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The Japanese Particle NI (に)

The Japanese particle NI - mise ni ikimashitaThe goal of this lesson is to learn about the Japanese particle NI (に).
It is a lot like the word “to” in English, but can also mark a location (such as “on” or “in“).  It has many other uses too.  This is a multi-functional particle, so things can seem quite difficult for a beginner.  Mistakes with the use of  are expected,  especially since it is so similar to another particle we will cover later – .  Don’t worry if you don’t catch it all now.  It will come with time and practice!

Japanese particle NI (に) is used to indicate a location of existence


The particle NI (に) can be used with arimasu  (あります) and imasu (います).  We use it to express the location where something (or someone) exists.


いすうえ いぬ います
isu no ue ni inu ga imasu.
(There is a dog on the chair)

isu no ue ni inu ga imasu.

If you are following these lessons in order, we haven’t covered ga () and imasu (います) yet.  います is a verb that means “there is” and is used for living people/animals.  We will talk about that more later, so please focus on the key point for now: いすのうえ (“on the chair“).  Sometimes we also use in the same sentence as すむ (sumu), which is a verb that means “to live”.  Whether it is a dog in a chair, or someone living in a house, there is no “animated” action taking place.  It is mere existence that we’re talking about, so  is used to mark the location.

Japanese particle NI (に) is used to express direction


The particle NI (に) directs an action “towards” a destination.

Kyou watashi wa ginkou ni ikimashita.
(Today I went to the bank.)

Kyou watashi wa ginkou ni ikimashita.

This is where things get interesting because of how close it resembles English.  いきました (ikimashita) is a verb that means “went”.  We commonly use  together with the verb いきました to mean “went to“.  You will be able to construct your own sentences using this concept very easily.  Just remember to always put the verb at the end.  I’ll break it down: 

こうえん いきました
kouen ni ikimashita
park to went
-desination- -location marker- -verb-


There are other verbs that function with  the same way.  “Putting” and “arriving” are such examples.


kuukou ni tsukimashita

I arrived at the airport.


hana wa asoko ni okimasu

I will put the flowers over there.

kuukou ni tsukimashita

hana wa asoko ni okimasu
kuukou ni tsukimashita hana wa asoko ni okimasu

I want you to recognize that there is always someone or something moving in a direction with these constructions.  In fact, sometimes we call a “directional location marker” if that helps (I know it doesn’t!).

I should mention one more thing with this usage before we continue.  When The Japanese particle NI (に) is used to indicate direction, it is interchangeable with .  However, we need to pronounce it as “eh” instead of “he” when it’s used this way.


Japanese particle NI (に) is used as an indirect object marker


The particle NI (に) marks the person or thing that receives the object.

Kanojo wa kare ni pen o agemashita.
(She gave him the pen.)

kanojo wa kare ni pen o agemashita
Kanojo wa kare ni pen o agemashita.

In this case, someone is receiving an object from someone else:

かれは かのじょに プレゼント あげました
kare wa kanojo ni purezento o agemashita
he to her present gave
-someone- -indirect object- -direct object- -direct object marker- -verb-


In the above example, the present is the direct object and is directly linked to the verb with を.  The woman is the receiver of the direct object so she is marked with に.


Japanese particle NI (に) is used to express purpose


The particle NI (に) indicates purpose.  This is very similar to the “directional” that we covered earlier.  

Watashi wa tabe ni ikimashita.
(I went to eat.)

Watashi wa tabe ni ikimashita
Watashi wa tabe ni ikimashita.


We can use  together with いきました to express that we “went to do something“.  Rather than using a destination as we did the the directional , we will use the stem form of another verb.  

のみ いきました
nomi ni ikimashita
drink to went
-verb- -purpose marker- -verb-


 Don’t worry if you don’t understand stem forms yet, particularly if you’re following these lessons in order.  For this point, you only need to understand that we can link two verbs together with .


Japanese particle NI (に) can express a point in time


The particle NI (に) indicates a specific point in time.

Watashi wa rokuji ni ie o demasu.
(I leave home at 6:00)

Watashi wa rokuji ni ie o demasu
Watashi wa rokuji ni ie o demasu.


Japanese particle NI (に) is used to express frequency


The particle NI (に) is used with frequency.

ichinichi ni sanjikan benkyou shimasu.
(I study 3 hours per day)

Watashi wa Ichinichi ni sanjikan benkyou shimasu
ichinichi ni sanjikan benkyou shimasu.

After using the Japanese particle NI (に) to express frequency, now would be a good time to bring up a useful word – くらい (kurai).  This means “about” or “approximately“.  It is interchangeable with ぐらい (gurai) and means the same.  For example, we could say:

Watashi wa Ichinichi ni sanjikan kurai benkyou shimasu.
(I study about 3 hours per day)

Watashi wa Ichinichi ni sanjikan kurai benkyō shimasu


に and で can be easy to mix up sometimes, so I can drill you with real practice.  Book a Skype Lesson today:
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