The Many Meanings of ところ (Tokoro) in Japanese: A Complete Guide

ところ (tokoro) in Japanese is a noun that has a few meanings and usages. Here is a quick list of the ways ところ is used in Japanese:

1. To Describe a Place or Location

Describing a place, location, site, scene: Written in hiragana (ところ) or in kanji (所).

(Taberu tokoro.)
A place to eat.

2. Explaining the States of Verbs

ところ can be used to describe different states of a verb as show below:

A. About To Do Something: Verb in Plain Present Form + ところ (Tokoro)

(Iku tokoro.)
I’m about to leave.

B. Currently Doing Something: Verb in Present Progressive Form + ところ (Tokoro)

(Benkyō shiteiru tokoro.)
I’m currently studying

C. Just Finished Doing Something: Verb in Plain Past Tense Form + ところ (Tokoro)

(Shukudai ga owatta tokoro.)
I’ve just finished my homework.

D. Was About to do Something: ところ (Tokoro) + だった (Datta) / でした (Deshita)

(Ayauku korobu tokoro datta.)
I almost fell down. (It was at the point where I was going to fall down, but didn’t)

3. To Describe a Point, Aspect, or Facet of Something

(Kare ga odorokanai tokoro o miru to, Miwa ga hikkoshita koto o shitteita yō da.)
Seeing that he wasn’t surprised, it seemed he already knew that Miwa had moved. 

4. ところで (Tokoro De): As a Conjunction to Mean “By The Way”

(Kyō wa ii tenki da. Tokoro de kyō wa nani o suru no?)
It’s sunny today.  By the way, what are you going to do today?

ところ (tokoro) can be written in katakana,トコロ but it is rare. It is always written in hiragana when it is used with verbs.  

Now let’s take a closer look at how to use ところ (tokoro). 

1. ところ (Tokoro): A Place, Site, Or Scene

This is probably the most straightforward usage of ところ (tokoro). It refers to any place (locations, restaurants, etc.). It is often written in kanji: 所 (tokoro).  


1. 学校は勉強するです。
(Gakkō wa benkyō suru tokoro desu.)
School is a place to study.

2. ここは私が働いているです。
(Koko wa watashi ga hataraiteiru tokoro desu.)
This is the place I work.

 3. ここは私が住んでいるです。
(Koko wa watashiga sundeiru tokoro desu.)
This is where I live.

Asking Questions with ところ

To make a (polite) question, you can add どんな (donna) or こんな (konna) before ところ (tokoro) and finish a sentence with ですか? ( desu ka?)  

  • どんな所: What kind of place?/ What is ~ like? 
  • こんな所: This place / Here.


1. 日本はどんな所ですか?
(Nihon wa donna tokoro desu ka?)
What kind of place is Japan?

 2. あなたは彼のどんなところ*が好きですか?
(Anata wa kare no donna tokoro ga suki desu ka?)
What do you like about him? 

3.  こんな所で何をしているのですか?
(Konna tokoro de nani o shiteiru no desu ka?)
What are you doing here (in this kind of place)?

*Note:  In Japanese, when you ask someone what they like about another person, it is usually done by asking “where (どこ)” you like that person. For example:

(Kanojo no doko ga suki desu ka?)
What do you like about your girlfriend? (Lit. Where/What part of your girlfriend do you like?)

2. Verb in Dictionary Form + ところ (Tokoro): About To Do Something

Verb in Plain-Dictionary Form + ところ = About to Do ~

The verb must be in plain form. You CAN NOT use the masu-form with tokoro:  

Wrong: Can Not Use the Masu-Form with Tokoro

× 食べますところ

× 飲みますところ

Correct: Verb in Plain Form

〇 食べるところ

〇 飲むところ

This usage of ところ describes the state of “just about to start an action.”  

In English, we say things like, “I’m just about to~” or “I’m going to do ~ right now.”

It is commonly used with words like 今から (imakara) or これから (korekara), which both mean “from now.” This helps clarify that you are about to start doing an action soon.  


