Location particles : に vs で

February 16, 2012 in Beginners, Grammar


= Nihon ni ikitainaa…

= I wanna go to Japan.


= Nihon de Maggie to asobitai…

= I’d love to play with Maggie in Japan…

Hi, everyone! !onpu!

We have a very cute guest teacher, Max Sensei from Prague, the Czech Republic.

OMG, you are totally my type boucingheart!  かわいい〜〜!!= Kawaiiiii!!! = Cuuuute!!

Max Sensei is having a great life with her mom, Nina who is studying Japanese, enjoying running through the snowbanks, sunbathing, taking for a walk,etc.

You have quite a life, Max!

Today he will teach you the difference between the location markers, ( =ni ) and ( = de).

Some of my Twitter followers have been asking for this type of lesson, so here you go!

You might think this is very basic stuff, but sometimes it is very confusing!

I know there are a lot of textbooks that cover this subject, but allow me to give you my take on this grammatical topic.

Note :  The usage of and varies.  I  will just focus on their function as location markers in this lesson.

OK, are you ready? Here we go! !JYANE!


:k: The basic rules of how to distinguish and :


:rrrr: indicates  the location where something /  someone exists or “is”. / When an action is done in a certain direction.


:rrrr: indicate the location where some action/events take place  (Sometimes you move around in certain locations.)

Let’s study these one by one. :h:




1) When you indicate the  location where you do some activities/ actions happen or take place.

in / at = + (location) + action verb

Ex. デパート買い物をする。

= Depaato de kaimono wo suru

= to buy at a department store


= Resutoran de shokuji wo suru

= to eat at a restaurant

Ex. ベッド寝る

= beddo de neru

= to sleep in a bed

Note : 寝る(=neru)  is not quite an active action and we usually use but sometimes we use に  ( = ni).

:rrrr:ベッド寝る = beddo ni neru = to sleep IN the bed

The difference :

When you focus on the action (sleeping) you use ( = de) and when you focus on the place, where you sleep, you use ( = de)

So as 横たわる(=yokotawaru)

Ex. ベッド横たわる= beddo ni yokotawaru = to lie down in the bed.

(Focusing on the place, where you sleep)

Ex. ベッド横たわる = beddo de yokotawaru = to lie down in the bed.

(Focusing on the action, lying down)

Ex. どこその事件のことを知りましたか?

= Dokode sono jiken no koto wo shirimashita ka?

= Where did you hear (or find out) about the incident?

Ex. 友達の家知りました。

= Tomodachi no ie de shirimashita.

= I heard about it at my friend’s house.

Ex. 明日、どこ会う?

= Ashita, doko de au?

= Where are we going to get together tomorrow?

Ex. 駅前待ち合わせしようか。

=Ekimae de machiawase shiyouka?

= Shall we meet in front of the station?

2) When you indicate the location where some activity/event is held:

Ex. 明日、大学午後から授業があります。

= Ashita, daigaku de gogo kara jugyou ga arimasu.

= I have a class at the university in the afternoon.

Ex. 今度の学会はどこ開かれますか?

= Kondo no gakkai wa doko de hirakaremasuka?

= Where will the next academic conference be held next time?

Ex. 次の学会はニューヨークあります。

= Tsugi no gakkai wa Nyuuyooku de arimasu.

= The next academic conference will be held in New York.

Ex. 今週の日曜日、うち誕生日パーティーを開くから来てね。

= Konshuu no nichiyouii, uchi de tanjoubi paatii wo hiraku kara kitene.

= I will have a birthday party at my house next Sunday so please come over.



1) When you indicate the direction/location that someone/something moves towards:

Ex. 明日、東京行きます。

= Ashita Toukyou ni ikimasu.

= I will go to Tokyo tomorrow.


= Doko ni iku no?

= Where are you going?


= Korekara toshokan ni ikuno.

= I will go to the library now.


= Kita ni susumu

= to go North


= soto ni deru

= to go outside


= Oosaka ni hikkosu

= to move to Osaka


= Pari ni tenkin suru

= to transfer to Paris


= Ie ni kaeru

= to go home


2) When you indicate the place where something/someone exists:

(location)ある= ~ ni aru = There is/are (things/ buildings )  in ~

(location)ない= ~ ni nai = There isn’t /aren’t  (things/ buildings )  in ~


= Uchi no chikaku ni yuubinkyoku ga arimasu.

= There is a post office near my house.


= Sono resutoran wa doko ni arimasu ka?

= Where is the restaurant?


= Kougai ni arimasu.

= It is in the suburbs.

Note : Exception : Although you see a verb ある ( = aru), some compound word will be used with

Ex. これはアメリカ人気があるゲームです。

= Kore wa America de ninki ga aru geimu desu.

= This game  is popular in the U.S. (The direct translation is This is the game which has “popularity” in the U.S.)

(location)にいる = ~ ni iru = Someone is/are in ~


= Ima, doko ni imasu ka?

