By The Heavens
Today we jump back on John Sensei's favorite particle. We studied the first function of de/で a short while ago. Today we will approach the second function of で, which will cover the remainder of the basic uses for this particle. If you remember back to Day 17, we covered how で marks the location of action/domain/point of limitation. The secondary use of the で, which we will cover today, marks the thing that is being used to verb. The whole idea surrounding this particle is that the verb is happening AT, WITH, or BY MEANS of the thing that is being marked by で.
The particle で has a wide variety of functions: marking an instrument, marking a means of transportation, marking a resource used to make something else. で, at its core, marks the means by which something is accomplished. The means by which something is done (instrument), the means of transportation, the means by which something is made (resources, materials, and ingredients), money and time as a means by which something occurs, the condition (means) through which something occurs, and cause or reason as a means by which something occurs. All of these uses of で mark the means that lead to something else. This might sound a bit convoluted, but understanding the core function underlying で's various uses helps students of Japanese distinguish between で and similar particles such as に and を.
わたしは でんしゃで なごやに いきました
I took the train to Nagoya.
ごはんや さかなで すしを つくった。
I made sushi with fish and rice.
まんがせんせいの さんじゅうにちチャレンジで にほんごを まなびました。
I learn Japanese by the 30 day challenge.
I spoke to them in Japanese.
The main difference between で and wo/を is that を is what is being acted upon and with で we are doing the verb. I throw the ball ボールをなげる (を), I don't throw by means of the ball (で).
Good Japanese is all about specificity. There are many words and kanji that are very close in meaning but are used quite differently. A good example of this is gohan and kome. Both of these in English are rice. But gohan is used when the rice is cooked and kome is used when it is uncooked. Another example is to learn, manabu and narau. Narau is used when someone is learning a skill or ability, while on the other hand, manabu used when obtaining knowledge about something such as when studying math or literature. Knowing how to use these words comes through listening to native Japanese, reading native Japanese, or through looking up the words with a good dictionary with example sentences that illustrate context.