1. 今から勉強するところです。
(Imakara benkyō suru tokoro desu.)
I’m about to study.

2. これから出かけるところです。
(Korekara dekakeru tokoro desu.)
I’m about to leave.

3. これから食べるところです。
(Korekara taberu tokoro desu.)
I’m about to eat.

Asking Questions Using Dictionary Form Verbs +ところ

To make a question, you can add ですか? (desu ka) at the end of a sentence. 


1. 今から勉強するところですか?
(Imakara benkyō suru tokoro desu ka?)
Are you about to study?

2. これから寝るところですか?
(Korekara neru tokoro desu ka?)
Are you about to sleep?

3. Verb in Progressive Form (〜ている Teiru) + ところ (Tokoro): Currently Doing ~ 

Verb in Plain Progressive / ~ている (~te iru) Form + ところ (tokoro): In the Middle of Doing ~/ Currently Doing ~

This usage of ところ describes the state of currently doing something. In English, similar phrases would be “in the middle of ~” or “currently doing ~.”

Please note that this usage is only used with the dictionary/plain form of a progressive verb (している、食べている, etc.) You CAN NOT use the polite, ます (masu) form (しています、食べています, etc.):

Wrong: Can Not Use the Masu Form With ところ

× 食べていますところ

× 見ていますところ

Correct: Verb in Plain Form + ところ

〇 食べているところ

〇 見ているところ

This usage is often paired with words like ちょうど (chōdo), meaning “exactly/precisely,” or 今 (ima), meaning “now.”


1. ちょうど今、宿題をしているところです。
(Chōdo ima shukudai o shiteiru tokoro desu.)
I’m currently doing my homework.

2. ちょうど今、帰っているところです。
(Chōdo ima kaetteiru tokoro desu.)
I’m currently going back home. (I’m on the way home. )

3. ちょうど今、お昼ご飯を食べているところです。
(Chōdo ima ohiru gohan o tabeteiru tokoro desu.)
I’m currently having lunch.

What’s the Difference Between ~ています (Tabete Imasu) and ~ているところ (Tabeteiru Tokoro)?

Using the 〜ています (te imasu) pattern expresses a statement that focuses on the action of the verb. Sentences like, “I am eating.” “He is taking a shower.” and so on.    

However, the 〜ているところ (te iru tokoro) pattern focuses on a state (of an action). For example, “I’m in the middle of doing my homework.” or “I’m currently on the phone with a customer.” It is often used when you provide a reason for something or explain a situation.  

Examples: 食べています (Tabete Imasu)

1. 私はお昼ご飯を食べています
(Watashi wa ohiru gohan o tabete imasu.)
I’m eating lunch

2. 今シェフが野菜を切っています
(Ima shefu ga yasai o kitte imasu.
The chef is cutting vegetables. 

Examples: 食べているところ (Tabeteiru Tokoro)

If you are eating lunch and someone asks you what you are doing, you can use the 〜しているところ (shiteiru tokoro) pattern to let them know that you are in the middle of having a meal.  

1. 私はお昼ご飯を食べているところです。
(Watashi wa ohiru gohan o tabeteiru tokoro desu.)
I’m in the middle of having lunch. (I’m currently in the state of having lunch)

If your child asks you when he can eat dinner, you can answer using the ~ているとこる (~teiru tokoro) pattern:

2. 今ご飯を作っているところだから、あと10分で食べられるよ。
(Ima gohan o tsukutteiru tokoro dakara ato juppun de taberareru yo.)
I’m cooking dinner right now, so it will be ready in 10 minutes. 

4. Verb in Past Form (〜た Ta) + ところ (Tokoro): Just Finished Doing ~

Verb in Plain Past Form + ところ (Tokoro) = Just Finished Doing

Just like the other usages of tokoro with verbs, you CAN NOT use ところ with the masu form in the past tense with ところ.  

