Grammar Japanese

Japanese grammar に(ni) particle 【JLPT5】

Many Japanese learners get confused about how to use the に particle because Japanese has particles like で that are similar in meaning.

Each Japanese particle has a meaning and concept. Understanding the concepts and meaning helps you correctly use Japanese particles.

The に (ni) particle can be mostly used for describing a place, time, and action with some verbs. The concept of the に particle is "point" and "direction," which we will explain later in the article!

Learning points

  • The concept of the に (ni) particle
  • Verbs that are used with the に (ni) particle 
  • Example phrases and pronunciation

に particle

The basic concepts of the に particle are “point” and “direction.”

These concepts "point" and "direction" are sometimes separated from each other and sometimes used together.

Let’s see how to use the concept “point” of the に particle first.

The Point Concept

There are two types of point concepts. One is the Existence Point and the other is the Landing Point.

Both concepts look similar but there are some differences in "movement" and the "verb that is used with."

Existence Point

An existence point is a point in which something is being or existing. You can use this when you are in a place or living somewhere. (You are "existing" in these places.) The image of the concept is as follows.

The に particle as an existence point is used with the existence verb like いる, ある.

Existence verbs are used with the に particle

~に+いる、ある、む、つとめる (existence verbs)

For example, you say (わたし)日本(にほん)いる when you want to say "I’m in Japan."

It's sometimes confusing which is the right particle to use. Do I say いる or いる? In this case, it's not correct to say わたし日本にほんいる because it will mean that "you're being Japan." Are you a country or a human?

When you want to say that you're at somewhere, に is the right particle that can be used with the existence verb.

You can learn about the で (de) particle in Japanese grammar で(de) particle【JLPT5】. Check it out if you haven't read it yet!

わたし日本にほんにいる。
I'm in Japan.

Let's learn about the に particle of the existence point with example sentences.

word list

住む(すむ): to live
会社(かいしゃ): company
勤める (つとめる): to work

日本にほんにいる
I’m in Japan

アパートに
Live in an apartment

会社かいしゃつとめる
Work in a company

Existence Point  (Time)

The existence point can be used for time too. It expresses that something is done at a point in time.

grammar

Time+に+verb or sentence.

For example, you say ()(あさ)ごはんを()べる when you want to say "I have breakfast at 7." The action of having breakfast is done at the point of 7’o clock.

You can also change the position of 7時に (7 o'clock) to in front of 食べる in the sentence like あさごはんを7べる.

Let's learn about the に particle that describes a point of time with example sentences.

word list

朝ごはん(あさごはん): breakfast
食べる(たべる): to eat
寝る(ねる): to go to bed
駅(えき): station
着く(つく): to arrive

()()

7()(あさ)ごはんを()べる
Have breakfast at 7.

11()()
Go to bed at 11.

15()(えき)()
Arrive at a station at 15:00. (3:00 PM)

Landing Point

The concept of the Landing Point is a movement that goes towards the existence point.

The landing point is used with a normal verb and expresses the point that the action goes toward.

Existence verbs are used with に particle

~に+ く、る、う、く (verb)

For example, when you want to say "I ride a horse," you say うまる. The action of riding a horse is done on the back of a horse (landing point).

word list

馬(うま) : a horse
電車(でんしゃ): a train
乗る(のる): to ride
海(うみ): sea
行く(いく): to go
テーブル : a table
マグ : a mug
置く(おく): to put

()()(うま)()
Ride a horse

電車(でんしゃ)()
Get on a train

(うみ)()
Go to the sea

テーブルマグを
Put a mug on a table

The Direction Concept

The Direction Concept expresses change.

The に particle shows the change from one state to another.

Existence verbs are used with に particle

~に+ なる, わる

For example, the に particle can be used when a traffic light turns green. You say 信号(しんごう)(あお)なる. Note: in Japan, the green traffic light is called blue, even though technically it is green.

The light changes from red to green. The に particle is used for this change of state. 

word list

夜(よる) : night
明ける(あける): to brighten (as in day breaks)
朝(あさ): morning
今年(ことし): this year
カエデ : maple tree
赤(あか): red

(よる)()けて(あさ)なる
Day breaks and the sun rises. (Lit. Night brightens and turns to morning)

今年(ことし)で21(さい)なる
Become 21 years old this year

カエデが(あか)なる
Maple leaves turn to red

The Direction that Goes to a Purpose

The に particle can be used with verbs like ()く (go), ()る(come), (かえ)る (go back).

The concept of the に particle when it’s used with those verbs is "a direction that goes to a purpose."

For example, when you go to see your friends, you say 友達(ともだち)()いに()く.

An action is done for a purpose.

word list

友達(ともだち) : friend
会う(あう): to meet
行く(いく): to go
兄弟(きょうだい): brother
手伝う(てつだう) : to help
来る(くる): to come
両親(りょうしん): parent
帰る(かえる): to go back

()

友達(ともだち)()()
Go see one’s friends.

兄弟(きょうだい)手伝(てつだ)()
My brother comes to help me.

両親(りょうしん)()(かえ)
Go back home to see one’s parents

Summary

まとめ

The concept of the に particle is “point” and “direction.

The existence point is the one point, place, or time that something is happening and something is done.

The landing point is the point that the verb goes to. It is also becoming a purpose of the verb.

The direction concept of the に particle is expressing the change from one state to another.

Work cited

いちばんやさしい日本語教育入門 by 今井新悟
Easiest Introductory Japanese Teacher's manual by Shingo Imai, published in 2019

-Grammar, Japanese

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