= Where are you now?


= Ima, shibuya ni imasu.

= I am in Shibuya now.

Ex. マギーは今、学校いません。

= Maggie wa ima gakkou ni imasen.

= Maggie is not at the school now.

(location)住む = ~ ni sumu = to live in ~

Ex. どこ住んでいますか?

= Doko ni sunde imasu ka?

= Where do you live?

Ex. 千葉住んでいます。

= Chiba ni sunde imasu.

= I live in Chiba.

Note : We usually use for  住む  ( = sumu) = to live .

Though there are some exceptions but we usually use with  暮らす ( = kurasu) to live, to spend one’s life and 生活する ( = seikatsu suru) to live

:rrrr: Ex.長い間、あのボロアパート住んでいた。

= Nagai aida, ano boro apaato ni sunde ita.

= I used to live in that shabby apartment for a long time.

Ex. 長い間、あのボロアパート暮らしていた。

= Nagai aida, ano boro apaato de kurashite ita.

Ex. 長い間、あのボロアパート生活をしていた。

= Nagai aida, ano boro apaato de seikatsu wo shiteita.

3) When you indicate the location/ place/ objects  where you place (put / install / fix / attach) something

And when one’s action or motion is directed to/onto some location or an object.

Ex. 図書館本を返す

= Toshokan ni hon wo kaesu

= to return a book to the library

Ex. 荷物を上げる

= Tana ni nimotsu wo ageru

to put one’s baggage in the overhead bin

Ex. 荷物を下降ろす

= Nimotsu wo shita ni orosu

to put down the baggage

Ex. 空欄名前と住所を書いて下さい。

= Kuuran ni namae to juusho wo kaite kudasai.

= Please fill in your name and address in the blank.


Ex. あなたのバッグはどこ置いてありますか?

= Anata no baggu wa doko ni oite arimasuka?

= Where do you keep your bag?

Ex. ジムのロッカー置いてあります。

= Jimu no rokkaa ni oite arimasu.

= I keep it in the locker in the gym.

Ex. 生ゴミは毎週水曜日に家の前出しておいて下さい。

= Namagomi wa maishuu suiyoubi ni ie no mae ni dashite oite kudasai.

= Please put the garbage out in front of your house every Wednesday

Ex. ポスターを貼った

= Kabe ni posutaa wo hatta.

= I put the poster on the wall.

Ex. 天井照明器具を(取り)付ける

= Tenjou ni shoumei kigu wo (tori) tsukeru.

= to hang a lamp on the ceiling

Ex. 学校教科書を忘れてきました。

= Gakkou ni kyoukasho wo wasurete kimashita.

= I left my textbook(s) at school.

Ex. 傘をどこか忘れてきました。

= Kasa wo dokoka ni wasurete kimashita.

= I left my umbrella somewhere.

Ex. 車をガレージ入れる。

= Kuruma wo gareiji ni ireru.

= to park (put) a car in the garage

Ex. おもちゃを箱(の中)しまう。

= Omocha wo hako (no naka ) ni shimasu.

= to put the toy(s) away in the box.

Ex. このテーブルお皿を並べて下さい。

= Kono teiburu ni osara wo narabete kudasai.

= Please place the plates on the table.

Note : If you drink/eat something at the table, it will be an action so you have to use

Ex. テーブルお茶を飲む

= Teiburu de ocha wo nomu

= to have a cup of tea at the table

5) When you indicate a location / things something/someone can be fit or contain.

(location)入る入っている = ~ ni hairu /  ~ ni haitte iru = to have something in ~ / to contain something in ~


= Kono erebeetaa ni nannin kurai hairimasu ka?

= How many people would fit in this elevator?


= Reizouko ni keiki ga haitte imasu.

= There are cakes in the fridge.


!star! or ??



!yflower! Confusing cases :

There are some verbs you can both use or

Here are some examples.

勤める =  tsutormeru = to work at ~ :s:


= Dochira ni otsutome desuka?

= Where do you work?


= Toyota ni tsutomete imasu.

= I work in Toyota Co.


= Toyota de tsutomete mou gonen ijou tattta.

= It has been over five years since I started working at Toyota.

Note : But if the verb is 働く(=hataraku) to work, you use


= Doko de hataraite imasuka?

= Where do you work?


= Maggie sensei wa kono gakkou de rokunenkan hataraite imasu.

= Maggie Sensei has been working at this school for 6 years.

売っている= utte iru = to be sold

:rrrr:  Ex.どこ売っていますか?

= Doko ni utte imasuka?

= Where do they sell it?



= Doko de utte imasuka?


Ex. 駅の売店売っています。

= Eki no baiten de utte imasu.

= They sell it (them) at the store(or the kiosk) in the station.



= Eki no baiten ni utte imasu.

止まる= tomaru = to stop

:rrrr:  このバスはどこ止まりますか?

= Kono basu wa doko ni tomarimasuka?

= Where does this bus stop?