Wrong: Can Not Use the Masu-Form

× 食べましたところ

× 歩きましたところ

Correct: Verb in Plain Past Form

〇 食べたところ

〇 歩いたところ

This usage of ところ is to describe a state of just being finished with something.  

It is often paired with words like:  

  • ちょうど (chōdo): exactly, pre
  • たった今 (tatta ima): just now

A word that has the same nuance as したところ is: ばかり (bakari): just finished

Check out our guide on ばかり (bakari) to learn all about it.  


1. ちょうど帰って来たところです。= 今帰って来たばかりです。
(Chōdo kaettekita tokoro desu.) = (Ima kaettekita bakari desu.)
I just got back home.

2. たった今食べ終わったところです。 = 今食べ終わったばかりです。
(Tatta ima tabeowatta tokoro desu.) = (Ima tabeowatta bakari desu.)
I’ve just finished eating

3. ちょうど起きたところです。 = 今起きたばかりです。
(Chōdo okita tokoro desu.) = (Ima okita bakari desu.)
I just woke up.

What’s the Difference Between ところ (Tokoro) and ばかり (Bakari)?

ばかり (bakari) emphasizes that not much time has passed after you finished something. This gives it a nuance of “I just finished” or “I finished ~ a second ago.”

However, using a past tense verb + ところ (tokoro) focuses on the state of having finished an action. The nuance of this would be, “I’m in the state of being finished.” “I am now at the point where I have just completed an action.”

Also, ばかり can be used in ways that ところ can not.  

For example, you can modify a noun with ばかり (bakari), but you can’t modify a noun with ところ (tokoro):

Correct: ばかり + の (No) + Noun 

〇 掃除したばかりの部屋。
(Sōji shita bakari no heya.)
A room I just finished cleaning.  

Wrong: ところ + の (No) + Noun 

× 掃除したところの部屋。 
(Sōji shita tokoro no heya.)

5. ところだった/でした (Tokoro Datta / Deshita): I Was About to Do Something / Something Almost Happened

Verb (dictionary form) + ところだった (Tokoro Datta) = I Was About to ~ / I Was Just Going to ~

You can use this pattern to describe an action that was nearly about to happen or explain that you were just about to do something. It is often used to explain a situation where something bad was about to happen but didn’t.

It is commonly paired with the following words:

  • もう少しで (mō sukoshi de): in a little while, just a bit longer
  • 危うく (ayauku): narrowly, almost 


1. 授業中、危うく寝るところだった
(Jugyōchū ayauku neru tokoro datta.)
I almost fell asleep during the class (but it didn’t happen).

2. 大事な書類を危うく忘れるところだった
(Daiji na shorui o ayauku wasureru tokoro datta.)
I almost forgot an important document (but it didn’t happen).

3. もう少しでバスに乗り遅れるところだった
(Mō sukoshi de basu ni noriokureru tokoro datta.)
I almost missed the bus (but it didn’t happen).

4. もう少しで遅刻するところだった
(Mō sukoshi de chikoku suru tokoro datta.)
I was almost late (but it didn’t happen). 

How to Use ところ Casually In Japanese

You can omit the ろ (ro) in ところ (tokoro) to form the casual とこ (toko). とこ is only used when speaking casually. It should never be used in formal conversations or formal writing.  


1. 今から宿題をするところ。→ 今から宿題をするとこ
(Imakara shukudai o suru tokoro.) →   (Imakara shukudai o suru toko.)
I’m about to do my homework.

2. 今、宿題をしているところ。 → 今、宿題をしているとこ
(Ima shukudai o shiteiru tokoro.) →  (Ima shukudai o shiteiru toko.)
I’m currently doing my homework.

3. 今、宿題をしたところ。 → 今、宿題をしたとこ
(Ima shukudai o shita tokoro.) →  (Ima shukudai o shita toko.)
I’ve just finished my homework.

