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When describing a rate or ratio, what are the differences between no particle, に, and で?

Also related: In a JLPT N5 sample test booklet, I came across the sentence below. Why is で used in the second sentence but not the first?

「それは いくらですか。」「一つ 200円です。三つで 500円です。」

2 Answers 2

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Generally counter-phrases can be used adverbially. As for 一つ in the sentence, that's why.

So it can be 三つ500円, too.


As for に vs で, に is more felt like ratio, i.e., 'per' whereas で more like 'adding up' (translationwise, it can be the usual with - with three of them,..).

Accordingly, 一年に一万円 sounds like '10000yen per year' = recurring 10000 yen (losing or getting); 一年で一万円 sounds like the resulting (cost or gain) 10000 yen after a year, not necessarily recurring. Of course, if the contexts make clear, both are interchangeable to some extent.

The choice of に/で also depends on the verb. If a counter-phrase is an indirect object, only に can be used:

  • 一人に一万円渡した
  • ?一人で一万円渡した (This means, if anything, I handed 10000 yen alone)

In the sentences in question, the counter-phrases are subjects and に cannot be used: 一つに200円です won't work in that context. (Note that 一つに200円かかりました would be fine since かかる can take に-phrase.)

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In this sentence, 「で」means something like "as for." 'One' is the most basic number, so there is no need to use 'as for'. But it's also OK to say,「一つで200円です」.

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  • Your answer is unclear. Can you please add some examples or try to rephrase it? Feb 19 at 19:41

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