"To search" is 検索する of course, but how do you differentiate between searching "in" or "through" something and searching "for" something?

From what I have seen, it seems like there is no differentiation in the grammar, but that seems hard to believe.

Search for a file => ファイルを検索する

Search the Internet => インターネットを検索する

There is no situation where you would talk about searching for the Internet, right? So the content clarifies the meaning, but we have the same grammar for two different meanings.

Search a file => ファイルを検索する(?)

As in, search through or in a file to find specific data.
If the same grammar is used in Japanese, then the exact same sentence has two very different meanings.


Does this mean the document that is being searched for, the documents that are being searched through to find a certain document, or the document(s) that is/are being searched through to find certain words?

Is there no way to differentiate what 検索 is referring to other than reading potentially paragraphs of otherwise unnecessary information just to identify this simple, but important difference?

  • 1
    ’Search (for something) on the internet’ would be 「インターネットで検索する」 rather than 「インターネットを検索する」.
    – kandyman
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 14:03
  • I agree that is more common. That was part of the sentence 「インターネットを検索すると,法律事務所のホームページが数多く出てきます。」 from the book 「よくわかる司法のしくみと裁判」. It was written in 2002, so it is kind of old, but the point was the grammar that's why I used it. There are also examples from 知恵袋 such as 「ネットを検索していましたら、関連する記事がありましたのでご紹介します。」 (All of these are from the NINJAL corpus)
    – By137
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 14:26
  • Fair point.@By137
    – kandyman
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 15:38

1 Answer 1


I believe there's no way to differentiate other than reading paragraphs. 検索対象文書 may mean both, depending on the context.

If you want to clarify the meaning, you should say explicitly :

  • フォルダの中で特定のファイルを検索する
  • ファイル名で検索する
  • 文書名で検索する (find a certain document by document name)


  • ファイルの中のデータを検索する
  • ファイル内を検索する
  • 文書内の単語を検索する (find a certain word in a document / documents)
  • Other examples that are possibly similar to this: テレビを見る/番組を見る, ピアノを弾く/曲を弾く, but as you see, the meanings of these words are clear. In my opinion, the ambiguity of 検索する may come from the singularity of "searching" where the target can be either the contents or its container. Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 1:17

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