Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have some problems with understanding what is the difference between these two grammatical forms. The explanation that 初級日本語 gives me, is that 間 refers to certain time frame, while 間に refers to certain time frame within that time frame. Is it correct or am I missing something?

share|improve this question
I feel like this question (or something very similar) has already been asked before, but I can't find it right now. – istrasci Aug 13 '13 at 16:22
Before posting this, I searched down in suggestions list and I couldn't find anything. – razorramon Aug 13 '13 at 16:37
I wouldn't call it a duplicate, but japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/11410/… is related – cypher Aug 13 '13 at 21:46

It is very simple:

A 間 B 


All the time that A took place B was also happening. (I read my book while it was raining)

A 間に B


While A took place B happend. The nuance to appreciate is that B is an event that occurred (started & finished) at some point during the period A took place. It did not go on all the time. (While it was raining the post was delivered.)

The nuance is very similar to the difference between まで and までに

A まで B


Until A happens, B will continue, constantly (I was watching television until father came home)

A までに B


By the time A happens B will have occurred (started and finished, during the period defined by A まで; it could happend at any point but did not happen constantly. (I will finish my work by 5 o'clock. ie at some unspecified point during the period to 5'oclock)

share|improve this answer

I've summarise the following from a Dictionary of Basic Grammar which seems a little different to what you state. Note that I'm not a native speaker.

The time span of the 間 clause and the main clause is the same, while the time span of a 間に clause is wider than the time span of the main clause. For example:  山田さんがぺりに留学している間にお母さんが病気になった。 The period in which she become ill is a portion of the time when Yamda was studying in Paris. If 間に is replace by 間 then the sentence is ungrammatical according to the Dictionary of Basic Grammar.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.