6.ところ (Tokoro): Point, Aspect, Facet

ところ (tokoro) is also used to express reasons for guessing or judging a situation. For this usage, ところ is usually written in hiragana.  

The phrase “ところを見ると (tokoro o miru to): judging from, seeing that” is often paired with this usage

Verb in plain form + ところを見ると = judging from, seeing that


1. 彼女がおしゃれしているところを見ると、きっとデートに行くのだろう。
(Kanojo ga oshare shiteiru tokoro o miru to kitto dēto ni iku no darō.)
Seeing that she’s all dressed up, she is probably going on a date.

2. 彼がニヤニヤしているところを見ると、何か良いことがあったのだろう。
(Kare ga niyaniya shiteiru tokoro o miru to nani ka yoi koto ga atta no darō.)
Seeing him smirking, something good must have happened.

3. お菓子を食べないところを見ると、彼女はダイエットを始めたのかも知れない。
(Okashi o tabenai tokoro o miru to kanojo wa daietto o hajimeta no kamo shirenai.)
Seeing that she doesn’t eat snacks (anymore), she is probably on a diet.  

7. ところで (Tokoro De): By The Way…

ところで (tokoro de) is used to change the topic in a conversation. It has the same nuance as “by the way..” in English.  It is used at the beginning of a sentence.

Important:  There are two different usages of ところで (tokoro de) in Japanese. When used together as a set, it becomes a conjunction that means “by the way.”  However, when using ところ to mean a location (usage #1 in this guide), it can take the particle で (de) to indicate an action taking place there.  


(Watashi wa eki no tokoro de tomodachi ni atta.)
I met one of my friends at the station.

In this sentence, ところで means “at the station” (place marker where an action takes place). It doesn’t mean “by the way.”

Examples: By the Way

1. もうすぐ夏休みだね。ところで、君はどこか行く予定はあるの?
(Mō sugu natsuyasumi da ne. Tokoro de kimi wa dokoka iku yotei wa aru no?)
Summer vacation is coming soon.  By the way, do you have any plans to go somewhere?

2. 明日は日本語のテストがある。ところで、君は先週のテストどうだったの?
(Ashita wa Nihongo no tesuto ga aru. Tokoro de kimi wa senshū no tesuto dōdatta no?)
Tomorrow, I have a Japanese test.  By the way, how was your test last week?

3. 新しい仕事を探さなくちゃいけないな。ところで、君は仕事うまくいっているの?
(Atarashii shigoto o sagasanakucha ikenai na. Tokoro de kimi wa shigoto umaku itteiru no?)
I have to find a new job.  By the way, how is your work going?

4. 来週、日本語のテストを受けるんでしょ?ところで、明日は空いている?
(Raishū Nihongo no tesuto o ukerun desho? Tokoro de ashita wa aiteiru?)
You are going to take a Japanese test, aren’t you?  By the way, do you have time tomorrow?

7. ところ: While Doing An Action, Something happened.

ところ can also be used similarly to とき (toki) to mean “when” (as in, “when I was eating” or “when I went to Tokyo”).


1.  歩いていたところ、昔の友達にあった。
(Aruiteita tokoro, mukashi no tomodachi ni atta.)
I met one of my old friends while walking down the street.

2. 弟に買い物を頼んだところ、断られた。
(Otōto ni kaimono o tanonda tokoro kotowarareta.)
When I asked my brother to go shopping, he turned me down.

So what’s the difference between ところ and とき?

They are virtually the same.

They have the same meaning and nuance, and you can use them interchangeably in most situations to mean “when” (When I was doing X, Y happened). Using a verb + ところ is a little more formal than using とき. 

Remember that ところ has a meaning of a “point” or “place.” In example #1, 歩いていたところ (aruiteita tokoro) would literally be translated as “the point (of time) when I was walking. Using ところ pinpoints the exact time when you met your friend. You met them while you were in the state of walking. 

とき means “time” and is used to mean “when” in English. It sounds a little more casual/conversational than ところ. If we used とき for example 1, it would look like this:  

(Aruiteita toki, mukashi no tomodachi ni atta.).   
During the time (when) I was walking, I met an old friend.  

