Function Particles (に)


The particle ‘に’ (ni) in Japanese is multifaceted, serving a range of functions from indicating location and time to specifying the direction and recipient of actions.

Its mastery is crucial for expressing nuanced details and relationships in Japanese sentences.

Diverse Uses of 「に」

Indicating Static Location and Existence

‘に’ is used to point out where something or someone exists.

It pairs with verbs of existence like いる (iru – to be, for animate objects) and ある (aru – to be, for inanimate objects).


  • “猫は屋根にいる。” (Neko wa yane ni iru – The cat is on the roof.) Here, ‘に’ indicates the location of the cat’s existence.
  • “鍵はテーブルにある。” (Kagi wa teeburu ni aru – The keys are on the table.) ‘に’ specifies where the keys are located.

Specifying the Destination of Movement

‘に’ marks the endpoint or goal of movement.

It’s used with verbs that involve physical relocation, such as 行く (iku – to go) or 来る (kuru – to come).


  • “彼女は図書館に行った。” (Kanojo wa toshokan ni itta – She went to the library.) ‘に’ denotes the library as the destination.
  • “友達が私の家に来ます。” (Tomodachi ga watashi no ie ni kimasu – My friend is coming to my house.) Here, ‘に’ indicates the house as the target location.

Time Expressions with 「に」

‘に’ is crucial for specifying exact times or days when events occur.


  • “彼は毎朝7時に起きる。” (Kare wa maiasa shichi-ji ni okiru – He wakes up at 7 o’clock every morning.) In this sentence, ‘に’ pinpoints the time of the action.
  • “私たちは金曜日に会う予定です。” (Watashitachi wa kinyoubi ni au yotei desu – We plan to meet on Friday.) Here, ‘に’ is used to specify the day of the meeting.

Understanding and Avoiding Common Mistakes

Understanding when and how to use ‘に’ correctly is essential for accurately conveying meaning in Japanese.

One of the most common mistakes is using ‘に’ inappropriately, which can lead to confusion about the intended message.

A frequent error is using ‘に’ to indicate the location of an action, where ‘で’ would be the correct choice.

For instance, the sentence “彼は公園にサッカーをします” (Kare wa kouen ni sakkaa o shimasu)
is incorrect because it implies that the park is a static location rather than the location where the action of playing soccer takes place.

The correct expression should be “彼は公園でサッカーをします” (Kare wa kouen de sakkaa o shimasu – He plays soccer in the park)
where ‘で’ accurately indicates the location of the action.

Another common mistake is confusing ‘に’ with ‘へ’ when indicating direction.

While both particles denote movement, they are used differently. ‘に’ specifies the endpoint or destination of the movement, whereas ‘へ’ is used to emphasize the direction towards a destination.

For example, “学校へ行く” (Gakkou e iku – Going towards school) focuses on the direction toward the school, indicating the journey itself.

Conversely, “学校に行く” (Gakkou ni iku – Going to school) emphasizes reaching the school as the final destination, highlighting the end point of the journey.

These distinctions are crucial for clear communication in Japanese, and understanding the specific contexts in which ‘に’ and ‘へ’ are used will prevent common errors and enhance the clarity of your expression.


Effectively using ‘に’ involves understanding its various applications and avoiding common mistakes.

By paying attention to the context and the verbs used, you can employ ‘に’ effectively to enhance clarity and precision in your Japanese communication.

Regular practice and mindful usage will aid in avoiding these common errors.