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I've been trying to understand those two particles when applied to these phrases:

  1. 私は朝ご飯にお茶を飲みます
  2. 私は朝ご飯でお茶を飲みます
  3. 私は朝ご飯の時にお茶を飲みます

What I more or less undersand is:

  1. the only/main thing I have for breakfast
  2. at breakfast time, but not at any other time
  3. at breakfast time, but not restricted to that time.

So, my questions are:

  • What general function does に fulfill in sentence 1 (specific time, direction...)?
  • Is, in sentence 1, 朝ご飯 functioning as a time expression?

  • In sentence 2, is 朝ご飯 functioning as a time expression and じ indicating a restrictive period of time?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

In sentence 1, に is not functioning as a time expression. It's like for or as. "I have green tea for breakfast."

で when used as a time particle can indicate

1) the age at which something was done: 25歳で日本に行きました。At the age of 25 I went to Japan.

2) the end point of a period of time: 1時間で宿題を終えた。I finished my homework in/after an hour. Neither of these apply in sentence 2 so 朝ごはん is not functioning as a time expression. The で is showing that 朝ごはん is the place/setting where the tea-drinking is taking place.

In sentence 3, 朝ごはん itself is not a time expression, but together with 時 (とき not じ)you get 朝ごはんの時 'the time of breakfast' or 'breakfast time'.

Only one doubt I have: what does に indicate in the first sentence?

In sentence 1 に means for or as. It functions like として.

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Thx for the answer, its clearer now to me. Only one doubt I have: what does に indicate in the first sentence? The event where the verb takes place? – Daniel Jul 13 '14 at 15:08
Is it normal to use に in that context? Or would 私は朝ご飯としてお茶を飲みます be more common? – Daniel Jul 13 '14 at 16:00
Yes it's more common to say "朝ごはんに" than "朝ごはんとして". The latter is natural, but somewhat emphasizes the nuance of as. (cf. 「食事としてではなく、おやつとしてピザを食べる」) – naruto Jul 14 '14 at 14:07

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