Using ところ (Tokoro) in Conversations: Dialogues

Let’s look at how native speakers use ところ in conversations.

Example: Taro is calling Takeshi on the Phone

健史: もしもし?
Takeshi: (Moshi moshi?)
Takeshi: Hello?

太郎: もしもし、健史?夜遅くにごめんね。今何してる?
Tarō: (Moshi moshi Takeshi? Yoru osokuni gomen ne. Ima nani shiteru?)
Taro: Hello, Takeshi? Sorry that I called you late at night. What are you doing now?

健史: ちょうど寝るところだよ。
Takeshi: (Chōdo neru tokoro da yo.)
Takeshi: I’m just about to hit the hay.

太郎: もう寝るの?僕は今夕飯を食べ終わったところだよ。
Tarō: (Mō neru no? Boku wa ima yūshoku o tabeowatta tokoro da yo.)
Taro: Are you going to sleep yet? I just finished eating dinner.

健史: 何か用事があるの?
Takeshi: (Nanika yōji ga aru no?)
Takeshi: You needed something?

太郎: うん。今数学の宿題をやっているところなんだけど、分からなくて困っているんだよ。
Tarō: (Un. Ima sūgaku no shukudai o yatteiru tokoro nan da kedo wakaranakute komatte irundayo.)
Taro: I’m in the middle of doing my math homework, but I’m having trouble.

Takeshi: (Ashita no hiruyasumi ni oshiete ageru yo.)
Takeshi: I’ll help you at lunchtime tomorrow.

太郎: ありがとう。ところで、花子が前に住んでいたところってどこか知ってる?確か北海道の雪まつりが有名なところだよ。
Tarō: (Arigatō. Tokoro de Hanako ga mae ni sundeita tokoro tte dokoka shitteru? Tashika Hokkaidō no yukimatsuri ga yūmei na tokoro dayo.)
Taro: Thanks.  By the way, do you know where Hanako used to live? I think it was a place famous for the snow festival in Hokkaido.

Takeshi: (Sapporo?)
Takeshi: Sapporo?

Tarō: (!)
Taro: That’s it!

健史:  ところで、昨日花子を校門のところで見かけたけど、彼女はどんな子なの?
Takeshi: (Tokoro de kinō Hanako o kōmon no tokoro de mikaketa kedo kanojo wa donna ko na no?)
By the way, I saw Hanako at the school gate yesterday. What is she like?

太郎:  彼女の良いところは、みんなに優しいところだね。
Tarō: (Kanojo no ii tokoro wa minna ni yasashii tokoro da ne.)
Taro: The best thing about her is that she is kind to everyone.

健史: そうなんだ。
Takeshi: (Sō nanda.)
Takeshi: I see.

Tarō: (Sore jā mata ashita.)
Taro: Okay, see you tomorrow.

Using ところ (Tokoro) With Different Particles

ところ can be paired with different particles depending on how it’s used. Let’s look at the particles it can be paired with and how it is used.  

1. 〜ところで (Tokoro De): At the Time

As explained earlier in this article, ところで is a conjunction that means “by the way.” However, it can have other meanings as well.

When ところ is paired with the particle で (de), it indicates a specific point in time, a situation, or a location.


1. 買い物を終えたところで、偶然友達に会った。
(Kaimono o oeta tokoro de gūzen tomodachi ni atta.)
I met one of my friends by chance when I had just finished shopping. (At the point where I had just finished shopping, I met a friend by chance.)

2.  みんなが揃ったところで、出発しましょう。
(Minna ga sorotta tokoro de shuppatsu shimashō.)
Since everybody is here, let’s go. (It is at the point where everyone is here, so let’s go.)

