While looking at the examples of ている form and usage in my textbook I came across this sentence

かぞくは とうきょうに すんでいます
My family lives in Tokyo.

I know from what I've been reading on the internet that that the verb here is a state and that the に here marks the location that the state is taking place in. Basically I'm wondering when a verb can or can't be a state. All the examples I've seen have used ている form with に to make sentences like this which makes sense but it makes me question my placement of the the particle で in some of the ている practice sentences I made like this one.

みちこさんは バスていで バスを まっています
Michiko is waiting for the bus at the bus stop

Any help/explanation with this is appreciated and If Its unclear what I'm asking say in the comments and I'll try to add to the question.


3 Answers 3


The problem is that 住{す}む does not translate well to English. In Japanese, 住{す}む behaves like a motion verb taking a destination, like 行{い}く and 入{はい}る. Unfortunately "I live to Tokyo" doesn't make sense in English.

Maybe 住{す}む will make more sense if we compare it to a motion verb:

I go inside.

I am inside.

入{はい}る is the changing state of going into (に) something. When you conjugate it to 入{はい}っている, it shows that you are in the state resulting from that action.

(You might have learned that verb+ている means "to be (verb)ing," which it can also mean. It depends on the verb, and to a lesser extent the context.)

Here is another example to emphasize how ~ている can be equivalent to English present tense, although in this case it is usually abbreviated to just ~てる.

I love you.

I am (in the state of) loving you. (I am in love with you.)

From a Japanese perspective, "I love you" doesn't sound very immediate or permanent, so they use "I am in love with you" when in English we use "I love you."

So a more accurate translation of 「東京{とうきょう}に住{す}んでいる」 is "I am living in Tokyo," even though in English that means the same thing as "I live in Tokyo." Just keep in mind that 住{す}む uses に like a motion verb and conjugates to 住{す}んでいる to show the persistent state.

  • 2
    I think this answer confuses a lot of concepts. (1) The 〜に in 行く・来る, etc. is specifically about directional movement, and can be replaced with 〜へ. 〜に住む has nothing to do with movement and can't be replaced with 〜へ. (2) 〜ている has multiple functions, one of which is the progressive, while another one is the resultative. In the case of 君を愛している it is not the progressive ("I am loving you"/"I am in the process of loving you"/君を愛しつつある), it really just is the resultative and means ("I love you"/"I am in love with you"). Oct 8, 2015 at 21:14
  • @DariusJahandarie (1) I haven't found a better explanation for why 住む uses に instead of で. It seems to me that it is grammatically more similar to "to move to" than 'to live." For example, "東京に住むつもりだ" makes sense as both "I plan to live in Tokyo" and "I plan to move to Tokyo." After that you live in Tokyo, but you are also in the resultant state of having moved to Tokyo.
    – Darcinon
    Oct 8, 2015 at 21:38
  • @DariusJahandarie (2) It seems to me that "I am loving you" can also mean "I am in love with you," even though it isn't usually used that way. I'll clarify that bit in the answer.
    – Darcinon
    Oct 8, 2015 at 21:43
  • 1
    I understand what you're saying re (1), but I think it's a misanalysis. How about に泊まる? に勤める? にある? It seems tough to claim that they all involve movement. Also, even someone who lives in Tokyo can say これからも東京に住むつもりだ。, so I don't think it means "move", I think it just means "live in"/"reside in". (I hope it doesn't seem like I'm nitpicking here! I gave it my best shot in my own answer -- also the downvote wasn't me :-). Oct 9, 2015 at 0:32
  • I enjoy nitpicking! :) I couldn't find any evidence for 住む actually meaning "to move to," which is why I said it "uses に like a motion verb" rather than that it is a motion verb. I noticed that all the examples you gave use に to mark a location, maybe there is a broader classification that both motion verbs and these に verbs fall into.
    – Darcinon
    Oct 9, 2015 at 1:04

The fundamental difference between 〜で and 〜に is that the former is an adjunct (can be removed from the clause) while the latter is an argument (cannot be removed from the clause). Unfortunately, this is made hard to understand by the fact that arguments can be omitted in Japanese (even though they are still in the clause, inferred).

However, this explanation does not explain how to pick whether to use 〜で or 〜に for a given verb. That's because there exists no such explanation. You just need to memorize it. In other words, it's part of the verb's meaning.

Some examples will help:

  • ○彼は生{い}きています。

    生きる means "to live" while 住む means "to live in"/"to live at"/"to reside in". Similarly, you can't say "He is residing" in English -- it needs the argument. Hence, you use 〜で生きる and 〜に住む: 「残酷な世界で生きていく。」「東京に住んでいる。」

  • ○彼は働{はたら}いている。

    Again, this is because 働く means "to work" while 勤める means "to work for"/"to serve for". Hence, you use 〜で働く and 〜に勤める: 「農場で働いている。」「コンピュータ会社に勤めている。」

(Of course, as mentioned, with sufficient context you can omit arguments from the sentence.)

Thankfully you pick this sort of thing up with enough immersion -- it's sort of just like learning vocabulary (or in fact, part of learning vocabulary).

  • In verbs where a argument is required(most of the time)You would use に then? So, my example earlier みちこさんは バスていで バスを まっています would use で because it defines as "to wait" not "to wait for" etc. where an argument would be required?
    – Nate
    Oct 9, 2015 at 19:56
  • @Nate You can say "He is waiting" 彼は待っている, or "He is waiting for the bus" 彼はバスを待っている. Just like in English, there is a verb "to wait" 待つ, and another verb with the same form but slightly different meaning, "to wait for ~" 〜を待つ. The latter verb does have an argument, marked by 〜を, but it isn't a locative argument. So if you want to provide extra information of where the waiting is happening, you use 〜で. Oct 9, 2015 at 20:17
  • It seems you added a very important word "locative", but only in your comment. I would suggest adding it to the answer for future generations of readers. This answer basically supports your interpretation with に "involves the location" / で "the location is not necessary".
    – macraf
    Oct 10, 2015 at 15:18

It's very difficult to explain because how で and に are used in your examples is a very basic usage.

In the first place, I suspect the theory that says verbs that stand for state of something take に for the locative marker, because you can easily indicate counterexamples. (In this point, I have written an article in Lang-8. http://lang-8.com/1258954/journals/147490799689691682343232488847258190894)

On the other hand, your examples with で and に switched would still not be entirely wrong, if awkward. で could be used along with 住む as in the example of 東京で家に住む.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .