When temporal nouns can be used with に and why is a matter that boggles the best minds of Japanese grammarians. It turns out that a lot of this decision depends on the more specific properties of groups of similar words and quirks on an individual basis. As the student, you will need to learn about what is certain so that you know when this relation exists or not.
In large part, many temporal nouns are not used with the particle に. For instance, just as you don’t say “at yesterday”, Japanese don’t say きのうに. Why, then, are there sentences like the following?
It has been decided that we will do that tomorrow.
When shall we carry out the appointment?
On the flip side, none of these sentences need に after the temporal nouns (which are in bold). Yet, as is the case with expressing a particular absolute point in time, に shows up obligatorily. So, if the context in which Ex. 1 was uttered were serious and particular, に would become obligatory. In reverse, if the contexts in which Ex. 2 was uttered were less serious and particular, に would become ungrammatical.
I will go to school at 8 o’ clock.
Please go before (me).
He died this year, 2013.
He died this year.
Sentence Note: The grammaticality of 6a is based on whether there is context that would make 今年 more absolute. If the preceding sentence were say a question such as 「彼はいつ亡くなられたのですか」, it would become grammatical to say it.
Just from a few examples, you may already be getting a sense at when に shows up. But, we still have to think of more definitive ways to explain all of this.
Although this may be a given, the first qualification that we have to make is narrow our scope to Modern Japanese after World War II. Believe it or not, the older the language, the more different it is. And, temporal grammar is not immune to these generational changes. Although we've seen a lot of words thus far, we need to have a larger list to consider. Note that this is still not exhaustive.
|あいだ||During||あさって||The day after tomorrow||秋||Fall||明日||Tomorrow|
|おととい||Two days ago||過去||Past||季節||Season||きのう||Yesterday|
|今日||Today||去年||Last year||今朝||This morning||現在||Presently|
|午後||Afternoon||午前||Morning; A.M||今年||This year||このごろ||These days|
|今月||This month||今週||This week||最近||Recently||昨年||Last year|
|時間||Time||正月||New Years||新年||New Year||常||Ever|
|途中||In the middle of||昼||Noon||冬||Winter||毎年||Every year|
|翌日||The next day||夜||Night||～時||O' clock||～日||Day (month)|
Word Note: Words like 梅雨 (rainy season) are similar, but they don’t quite fit with the grammar restrictions that are the focus of this lesson. こんにち, みょうにち, and さくじつ are also significantly different because of their formality.
Most time phrases are relative to a degree. The degree of relatively in these words is the reason for why に may not work or may not be needed. Some are more indicative of relative phrases (きょう あす きのう). Some are more indicative of absolute phrases (～月、 ～日, ～時). Some are intermediate (春 夏 秋 冬). Others are referential (翌日, 前日, 翌年, 前年).
The easiest usages of に that really aren't sources of any confusion is when rather than being part of a time phrase, に is a predicate phrase for some other reason.
Her Korean is improving more than before.
Today is sultry continuing from yesterday.
It will be cloudy in a large area into tomorrow.
It's best not to prolong work to the next year.
Let's do it the day after tomorrow.
After all this time, I finally united today with my beloved dog!
Last assembly postponed to tomorrow
14. きのう今日に始まったことではない。 (Set Phrase)
This is not a first.
Don't even sleep at night.
にでも, にも, and には are also significantly different and are not in the scope of the problem of this lesson. However, example sentences will be given.
I'd like to quit my job even tomorrow.
The present will be delivered possibly even tomorrow.
Do miraculous gifts apply to today's world?
Tomorrow's wind will blow tomorrow.
First we need to take a bird’s eye view on the characteristics of temporal nouns.
Representative temporal nouns that do not take に for time include 今日, 明日, and 昨日. This is typically explained by their relativity to now. These nouns have a range of time associated with them, and there is no specific point in time like 4:56 being expressed. They can be used with things like ～じゅう (throughout) and ～のあいだ, but they can’t be used with something like ～ごろ.
Preparations should be finished during today.
I will do it by (the end of) tomorrow.
Representative temporal nouns that do take に for time include ～時, ～日, and ～月 phrases. These are most indicative of absolute time expressions. They consequently can’t be used with ～中 ～のあいだ. They do, however, work with 頃.
At what time do you go to sleep?
Please call around 8:30.
The rainy season ended around June 11.
There are times when they aren’t used with に, but as is shown below, this is the case when you are showing which point in time a phenomenon in its entirety occurs, which differs greatly from when an action/event is done. It can also be said that without に, the time phrase becomes more emphasized.
The research vessel left Australia late last month and was heading for measuring climate change in the Antarctic Sea, but its course was obstructed by thick ice this month on the 24th, and it is
now unable to pass through.
Of course, there are those that are in between absolute and relative time phrases—intermediates—that at times can be with にand at other times can’t. Examples include the season words 春, 夏, 秋, and 冬. These can be used with ～中, ～の間, and ～ごろ. So, when they act more like relative time phrases, you can expect them to not be with に.
Kenta commuted to school from home only while he was a first year student, but the spring he became a second year student, he began living in the dorms.
I published my first novel in the summer of Showa Year 50.
I got my job cut from my part time job last fall.
So, what are referential time phrases? As listed earlier, words like 翌日 are similar to words like 明日, these words are not rooted down in the present. Tomorrow is quite different than “the next day” in terms of usage.
I made an appointment to meet the next week.
To return home the next day.
I bought a new cell-phone and lost it the next day.
What we really want to know if there is any relation between に and 今日, 明日, and 昨日. Consider 明日. Although it may be relative, it does refer to the day directly after “now”. So, in that sense, it is somewhat absolute. There is a direction implied in the time line. In being demonstratives, they’re similar to こそあど. Unlike them, however, they have a time span.
All of these qualities make these words so unique. It shouldn't be surprising that two groups of demonstratives don’t often go with each other. This is why 95% of the time you never see something like その明日. This, though, sometimes shows up, but in literary or figurative contexts in the same sense that “that tomorrow” or “that next day” can be used in English. It's to note that if 明日 is used this way, it’s read as あした.
I will go to school today.
To shoot for that tomorrow.
34. 自分はその明日刑務所へ行って．．． (Literary)
I went to the jail the next day...
Sadly, this doesn’t take account of other words like 日 and 夜. Though they may be relative, they do not have a place on the timeline with “now”. Day and night don’t have the natural sense of a demonstrative word. So, although they’re relative words, just like in English, you can say something like あの日.
That night, he died from stomach cancer.
Do not forget about those days.
To continue into this year.
Aside from this, whenever you do see a demonstrative word plus a relative time phrase, time of a situation is not being expressed. However, all instances still sound literary and may not necessarily ever be heard in the spoken language.
So then, is he not going about notifying the townspeople of those tomorrow prices?
Of course, some common sense has to be used. Now, whether この, その, あの, and どの can attach to these words is yet another question that has been touched on a little here. It all depends on whether the time phrase has demonstrative properties. In Japanese terms, time phrases that have high指示性.
39. この毎年 X
This every year X
Why is this bad in both languages? You have two demonstrative elements. This is a no go. And, this property explains why you couldn't add them easily to words like 今日 without enough context to allow its usage.