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先生に遊びすぎると注意されました。

healer

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I was warned by the teacher that I played too much (i.e. instead of studying).

It says in the textbook the と in the captioned sentence is the quotation marker; it does not mean “when/if”.
How can we be sure about that? Why can't we use と here for “when/if”?
 

Toritoribe

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From the context, as always.
The word order 遊びすぎると、先生に注意されました。 is more common for "when". (It can't be "if" since the past form 注意されました shows that this is a past fact.)
 

healer

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I have once heard that the words in a Japanese sentence can be in any order as long as the verb is at the end.
I suppose in this case the words have to be in such order for clarity.
 

Toritoribe

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I suppose in this case the words have to be in such order for clarity.
Right. In this case, the key is there are two clauses there, and 先生に is connected to 注意されました, not 遊びすぎると.
 

bentenmusume

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While your observation is generally on target, I would caution you on two counts:

1) Although Japanese word order is, by any measure, more flexible than English (in part because particles serve to dictate grammatical relationships in a role similar to how word order functions in English), it is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration to say that a Japanese sentence can be in any order. Adjectives and relative clauses still need to precede the nouns they modify, particles govern the nouns that come before them rather than after, some temporal and counting expressions almost invariably appear in a certain position, etc. etc. It is good to understand the basic SOV structure and prepare for exceptions, but understand that there is some rhyme or reason to how the words in a sentence are ordered, especially in contexts where it is necessary for clarification (as you observe).

2) Be careful thinking that the verb has to be at the end of every sentence in practice. Although the general structure of Japanese is SOV, you will often find inverted or incomplete sentences, or sentences that do not contain verbs at all, but instead other predicates (adjective/copula). Again, it is good to be aware of the rules, but understand that some rules (not all) are often broken.
 

healer

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Thanks jt_-san for your elaborate advice.

If I'm not mistaken, I also heard that what one wants to emphasize should be placed at the beginning of the sentence. However I've found the time and date usually come first.
 
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