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I am a little confused as to what is going on here:

ともだちを パーティーに よびました。

Why is this not ともだちに (recipient of the invite) パーティーで (place of the invite) よびました? It would be helpful if someone can please explain, thank you.

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If you are more familiar with English than Japanese, it will be useful to consider why you say “I invited my friends to a party” instead of “I invited to my friends at a party” in English. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 28 '12 at 23:00
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because "de" marks the place where the verb (invite) happens. the invitation doesn't happen at the party. it happens probably over the phone, or through the mail. –  ogicu8abruok Nov 29 '12 at 1:06
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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Let's insert a subject.

(私は)ともだちを パーティーに よびました。

Who is doing the Yobu? I am. Who is the target of my Yobu-ing? My friend. Where am I Yobu-ing him to? A party.

を marks the object, に marks (in this case) the target location, directionally.

で is the place in the invite, statically, as opposed to directionally-- You might say パーティーでさわいだ, "We had fun at the party." You wouldn't say, "We had fun to the party" in this case. But since you're calling him to the party, we use に.

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Haha, "yobu-ing"! Classic. –  istrasci Nov 29 '12 at 15:31
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を marks the direct object of a verb. Basically, the direct object answers the questions "what" or "who". So in this case, "Who did I invite?" I invited my friend.

I think it's easier to see this relationship if we get rid of the extra bit: パーティーに. After we remove that, we're left with ともだちを よびました。 I invited my friend.

に marks an indirect object. It can be confusing because it has a couple other common uses, but basically, it tells us the direction of the action, which usually correlates with the English to. Be careful not to confuse the direction of the action with the location, which is what で does.

To answer your question, though, the reason it is the way it is is that we are acting directly upon our friend. It's just a little unclear because we're using a verb like よびます instead of a much clearer action like hit.

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