2.   〜ところで (Tokoro De): Even If / The Result Will Be the Same No Matter How What

Verb in Plain Past Tense Form + ところで

This usage of ところ + で has a negative nuance of “even if you try, the result you want won’t happen.” It is similar to the 〜ても (temo) form of verbs (ex. しても, 行っても, etc.), which also means “even if.”  


1. 就職活動を頑張ったところで、この不況では仕事は見つからないだろう。
(Shūshoku katsudō o ganbatta tokoro de kono fukyō dewa shigoto wa mitsukaranai darō.)
No matter how hard you try to find a job, you won’t be able to find one in this recession. 

    ~ても (Temo) Version

(Shūshoku katsudō o ganbatte mo kono fukyō dewa shigoto wa mitsukaranai darō.)
No matter how hard you try to find a job, you won’t be able to find one in this recession. 

2.  どんなに練習をしたところで、野球選手にはなれないだろう。
(Donna ni renshū o shita tokoro de yakyū senshu niwa narenai darō.)
No matter how hard I practice, I will never become a baseball player.

    ~ても (Temo) Version

(Donna ni renshū o shite mo yakyū senshu niwa narenai darō.)
No matter how hard I practice, I will never become a baseball player.

The particle で in this usage acts as a limit. It distinctly marks the point where something happens. Take a look at this phrase from example #1 above; 頑張ったところで. The で in this phrase marks the point of you having tried hard (頑張った):  

頑張ったところで – At the point where you tried (hard) –> この不況では仕事は見つからないだろう。- You (still) can’t find a job in this recession.  

3. 〜ところへ / に (Tokoro E / Ni): Upon Doing X, Y Happens

Using the particles へ (he/e) or に (ni) with ところ indicates that while performing an action (or about to perform an action), something else happened.  


1. 夕食を食べているところへ夫が帰って来た。
(Yūshoku o tabeteiru tokoro e otto ga kaettekita.)
When I was eating dinner, my husband came back.

2. 友達とお茶を飲んでいたところに、花子がきた。
(Tomodachi to ocha o nondeita tokoro ni Hanako ga kita.)
When I was drinking tea with my friend, Hanako came.

You might wonder why you would use the particles へ or に in these situations. You may have learned that the particles へ and に are used for direction—for example:

(Resutoran e ikimasu.)
I’m going to a restaurant.  

The へ in this sentence marks your direction: you are heading towards a restaurant.   In this case, に and へ are interchangeable as both indicate a direction. Keep in mind that these particles can mark you heading towards something, or something is directed towards you. These particles can also indicate a direction for animals or non-living things like sending mail or phone calls.  

There is one difference between the particles へ and に: へ is only used to indicate a direction. However, に can indicate a direction or time. For example:

(Getsuyōbi ni kaigi ga arimasu.)
There is a meeting on Monday.  

If we look at the ところ examples above, we can see that the particles へ and に are indeed indicating a direction.  

Example 1: 夕食を食べているところ夫が帰って来た。–> My husband came towards me (where I was eating dinner).  

Example 2: 友達とお茶を飲んでいたところ、花子がきた。–> Hanako came to where my friend and I were drinking tea.  

4.〜ところを (Tokoro O): When Action X Happens, Action Y Happens 

Using the particle を (o) together with ところ indicates that something happens while a separate action takes place. It is commonly used with verbs like 見る (miru: to see), 見つける (mitsukeru – to find), and 見つかる (mitsukaru – to be found).  


1. 隠れてゲームをしているところを母に見つかって怒られた。
(Kakurete gēmu o shiteiru tokoro o haha ni mitsukatte okorareta.)
My mother found me playing a game in secret and scolded me.

2. 子供が溺れているところを通りすがりの人が見つけた。
(Kodomo ga oboreteiru tokoro o tōrisugari no hito ga mitsuketa.)
A passerby found a child drowning.

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Yumi Nakata

Yumi is a native speaker of Japanese. She is living in Kanagawa, Japan, raising her three kids. She studied English as an exchange student in Washington state for a year. The days she spent with her American friends are some of the greatest memories of her life.

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