= Kono basu wa doko de tomarimasuka?

Ex. 駅前止まります。

= Ekimae de tomarimasu.

= It will make a stop in front of the station.

Ex. 駅前止まります。

= Ekimae ni tomarimasu.

= It will make a stop in front of the station.

買う= kau = to buy

Ex. どこ買えますか?

= Doko de kaemasu ka?

= Where can I buy it?

X You can’t say


= Doko ni kaemasu ka?


= Mitsukoshi de kaemasu.

= You can buy it at Mitsukoshi.

X  You can’t say


= Mitsukoshi ni kaemasu.

Other confusing cases  :


= Shigatsu kara nihon ni ryuugaku shimasu.

= I will be on an overseas study program in Japan starting in April.

(direction →)


But when you say 勉強する= benkyou suru = to study, you say,


= Shigatsu kara nihon de benkyou shimasu.

= In April I will begin studying in Japan.

(The action of studying → )


= Tori infuruenza wa sekaijuu de hayatte imasu.

= Avian flu has been prevalent in the world.

But when you say 広がる= hirogaru =  to expand, spread, you can use both

Ex. 鳥インフルエンザは世界中/広がりました。

= Tori infuruenza wa sekaijuu ni/de hirogarimashita.

= Avian flu has spread all the world.

Note : When something is aiming in some direction we use and when you indicate the place where it happens, you use .


落ちている= ochite iru = something has fallen/dropped


=Ah! Asoko ni iyaringu ga ochite iru.

= Oh, there is an earring over there. (someone dropped an earring over there.)

Note : 落とす = otosu = to drop can take both particles, and


= Doko de iyaringu wo otoshita no?

= Where did you drop your earrings?


= Doko ni iyaringu wo otoshita no?

= Where did you drop your earrings?


= Keitai wo yuka ni otoshite shimatta.

= I dropped my cell phone on the floor.


= Keitai wo toire ni otoshite shimatta.

= I dropped my cellphone in the bathroom


= Keitai wo dennsha no naka de otoshite shimatta.

= I dropped my cellphone on the train.

:rrrr: Note : You dropped it somewhere on the train and you focus on where this action of dropping  happened more than the place where you actually dropped.

:i: As we have seen, sometimes we can both use and

The translation might be the same but the nuance difference  between them is that while indicates one point or one specific place, indicates “through out the place/ area.

Also when we focus on the condition of actions or the results of the actions, we use and when the action has been taking place for a certain amount of time, we use .


集まる=  atsumaru = to gather

Ex. 虫が電灯集まる

= Mushi ga dentou ni atsumaru.

= Bugs gather around the light

(the bugs are aiming towards the light→)

Ex. 今夜どこ集まる?

= Konya doko de atsumaru?

= Where should we get together tonight?


= Maggie no uchi de atsumarou ka.

= Shall we get together at Maggie’s place?


:maggie-small: Now it will be easier to understand the picture in the above.


= Nihon ni ikitainaa…

= I want to go to Japan…

日本行く= nihon ni iku = to go to Japan

When you talk about the destination, you use


= Nihon de Maggie to asobitai…

= I’d love to play with Maggie in Japan…

日本遊ぶ = nihon de asobu= to play in Japan →  activity

you do some activity in a place, you use

Let’s look at more pictures!



= Max nande baketsu no naka ni iruno?

=Why are you in the bucket, Max?

●You always use for the verb

いる( = iru) = to be


= Koko de Nina ga ofuro ni irete kureruno wo matte iru no.

= I am waiting for Nina to give me a bath.

待っている= matte iru = to be waiting

Some activity takes place in one location.

so you use .

いれる = ~ ni ireru = to put something/someone in some place. →


=Max, doko ni iruno?

= Where are you, Max?

いる(=iru) : existence !to right!



= Ofuro ni iruyo.

= I am in the bathroom ( or bathtub) .


= Ofuro de nani wo shiteiruno?

= What are you doing in the bathroom (or bath tub)?

しているの(=shiteiruno) →the verb する(=suru) to do : action !to right!




= Maggie doko de nani wo yatteru no?

= Maggie, where are you and what are you doing?


やっている(=yatteiru) →(casual contraction) やってる (=yatteru) →the verb やる(=yaru) to do : action !to right!


= Ouchi de souji wo shiteiruyo.

= I am at home cleaning.

掃除をしている(=souji wo shiteiru) to be cleaning 掃除をする(=souji wo suru) to clean : action !to right!


マギー先生より= Maggie Sensei yori = From Maggie Sensei



= Max sensei wa ima cheko ni sunde imasu.

= Max Sensei now lives in the Czech Republic.



= Tooku ni iru keredomo kitto itsuka issho ni nihon de asobitai desu.

= Although he lives far away, I would love to play with him in Japan someday.


ありがとう = Arigatou =Thank you! 、Nina & Max!

(Go to Maggie’s Room! You can see the past quizzes including & (dated May 1st, 2011)