How to say “then” in Japanese

You use “then” in many situations in daily conversation. Although it’s usually translated into “sonotoki”/「その時」, you can translate it into various words in Japanese depending on the situation. If you can use “then” in Japanese well, you would broaden the range of conversation with Japanese. I will introduce the expressions used often actually  by Japanese people.

1. sonotoki/その時、anotoki/あの時

“then” can mean a point in the past and you can translate “then” into “sonotoki”/「その時」or “anotoki”/「あの時」in Japanese as this meaning. “sonotoki”/「その時」and “anotoki”/「あの時」are not casual and formal either, but are subtly different in the way of using them. “sonotoki”/「その時」can mean a point in the future or in the near past. “anotoki”/「あの時」doesn’t mean the past but can mean a point in the remote past. I think it’s easy to understand what I mean if you see the following examples.

Ex)

He didn’t eat anything then, so I guess now he is hungry./彼はその時何も食べなかったから、今お腹が空いているんじゃないかな。

Ex)

A:I regret I should have apologized to her then./あの時、彼女に謝るべきだったと後悔してるよ。

B:That couldn’t be helped because you were a child then./あの時、あなたは子どもだったから、仕方ないよ。

2. sorekara/それから、sonoatode/その後で

You can use “then” to clarify the orders of events. You can translate it into “sorekara”/「それから」or “sonoatode”/「その後で」in Japanese as this meaning. “sonoatode”/「その後で」might be a little more formal, but they don’t have a big difference of the nuances. You can also say “sorede”/「それで」with the same meaning and “sorede”/「それで」is a casual expression. I think you might give eldery people or someone whom you don’t know well an impolite impression if you ask simply “sorede ?”/「それで?」to them. So if you travel to Japan and say it, you should be careful. I will introduce a polite example.

Ex)

I had a meeting until 16:00 and then I went to go to a restaurant./16時まで打合せがあり、それからレストランに行きました。

⇒You can also say 「16時まで打合せがあり、その後でレストランに行きました。」

3. sonoue/そのうえ、sarani/さらに

You can use “then” to add almost the same information. You can translate it into “sonoue”/「そのうえ」or “sarani”/「さらに」in Japanese as this meaning. You can translate “further” or “additionally” into “sonoue”/「そのうえ」or “sarani”/「さらに」. You can also say “shikamo”/「しかも」as this meaning and it’s a casual expression. I often say “shikamo”/「しかも」when I talk with my friends or family. I usually use “sarani”/「さらに」when I talk with my boss in the workplace. Of course it’s not unnatural even if you say “sonoue”/「そのうえ」in conversation.

Ex)

I’m so busy, and then it’s not my business./とても忙しいです。そのうえ、それは私の仕事ではありません。

4. Summary

You can translate “then” into “sonotoki”/「その時」or “anotoki”/「あの時」when you express a point in the past. “anotoki”/「あの時」means the remote past. You can translate it into  “sorekara”/「それから」or “sonoatode”/「その後で」when you clarify the orders of events. You can translate it into “sonoue”/「そのうえ」or “sarani”/「さらに」when you add almost the same information. In casual conversation Japanese often say “shikamo”/「しかも」.

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