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The Particle とか – Indefinitely Listing Words and Its More Colloquial Usages

The Particle とか – Indefinitely Listing Words and Its More Colloquial Usages

In its usage, the particle とか perhaps most commonly appears to list NOUN words and is interpreted as simply acting as the conjunction “and.” However, more specifically, とか expresses the idea of “things such as X,” “X among other things,” “something like X,” and “etc.” Additionally, it can be used not only with NOUN words but also VERB and ADJECTIVE words.

First, looking at an example sentence of the most common way とか is used, we have:
ラーメンとかお寿司とかが好きです。
Ramen toka osushi toka ga suki desu.

In a fairly naturalized translation of this utterance, the end result might be something like “I like ramen and sushi.” However, to understand the grammatical nuance of とか, it is necessary to note that as opposed to simply translating to “and,” とか is implicating that there is a list of things here that indefinitely goes on to include other things “such as” ramen and sushi. Further, because とか implies other things “such as” ramen and sushi, the list here has an implicit theme, that being food. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the unlisted other things are also certain food dishes.

By way of this, we can see that とか here is very similar to the usage of the particles や and など together to also list NOUN words indefinitely.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjEh0jpIh3o

The first difference that we might immediately notice between the two grammar patterns is that the とか grammar pattern employs just the single particle とか while や and など on the other hand must be used together in order to imply an indefinite list (with just the usage of や without など, the list would be more in line with the earlier misconception of a translation, i.e. just simply “I like ramen and sushi”). While や is placed after each NOUN word in the list until など comes in after the last NOUN word in the list, とか is more simply repeated after every NOUN word in the list, including (optionally) the last one. Another difference between the two is that the usage of とか is considered more conversational than the usage of や and など together. And finally, as aforementioned, a very big difference is that とか can not only be used with NOUN words but also VERB and ADJECTIVE words. This is not true for  や and など, as together they are restricted to usage with NOUN words.

When とか is used to list VERB words indefinitely, it is used with the Plain Form of these VERB words; and in its grammatical function, it is essentially identical to the other grammar pattern that is The たり-Form – たり-Form V1 + たり-Form V2 + する (Do VERB1, VERB2, and other such things).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XT2NdZUcv1M

The slight difference between the two is that, once again, the usage of とか is considered more casual. Considering this, the following two examples are essentially identical.

Example(s):

週末に、テレビを見たり、ゲームをしたり、友達と一緒に食べたりします。
Shuumatsu ni, terebi o mitari, game o shitari, tomodachi to issho ni tabetari shimasu.
(On the weekends, I do things such as watch television, play games, eat with my friends.)

週末に、テレビを見るとか、ゲームをするとか、友達と一緒に食べるとかします。
Shuumatsu ni, terebi o miru toka, game o suru toka, tomodachi to issho ni taberu toka shimasu.
(On the weekends, I do things such as watch television, play games, eat with my friends.)
*Note that the とか after the last VERB word is required, as is the respective conjugation of する after it.

Aside from being used to present indefinite listings, とか can also be used alongside a singular word or idea to invoke the nuance that quite literally translates to the English “or something.” A common effect that this usage of とか has is softening one’s own statement or establishing an aspect of uncertainty. In these instances, the conversations are understood to be quite colloquial.

Example(s):

随分勉強しているようだね。明日試験があるとか
Zuibun benkyou shite iru you da ne. Ashita shiken ga aru toka?
(“Looks like you’re studying an awful lot. You got a test tomorrow or something?”)

彼氏とかいる?
Kareshi toka iru.
(“Do you have a boyfriend or anything?”)

彼はまだ来ないの?
Kare wa mada konai no?
(He’s still not here yet?“)
また忘れたとか。。。
Mata wasureta toka
(“Maybe he forgot again or something”)

When とか is used in this manner to mark an entire line of thought with an “or something” and that line of thought is a quote or a paraphrase, とか also acts as the quotation marking particle. This means that the presence of more common quotation marking particles such as と and って are not additionally needed.

Example(s):

両親が大嫌いとか言ってるけど本当にそう思う?
Ryoushin ga daikirai toka itteru kedo hontou ni sou omou?
(“You’re saying things like how much you hate your parents, but do you really feel that way?”)