I am going over the cases when に and で are used with location. According to the "Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar", に is used when something exists in a specific location (page 299) and で is used for events taking place at specific locations (page 105.)

The difference is rather clear, however there are two exceptions: 住む and 勤める. While I can understand that 住む might mean "to exist", the meaning of 勤める is less clear (I exist working at the office?). Are there other examples/exceptions to this?

  • I think a better translation for 勤める is "to be employed". Neither of these verbs are events taking place. I don't remember the various groups, but there are "action verbs", "motion verbs" etc, perhaps these fall into some such group.
    – gibbon
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 5:56
  • 2
    possible duplicate of に and で revisited
    – Flaw
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 6:58
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    Hmm we say 銀行に勤める, not 銀行で勤める. 銀行で働く, not 銀行に働く. (大阪に勤める sounds like 'I commute to Osaka' btw.) Not 大阪で住む but 大阪に住む, but not 大阪に暮らす but 大阪で暮らす... confusing
    – user1016
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 7:24
  • @Chocolate As much as I, and I'm sure others on this site, appreciate having a native speaker helping out, simply confirming what is being asked about and stating that it's confusing in every other question doesn't really help anyone, and it clutters the question, meaning people may not read insightful comments.
    – gibbon
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 8:15
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    @gibbon, I don't think it makes sense to demand that comments provide insight to non-native speakers. Chocolate noticed other words which are peculiar in a similar way. To search for patterns is common for finding answers to questions, so Chocolate is helping others who might be able to use the hint to provide an answer. I find that a perfectly valid use of comments.
    – dainichi
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 8:04

1 Answer 1


You can see my answer to the question that Flaw asked, but I will state it again.

  • に is used when what the predicate means involves the location and will not make sense without it. Examples are: when someone/something is located somewhere (いる, ある), lives somewhere (住む), goes somewhere (行く), commutes to somewhere (通勤する, 通学する, 勤める, 通う), etc., the very meaning expressed by the predicate necessarily involves the notion of place.

  • で is used when the location is not necessary to express the meaning of the predicate. For example, reading, running, studying, etc. do not require the notion of location to express their meaning. Of course, the agent needs to be at some location in order to do these things, but that just follows from our encyclopedic knowledge about the world, and is irrelevant to the description of the meaning of these predicates.

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