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All About Japanese Particles: に (ni)

1. Indicates where a person or thing is: “in, at, on.”

a) Indicates a concrete place.

山田先生は、今図書館いらっしゃいます。   
Yamada-sensei wa, ima tosho-kan ni irasshaimasu.
Professor Yamada is in the library now.

電話帳は机の上あります。
Denwa-chō wa tsukue no ue ni arimasu.
The phone book is on the desk.

b) Indicates an abstract place.

課長は今会議出席しています。
Kachō wa ima kaigi ni shusseki shite imasu.
The section chief is now in conference.

彼は今でも演劇界君臨しています。
Kare wa ima de mo engeki-kai ni kunrin shite imasu.
Even now he rules over [dominates] the theatrical world.

2. Indicates the location of an action: “in, at.”

Note: In contrast to this use of ni, de (#12, no. 1) is used to indicate a one-time or short-term action.

a) Used with certain “non-action” verbs, which imply that the subject is permanently located in the place of action.

山田さんは現在四谷住んでいます。
Yamada-san wa genzai Yotsuya ni sunde imasu.
Yamada lives in Yotsuya at present.

寺田さんは新宿の銀行勤めています。
Terada-san wa Shinjuku no ginkō ni tsutomete imasu.
Terada works (is working) at a bank in Shinjuku.

Note: The verbs hataraku and shigoto o suru (to work) are preceded by de.

b) Used with verbs that indicate that an action has taken (or is to take) place and the resulting condition is (or will be) static. The last sentence exemplifies the parenthetical definition.

あのいす座って本を読んでいる人は、だれですか。
Ano isu ni suwatte hon o yonde iru hito wa, dare desu ka.
Who is the person sitting in that chair and reading a book?

山の上雪が積もっていますね。
Yama no ue ni yuki ga tsumotte imasu ne.
Snow is piled up on top of the mountain, isn’t it. / There is snow on the mountaintop, isn’t there.

すみませんが、壁かかっている私のコートを取ってくれますか。
Sumimasen ga, kabe ni kakatte iru watashi no kōto o totte kure-masu ka.
Excuse me, but would you get my coat hanging on the wall?

新聞は机の上置いてください。
Shinbun wa tsukue no ue ni oite kudasai.
Please put the newspaper on the desk

3. Indicates time: “at, on, in; every, per.”

a) Indicates the specific time at which something takes place.

会社は9始まります。
Kaisha wa kuji ni hajimarimasu.
Work [the office] begins at nine o’clock.

月曜日大阪へ行きます。
Getsuyōbi ni ōsaka e ikimasu.
I’m going to Osaka on Monday.

b) Indicates the interval of time during which something takes place.

1週間一度テニスをします。
Isshukan ni ichido tenisu o shimasu.
I play tennis once a week.

このバスは30分おき来ます。
Kono basu wa sanjuppun oki ni kimasu.
This bus comes every thirty minutes.

4. Indicates movement from a larger to a smaller place (e.g., from a train platform into a train, or from the lay world into a religious organization): “in, into.”

Note: Contrast with o (#18, no. 6).

a) Indicates movement from larger to smaller physical place.

東京駅の前でバス乗ってください。
Tōkyō-eki no mae de basu ni note kudasai.
Please board the bus in front of Tokyo station.

オフィス入ったら、タバコは吸わないで下さい。
Ofisu ni haittara, tabako wa suwanai de kudasai.
Please don’t smoke after entering the office. / Please don’t smoke inside the office.

b) Indicates movement from larger to smaller abstract place.

去年渡辺さんは歴史学会入った。
Kyonen Watanabe-san wa rekishi-gakkai ni haitta.
Last year Watanabe joined a historical society.

あなたはぼくの夢の中何度も出てきました。
Anata wa boku no yume no naka ni nando mo dete kimashita.
You have appeared in my dreams any number of times.

5. Indicates movement toward a place: “to.”

Note: E (#14, no. 1) can also be used here.

アメリカ行きたい。
America ni ikitai.
I want to go to America.

ジョンさんは銀行行きましたよ。
Jon-san wa ginko ni ikimashita yo.
John went to the bank, you know.

6. Indicates the object of an action: “to.

Note: In this usage, e may not be used.

a) Used after a noun. The distinction between this usage and that in no. 5 is that here the noun implies an action (e.g., going shopping, seeing Kabuki).

買い物行きます。
Kaimono ni ikimasu.
I’m going shopping.

明日は歌舞伎行くつもりです。
Ashita wa kabuki ni iku tsumori desu.
I plan to go to [see] Kabuki tomorrow.

b) Used after the base of a -masu

もうお昼ですから、食事をしいきませんか。
Mo ohiru desu kara, shokuji o shi ni ikimasen ka.
Since it’s noon already, shall we go to eat lunch?

