What exactly is the difference in meaning of にだけ vs だけに?

My dictionary gives an example of: 僕にだけ話してください.vs 僕だけに話してください。

These are translated as the following: Please tell it to me only/Please tell it to me alone.

I'm slightly confused as to the difference in meaning. In English, these could both have the same meaning, although the second can also mean that it should be told to the teacher with no other people present (but allowing you to tell it to other people at another time).


3 Answers 3


Both Japanese sentences mean the same thing, "Tell it only to me." (The English word "alone" can also mean "no one else is present", but here it just means "only".)

Xにだけ and Xだけに are interchangeable in most cases, but there are exceptions.

  • Only Xだけに means "precisely because of X", "as might be expected from X" (see this). Likewise, only Xだけに introduces a pun.

    北海道だけに寒い。 As might be expected of Hokkaido, it's cold.
    × 北海道にだけ寒い。 (wrong)

  • Only Xにだけ go well with the "adverbial-form" of na-adjectives.

    部分的にだけ事実を教える。 to tell the fact only partially
    × 部分的だけに事実を教える。 (wrong)


No difference in meaning.

As a native speaker, I thought what is the difference here for 20 seconds, and my conclusion is: THE SAME. They are interchangeable.


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A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar 日本語基本文法辞典

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