Sorting Things Out
We'll be using today's lesson to clarify some of the haziness that surrounds the overlapping usage of を, に, and で. Hopefully this will give you a little bit of time to maybe catch up on vocabulary words and review some of the particles that you've learned up to this point. Using the correct particles in situations that seem like they could take either を, に, or で is very important and I want to make sure that you can identify how they are different by showing how they work in contrast to each other.
There are many situations where a few different particles such as を, に, and で could be used and the only the nuance would change. For example, you can say I hiked Mt. Fuji in a few different ways with these particles. 富士山 (Fujisan) を登った (Nobitta) and 富士山に登った. The first focuses on the hike itself, the entire process of going about the journey, however, the second’s primary focus is getting to the top of Mt. Fuji as a destination or goal. So if the speaker wants to emphasize the entire process of hiking, を is used. If the speaker wants to emphasize that they got to the very top and met their goal, に is used.
で and に have quite a few similarities, one of which being a ‘location marker’. The first important distinction is that で marks location of action while に marks location of existence. When marking a location where an action verb is performed, generally で is appropriate. When expressing location of existence, with いる and ある, generally に is post proper. Time difference with で and に can be seen following the same fundamental pattern that で usually follows, by setting a parameter or by indicating the means of use (amount of time used).
Remember, に is like an arrow: it can point the way or mark a place on a map. に can be used to mark the existence of someone or something, however, it can’t be used to state where an action happens (で). This, に is almost always used with the existence verbs ある and いる. Similarly, に wouldn’t be used to show where an event or party happened, such as in the sentence: “there is a party at the beach” (again で is proper here).
Learning a new language is super cool because it allows you to learn a lot of new words that might not be available in your native language, and Japanese is no exception. The words for certain days, weeks, months, and years are a great example of that. Check the chart below for an easy comparison.