of the more common and useful words that you will want to know before going to Japan is tokoro. But what does tokoro mean in Japanese? Well, there’s actually a few different answers.
You don’t need to worry about getting them confused with one another, because each one is used in a different way which lets you know the correct meaning of it.
Let’s start with the easiest form, and then progress to the more complicated ones after that.
The Word TOKORO Can Mean Place in Japanese
Let’s say that you are done with school for the day and your buddy asks you if you want to go play some video games. You’re down for having some fun, but you’re not sure where it’s going to be at. So you ask:
- Where at? Your place? My place?
doko de? omae no tokoro de? boku no tokoro de?
In Japanese, the word tokoro is written in kanji as 所 when it is used to mean a place; spot; scene; site and so on. It’s pretty common to say “your place” when referring to their house, just like it is in English.
You might also come across the word 所々 (tokoro dokoro), which is simply the word tokoro repeated twice, and which means here and there; some parts (of something); several places.
When TOKORO Comes at the Beginning of a Sentence
It’s pretty common to hear a sentence started in Japanese with the word ところで (tokorode). In this situaiton, it means by the way and is used, just like in English, when you want to bring up something.
Now this phrase sounds just like the first usage were we had the word 所 for a place and the particle で to show that an action was occurring at said place, but you will pick up that it is different because of how it’s used:
- By the way, which team are you cheering for?
tokorode, doko no chīmu o ōen shite iru n desu ka?
Another give away is that, when tokorode means “by the way” it is typically written in hiragana, whereas when it means “place” it is usually written in kanji.
When TOKORO Means You’re About to do Something
Now it gets just a little more complicated in how tokoro is used. Pay close attention to this section and the section that follows it, and be sure to pay attention to the differences.
In Japanese when you want to express that an action is just about to take place, you combine the plain form of a verb with the phrase ところだ (tokoro da).
In this case, the ところ means something like state; moment and the だ is simply the informal way you would end the phrase. You can switch the だ to です (desu) to make the whole sentence polite.
- I am just about to go out.
ima dekakeru tokoro da.
As you can see from the above example, it is a pretty simple construction once you understand how it works. Here’s another one for you to examine:
- My mother is just about to eat breakfast.
haha wa asagohan o taberu tokoro desu.
This usage of tokoro to say that you are just about to do something, is very useful to know. I would recommend that you commit it to memory.
When TOKORO Means You’ve Just Done Something
Now we get to the flip side of the coin, and I want to be very careful so that you don’t get it confused with what we just went over above.
In Japanese, when you want to say that you have just done something, you combine the plain-past form of a verb with the phrase ところだ.
- My father has just gotten up.
chichi wa ima okita tokoro da.
This is very similar to the last pattern we learned. The only difference is the tense of the verb. Let’s look at them side by side to see them in action:
- 起きたところだ = Just woke up.
- 起きるところだ = Is just about to wake up.
It’s important to really drive in the fact that the tense of the verb determines if the action just happened, or is just about to happen. Let’s take a look at another past-tense one:
- I have just finished my homework.
shukudai o oeta tokoro desu.
I know that I’ve really been harping on about knowing the difference between these last two. But I only do it because when I learned them both at the same time, I was a little wishy-washy about it, and I ended up getting them confused with one another when I tried to recall them later.
So save yourself work later on by really driving the difference into your memory now.
Do YOU Know Any Other Meanings for TOKORO?
Since Japanese is jam packed with homonyms, there is probably at least one other meaning for the word tokoro that I didn’t list above.
If you know what one is, or if you simply have any questions about the stuff I wrote in this post, then let me know about it by leaving a comment below.
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: