What is the difference between these two grammar patterns?

  1. わたしは 大学で 教えに 英語を 習っています
  2. わたしは 大学で 教えるために 英語を 習っています
  • 2
    Any chance I could somehow convince you to not put spaces in your sentences like that? It makes them a little annoying to read. :-) Feb 5, 2015 at 12:34
  • I don't understand the first example.
    – a user
    Feb 5, 2015 at 13:38
  • This is discussed in Martin's 1975 Reference Grammar of Japanese, pages 401-407.
    – user1478
    Feb 5, 2015 at 18:49
  • 1
    Are those meant to be statements or questions?
    – user4032
    Feb 6, 2015 at 10:30
  • @l'électeur statements. See edit history.
    – kinbiko
    Feb 6, 2015 at 11:50

3 Answers 3


The biggest difference is in the range of usage that the two expressions allow themselves.

「ために」 can be used in far more situations than 「に」 because:

you can only choose from a handful of verbs for Verb B in 「[連用形]{れんようけい} of Verb A + + Verb B」


choices for Verb B in 「Verb A + ために + Verb B」 are unlimited.

Choices for Verb A, which expresses the purpose, are literally unlimited for both structures.

Choices for Verb B in 「連用形 of Verb A + + Verb B」, however, are limited to those few that express "motion" such as [行]{い}く、[来]{く}る、[連]{つ}れていく、[走]{はし}ってくる, etc.

Your sentence #1 「わたしは[大学]{だいがく}で[教]{おし}えに[英語]{えいご}を[習]{なら}っています。」,

therefore, is incorrect and it makes nearly no sense. Why? Because 「習う」 is not a motion verb and it cannot be placed there.

Sentence #2 「わたしは大学で教えるために英語を習っています。」

is correct and it makes sense. It may not be 100% natural-sounding by the native standard but we will not get into that. Point is it is a grammatical sentence.


The verb stem (pre-masu) form + に expresses purpose (~for the purpose of), however, this construction can only be used with motion verbs, such as 行く, 来る, and 帰る. The plain form + ために also expresses purpose, but unlike verb stem+に it can be used with a wider variety of verbs. It can also express reason or cause as well. If you've seen から (because / so) or ので (because / so), ため can be used there as well, but it sounds a bit too formal for casual conversation.

  1. わたしは 大学で 教えに 英語を 習っています

Since 教える isn't a motion verb, using に + the verb stem (pre-masu) is unfortunately ungrammatical in this instance. Nevertheless, I'm fairly certain people would know what you meant if you said this.

  1. わたしは 大学で 教えるために 英語を 習っています

This is the one you want. Since 教える (to teach) isn't a motion like to go (somewhere) or to return to (someplace), ため is should be used instead.

ため can also be used with motion verbs, in which case its English translation is equivalent to verb stem +に construction mentioned above.

For example, 試験の勉強をするために図書館に行きました (I went to the library to study for an exam) and 試験の勉強をしに図書館に行きました (I went to the library to study for an exam) are the same. When ため is used with a motion verb instead of verb stem+に, it expresses a rather important purpose, whereas with verb stem+に, the purpose does not have to be important.

Here are some sample sentences from A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar if you want some examples:

  1. コーヒーを飲むために来ました。 (I came to have some coffee)
  2. 父が亡くなったため、学校に来られませんでした。 (Because my father died, I couldn't come to school.)
  3. 雪のため、電車が遅く来てしまった。 (The train arrived late because of the snow)

You may have noticed that に has been dropped in 2 and 3. According to A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar, に sounds more formal and is can be added if/when ため modifies a verbal phrase (that's just a fancy way of saying ため is modifying a phrase that contains a verb). If ため modifies a noun, such as 体育館は、運動するための建物 then に becomes の. If this rule is confusing, you can always just drop に and の and simply write ため instead.

  • 5
    It's 習う that needs to be a motion verb, not 教える. Feb 5, 2015 at 23:52
  1. わたしは 大学で 教えに 英語を 習っています

I have never used this. ↑

  1. わたしは 大学で 教えるために 英語を 習っています

I do use this. ↑

(e.g.日本人教師の)わたしは (e.g.アメリカの)大学で (e.g.学生に数学を)教えるために 英語を 習っています
わたしは (大学で 教えるために) 英語を 習っています

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