I am well aware of how に works compared to で and how to use it in various situations. I still have trouble with a few uses that keep popping up, as they don't seem to gel with my current understanding.

For example それは体に悪いです

I see に as a particle that shows 2 things,

  1. A particle that denotes movement form larger area to settle in somewhere specific. It is used with verbs like 住む 勤める and 乗る for this reason.

  2. A particle that effectively turns the noun or quasi adjective into an adverbial phrase. Used with 静かにしてください ハンバーガーにします etc to show the way you will "do" for want of a better word. It also is used in passive phrases to show that it was by someone else's motions that something happened, like "田中さんにビールが飲まれた"

So my question is, how do I understand phrases like 体にいいです or 会社に行くのにバスと電車を使っている Is that a third usage meaning "for"?

BONUS QUESTION:Are there any other usages of に I should look out for?


1 Answer 1


There is another usage for the particle に: that of an indirect object, and similarly it is used in the same way as the preposition "to" in English. Look at the following example:

I gave my mother a gift.

In this case "mother" is an indirect object. In other words, she is at the receiving end of the action. Often times there is an invisible "to" or "for" that can be applied to an indirect object. Look at a second example:

I bought a new toy for my sister.

In this case "sister" is the object of the preposition "for", but it can also be thought of as an indirect object, because the "for" could be omitted and the sentence is "I bought my sister a new toy".

The particle に performs both of these functions, which are more or less interchangeable in English. So "それは体に悪い" means "That is bad for the body."

  • Interesting. I have always seen these constructions as extended usage of its role in specifying eventual location and destination.
    – Nathan
    Aug 4, 2013 at 1:24
  • @Nathan In a way they are. There's somewhat of a gray area between all three usages (which probably is why the Japanese chose a single particle to represent it). It's best to think of the usage of the に particle independent of any English analogy. Just think of it as having the usage of the に particle. Aug 4, 2013 at 1:31
  • Thanks for explaining it this way! I always suspected it to be like this, but so far haven't found confirmation that に can act as the indirect object marker.
    – waldrumpus
    Feb 27, 2014 at 10:06
  • @waldrumpus You can find confirmation in any beginner's textbook or grammar resource. For example, A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar (p.291) says "an indirect object marker".
    – user1478
    Feb 28, 2014 at 3:18
  • @snailplane Thanks for the pointer! The textbooks I have been using so far (Tae Kim, Busy People, Manga Way) have often used awkward phrasing like "the direction/target the action is directed at" (sounds more like the direct object), I can't remember having read the phrase "indirect object"
    – waldrumpus
    Feb 28, 2014 at 8:46

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