Question about と

I watched the film 「亀は意外と早く泳ぐ」recently, which is translated on the box as “Turtles are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers”, but I don’t get the use of と. It would kind of make sense as “and”, but と can only be used that way with nouns, right? Where am I going wrong? Thanks!


I think the “with” use of と works. Taking some liberties with order/meaning to get my point across. Turtles swim with unexpected speed.

Sorry if I’m completely wrong. Hopefully someone will chime in if I am.


The “with” usage of と is for a partner. It means you do something together with another agent. Even if it was 意外な早いスピード before the particle, you would then need to use で to express the kind of “with” you were describing.

If you read this dictionary entry, you can see that it says that “Nowadays, 意外と can be used the same way as 意外に”.

To me, this feels most like the quotative particle と, but it’s hard to say, since none of the definitions of と really fit it well. The fact that it’s a more modern twist on 意外に suggests it’s just one of those things that came about and it’s just how it is now.

EDIT: Ah yes, of course, the adverb と. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Than you @Myria


意外 in this case is an adverb taking the と particle according to jisho.


Thanks :sweat_smile:


With you can see combinations of 意外 with other words, と is super low there, like 21 out of 6000+ …?

How does it work?

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All of those seem to be matching it with the quotative と. And it’s not shocking that 意外 doesn’t match up with the quotative と all that often.

But if you search for 意外と, you get over 4000 results.


I even read that entry in DOJG and didn’t draw the link :sweat_smile:
Anyhow thank you @Myria and @Leebo

So just so I understand fully, from the DoBJG this と falls under the usage of “the manner in which someone/something does something”? I see they have an examples using ゆっくりと to say “slowly” or しっかりと in a sentence to say “grabbed my hand firmly.”

IMHO, yes and no. As Leebo pointed out, it’s a modern deformation of いがいに and so, as I see it, does not exactly obey the “usual” rules of grammar.

AFAIK, normally と to mark an adverb occurs (or used to occur) only:

  • after a mimetic word or something that is assimilated to one (used to quote the sound and by extension the manner);
  • or after a so-called to/taru-adjective that converts to たる、とした、としている to modify a noun, or to simply と to act adverbially.

This 意外と seems to have been built by analogy with either of these two usages, but doesn’t really fit perfectly: it’s not quoting anything since 意外 is perfectly recognisable as a non-mimetic word, and if it were a to/taru adjective, we would expect to find 意外とした or 意外たる or something, but we do not, as we already have 意外な.

So yeah, just take it for what it is: a modern adverb that builds with と, for whatever reason, but probably by analogy with the above rules. :woman_shrugging:


Very informative. Thanks!

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