木下さんは友達を迎え成田まで出かけました。
Kinoshita-san wa tomodachi o mukae ni Narita made dekakemashita.
Kinoshita went out to Narita [Airport] to meet [pick up] a friend.

7. Indicates the recipient of an action (in English, equivalent to the indirect object): “to, from.”

Note: When the meaning is “to,” e may replace ni; when the meaning is “from,” kara may replace ni.

クリスマスは友達にプレゼントをあげる。
Kurisumasu ni wa tomodachi ni purezento o ageru.
We give presents to our friends at Christmas.

クリスマス友達にプレゼントをもらった。
Kurisumasu ni tomodachi ni purezento o moratta.
I received a present from my friend at Christmas.

昨日フランスいるナンシーに手紙を出してあげた。
Kinō Furansu ni iru Nanshī ni tegami o dashite ageta.
Yesterday I sent a letter to Nancy in France.

8. Indicates the result of a change or an impending change.

ジョンさんは大学を卒業して、医者なった。
Jon-san wa daigaku o sotsugyō shite, isha ni natta.
John graduated from university and became a doctor.

このケーキを3分けて下さい。
Kono kēki o mittsu ni wakete kudasai.
Please divide this cake into three [parts].

渡辺さんは仕事のしすぎで病気なった。
Watanabe-san wa shigoto no shisugi de byōki ni natta.
Watanabe become ill from overwork.

9. Indicates a condition already in existence (usually followed by natte iru and equivalent to the English “to be”).

この建物の右側が教室なっています。
Kono tatemono no migigawa ga kyōshitsu ni natte imasu.
The right side of this building is a classroom.

ホテルの前がビーチなっています。
Hoteru no mae ga bīchi ni natte imasu.
In front of the hotel is a beach. (Lit., The front of the hotel is a beach.)

10. Indicates the agent of a passive verb (the person or thing performing the action): “by.”

電車の中で、すりお金を取られた。
Densha no naka de, suri ni okane o torareta.
My money was taken by a pickpocket in the train.

帰る途中で雨に降られた。
Ie ni kaeru tochū de ame ni furareta.
On the way home I got rained on. (Lit., I was fallen on by the train.)

11. Indicates the person(s) made to do something in a causative sentence.

先生は学生漢字を書かせました。
Sensei wa gakusei ni kanji o kakasemashita.
The teacher had the students write kanji.

子供たち本を読ませることはとても大切だ。
Kodomo-tachi ni hon o yomaseru koto wa totemo taisetsu da.
It is very important to have children read books.

12. Indicates the agent of a causative-passive verb (the person or thing performing the action): “by.”

学生は先生漢字を書かされました。
Gakusei wa sensei ni kanji o kakasaremashita.
The students were made to write kanji by the teacher.

私は子供のとき、母嫌いなものも食べさせられました。
Watashi wa kodomo no toki, haha ni kirai na mono mo tabesase-raremashita.
When I was a child, I was made to eat even things I disliked by my mother (my mother made me eat food I didn’t like).

*13. Joins nouns (usually three or more): “and.”

Note: This usage of ni is equivalent to to (#6, 1-1), but is more commonly found in writing.

その会議に出席した人は、中国人、韓国人、日本人だった。
Sono kaigi ni shusseki shita hito wa, Chūgoku-jin ni, Kankoku-jin ni, Nihon-jin datta.
The people attending the conference were Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese.

パーティーの飲物は、日本酒、ウイスキー、ワインでした。
Pātī no nomimono wa, Nihon-shu ni, uisukī ni, wain deshita.
The drinks [available] at the party were sake, whiskey, and wine.

*14. Indicates a pair of people or things that are commonly mentioned together: “and.”

ロメオジュリエット。
Romeo ni Jurietto.
Romeo and Juliet.

富士山芸者。
Fuji-san ni geisha.
Mt. Fuji and geisha (a hackneyed phrase in reference to Japan).

*15. Indicates the basis on which, or means by which, an action takes place (usually used with the verbs motozuku (to be based on) and yoru (owing to).

あの映画は有名な小説基づいて作られました。
Ano eiga wa yūmei na shōsetsu ni motozuite tsukuraremashita.
That movie was [made] based on a famous novel.

テレビの普及よって、外国の様子がよくわかるようになった。
Terebi no fukyū ni yotte, gaikoku no yōsu ga yoku wakaru yō ni natta.
Thanks to the spread [owing to the spread] of television, we [now] have a better understanding of conditions in foreign countries.

– Source: All about particles – A handbook of Japanese function words

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