I saw an advertisement on the train that said 世界に友達を作りたい... My Japanese friend said that the difference with "世界で友達を作りたい" is that で means like "In the world" whilst に means "all over the world".

I get that に is sort of like a means of highlighting the way, direction, actors and all that sort of indirect information of an action, and not necessarily "to" as beginners are taught. So does that mean more like "the world" is the place of the action, but the action is moving throughout it and not restricted to on definite point like で would be?

SUMMARY: What is the nuance of the particle に here and are there any other examples of such usage of に? I've heard Xにあふれる which is sort of like it I feel.


3 Answers 3


世界に友達を作りたい sounds to me like "I want friends in the world" (so the friends are in the world and you could make these friends through the Internet; the result of the action would be "I have friends in the world").
世界で友達を作りたい sounds to me like you'd go to the world and make friends there. (The 世界で modifies the action 友達を作る, so you'd do this action in the 世界, not online.)
(I would say 世界に友達を作りたい/世界で友達を作りたい to mean "all over the world")

Maaybe this is because... ~~に is used with the verbs like いる、ある、存在する、住む (to be, to exist, to live), while ~~で is used with action verbs? So I think the 世界に indicates where these 友達 will be, and the 世界で indicates where the action 作る will take place.

世界に料理を食べたい sounds incorrect. 世界(中)で料理を食べたい (I want to eat dishes in the world / all over the world) is grammatically okay and would mean you'd go to the world and eat the dishes there. (And 世界(中)料理を食べたい would mean you want to try dishes from around the world, not necessarily by going there so you could do this in foreign food restaurants in your country).

I think 大学に友達を作りたい is grammatically alright and would mean like you want friends who are in college.

世界で友達を作りたい sounds perfectly alright to me.

"a few more examples" >>> How about...

[財界]{ざいかい} / [政界]{せいかい} / [業界]{ぎょうかい}(notで)コネを作る -- to have connections in the financial / political / business world 
自分の部屋(notで)テレビが欲しい。-- I want a TV in my room.
Compare: 秋葉原(notに)テレビを買いたい。-- I want to buy a TV in Akihabara.

  • 1
    Is this the same に as in 世界に友達がいる?
    – ssb
    Feb 24, 2014 at 7:33
  • あ~そんな感じかな~文字数たりないわ~
    – user1016
    Feb 24, 2014 at 7:34
  • 2
    I wrote about the difference of the nuance from my native speaker intuition, and I don't have a grammar book of Japanese language, so I don't think I can buckup it. Sorry.
    – user1016
    Feb 24, 2014 at 8:00
  • 1
    Thanks so much Chocalate! Great examples. It seems to me like に is a target particle here after all since it seems で has the nuance of YOU being in the location doing the action whereas に seems to just be the result of the action without you necessarily being there. For example: 自分の部屋に(notで)テレビが欲しい It makes sense that it would be に because you aren't "wanting" IN your room (Doing the action of wanting in your room) but instead, you want it to BE in your room. So 世界中に友達を作りたい means that you want to make friends in the world as a result! Therefore 世界中に料理を食べたい is not ok because no result.
    – Nathan
    Feb 25, 2014 at 2:16
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    @Nathan: The use of に in 世界に友達がいる is the same as 世界に友達を作りたい - see my supplementary answer below which covers what the extra you are looking for.
    – Tim
    Feb 27, 2014 at 1:20

This is a supplementary answer to compliment Chocolate's answer, written to meet the OP's request for technical reference.

に vs で is covered in "A Students' Guide to Japanese Grammar" by Naomi McGloin on p62.

As Chocolate indicates and this book explains: で marks the location of action, に marks the location of existence.

1) Some verbs characteristically take に, eg 住む、立つ、かける、座る:

Please sit on the chair.

2) Some verbs take either に or で but the meaning changes:

It is in my house.

It will be held at my house. [ie an event, perhaps a party]


The baby was born at the Tanaka's house.

A baby was born to the Tanaka family.

In this example, if we use で then the baby was not necessarily the Tanakas', if we use に then the baby was not necessarily born at the Tanaka's house.

Another example, somewhat similar to yours is:

I made the shelves in the room.

I made shelves for the room.

(BTW, it is worth noting that some textbooks give different explanations which work quite well for their target students at the time but can over simplify. に has far more uses than just a "standard usage" exemplified by いる/ある and a role as a "target particle". Based on your final comment you seem to understand this but for reference, The Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar by Makino gives seven uses and still does not answer all my questions on the particle.)


I agree with Chocolate's answer: で shows where you are when you perform the action of making the friend, に shows where the result of the action ends up.

I believe this is described in Roy Miller's "Reference Grammar of Japanese", but I have misplaced my copy. If you can find a copy of this I recommend it.

Other examples of に although not quite the same:

フランスに留学していた。 I was an exchange student in France.
野菜を水に[浸]{つ}(漬)けた。 I put the vegetables in water.
あの人の家にお邪魔した。 I visited his house.
街に噂を広めた。 I spread the gossip in town.

Note that Roy Miller predates Martin. Martin mentions Miller in his introduction.

  • Did you mean Miller's The Japanese Language (1967)? That's the book Martin cites in his bibliography. As far as I'm aware Miller never wrote a book titled Reference Grammar of Japanese; Martin describes this in his Reference Grammar of Japanese on pages 216-221.
    – user1478
    Jan 6, 2015 at 8:37
  • Yes, I meant Martin, sorry.
    – Bruce
    Apr 3, 2018 at 9:48

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