In the ももたろう tale there's a sentence that goes like:


Which translates as

If the old man went to the mountain to cut trees
the old woman would go out to the river to wash clothes.

In the old woman's case the verb せんたく is presented in its dictionary form and is not modified by the particle に, which gives the sense of purpose (to go out to do something). So why the same is not true for the old man? Why 木を切りに instead of 木を切るに?


In your case, you are asking about a specific construct: the use of

purposeに+verb of movement

To express:

Going somewhere to do something

This pattern can take two kinds of objects as purpose:

  • The ~ます stem of a verb: "Going somewhere to verb'. Note that is similar to nominalizing the verb, see for example this question.
  • A noun: "Going somewhere to do noun"

In your case:

  • 洗濯{せんたく} is a noun, we can directly place it in front of に, hence 川へ洗濯に行く. Quite literally, "going to the river to do the laundry".
  • 木{き}を切{き}る is a verb. Thus, we turn it into its ~ます stem, leading to 木を切りに行く. This time, meaning "going to the river to cut some wood".

Note that if you absolutely want to use a verb, you can use 洗濯する, which becomes:


This is much more infrequent, and I would advise against using it in general, unless the sentence is ambiguous without する.

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[verb in masu-form + に行く] essentially means go to {place} to do {verb}

So, in this case :


The old man is going to the mountain


Why is he going to the mountain?


He's going to chop wood

Does that make things a little clearer?

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