I've learnd that: verbs like 歩く、走る、泳ぐ cannot be used with に or へ, and only まで can be uesd in this case. For example:

時間がなかったので、駅 (〇まで/ Xに/Xへ) 走った。

But when it comes to verbs like 行く、来る、着く,both に,へ and まで can be uesd. For example: 時間がなかったので、駅 (まで/に/へ) 自転車で行った。

But I cannot figure out what's the standard of judgement in the permission of the usage of に and へ. At first I thought it might be "whether the verb expresses movement or not", but since 歩く、走る、泳ぐ and 行く、来る、着く can all express movement, then what's the standard of judgement to distinguish these verbs into two different categories, in which the one allows the usage of に or へ, but another doesn't allow?

I still have some confused points after reading this:

  1. The standard to distinguish"pure motion verbs" and "motion manner verbs" seems unclear to me, since 動く and 移動する also don't necessarily need a direction(e.g., 一歩も動けなかった,遊牧民たちは絶えず移動した).
  2. Why can まで be used in "motion manner verbs", where the usage of に and へ are ungrammatical?
  • 1
    It just is what it is, in English one tends to say “I throw the ball at the wall.” not “to the wall” and “I look at him” not “I look to him” as well, one simply says “駅まで歩く” or “駅に向かって歩く". “駅へ歩く” also occurs as far as I can tell but I'd sooner use “に向かって”
    – Zorf
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 15:10
  • 2
    Does this answer your question? Why is 街に歩く not grammatical?
    – naruto
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 1:35

1 Answer 1


Verbs like 歩く do not have a specific direction. While に by itself doesn't bring directional meaning either, it becomes so only with directional verbs like 行く. This is why you either need to use other directional particles like へ (towards) or まで (extend, up to a certain point), or use compounds like 歩いていく.

I can try to explain it like this. When we talk about movement verbs, it's very common to have 2 different meanings. One meaning describes how action is done, the manner or activity, another described a location change from A to B.

Walking improves my mood. This is why I try to walk every day.

I walk to the shop.

The former doesn't have any natural end point, unless we restrict it with a goal. Activities can be ceased, but not finished in the same way as action like "build the house". Can we say when walking actually ends? In 20 minutes? In 2 hours? Person just gets tired and decides to do something else. In English both usages more or less possible. I feel a bit unnatural about using "to walk" to simply mean from A to B, and I think it's because it rather describes the manner, than the location change, but it's still acceptable. In Japanese such shift is stronger and 歩く by itself isn't enough to get directional meaning.

  • I rather like the explanation that it's the verb that decides what the meaning of “〜に” is and in this case it's simply not there. There are also many verbs where it has more of a “from” than “to” kind of meaning such as “貰う” or “教わる”
    – Zorf
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 18:18
  • @Zorf I also think like that. A lot of に meanings are related to some kind of location, either to or from depending on direction, but not all. Sometimes people split it on 30+ different meanings in ~5 categories like in this paper: researchgate.net/publication/… My overall feel about this particle is that it's used to complement a verb, and depending on what verb we have, we get significantly different meanings. Similar functions have を and で , that creates を to に to で scale of how crucial it is for action to occur. Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 20:11

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