Could somebody provide a bit more explanation, possibly giving correct and incorrect examples on how to use に with "masu-stem (連用形 stem) + に + Verb" as illustrated in the following examples?

Both feel intuitively sound but I cannot find an explanation that allows me to compose my own sentences.

  1. なお、本状と行き違いにお支払い済みの場合はお許しください

    Please forgive us in the case that payment has been completed "in crossing" with this letter(ie while the letter was still on its way)(note1)

  2. そして通りすがりに鐘をならしつつ、かれは隣室へと一同を先導した。

    And ringing the bell in passing, he led the way into the adjoining room

What are my thoughts?

  1. に indicates that (と)行き違い describes the manner in which お支払い(済み) was done and seems to be the same as the に below (despite お支払い済み appearing not to be a verb)
  2. It looks similar to Nにして/連用形 stemながらにして which "indicates a time[/point] when a surprising [event] takes place"(note2) but does not fit the pattern.
  3. It seems to be different from the familiar 「を買いにいく」which has a clear purpose and direction ("to go to buy something") or the other use of this pattern covered in another question "How does one use the “[V ます stem] に [Vタ]” pattern (as in 待ちに待った)?".
  4. Its not an "N1にN2 pair"(because I asked in a previous question)

*Note1: This often appears in payment reminders. The English equivalent is more likely to be "Please ignore this notice if you have already paid (this card and your payment have crossed)" but I think this literal translation is more helpful to solve the question.

Note2: From Dictionary of Advanced Japanese Grammar*

  • "... as illustrated in the following examples?" I'm not sure I see that specific pattern in the sentences, but rather using 「に」 to indicate an indirect object. Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 3:53
  • Yup. Not a single "masu" in the examples…
    – Axioplase
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 4:23
  • 2
    "Vmasu" is the slightly odd way some books refer to the 連用形 stem, presumably because it's the stem of the ~masu form.
    – jkerian
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 4:28
  • @jkerian: Thanks for the explanation. In the hope of getting some input I have revised the question to use 連用形 stem (which is new to me).
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 5:18
  • @Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams: I understand what you mean by indirect object in a sentence like "Watashi ni sore wo agete kudasai" (sorry about the romaji) but not in these sentences. If it helps I'b be grateful for your explanation.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 6:00

2 Answers 2


I feel in this specific case, it might be possible to discern a pattern.


can be used to say "while doing -, I did --". For example,


This translates to "while commuting to school, I felt like going to the rest room." I think this is almost certainly the case for the second example in the OP.

It may actually not be fitting to interpret the first example the same way, since the expression used to mean "in crossing" doesn't really describe what the person is doing, but more like how s/he does thing in relation to the other action. So in that case, the usage of に there is describing how the thing is done. For example,

迅速に支払いをした. (He paid promptly.)

上手に作文を書いた. (He wrote a paper well.)

虹のように弧を描いた (He drew an arc like a rainbow.)

行き違いに手紙を送った (Their letters crossed.)

Obviously the last example is very close to the first sentence in the original post.

I warn you that I have never been trained to teach Japanese to a student. So take this as some perspective of a native Japanese おっさん. My intention is just to point out that the way that I suggest at least sounds natural to a native Japanese speaker. Not meaning to offer any insights from linguistic foundations (I wish I could!).

  • Hmm. I'm uncomfortable with the first three of those four examples: 迅速, 上手 and 虹のよう are all な-adjectives, and adding に is simply the way to turn a な-adjective into an adverb. The fourth example is the interesting one!
    – Billy
    Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 19:54
  • An interesting point, but I don't feel anything wrong with how these sentences sound. (That of course doesn't exclude the possibility that I'm using incorrect grammar, but, hey, I grew up with it!) The reason why you feel uncomfortable with my examples is that you are interpreting "~ni" as a sort of adjectives to describe the nouns right after (in which case "~na" would be more natural sounding), whereas it is more appropriate here to interpret them as adverbs to describe the verbs which end these sentence. Maybe my quick English translations were too careless to illuminate the difference.
    – Taro Sato
    Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 20:32
  • 1
    Oh, sorry, I don't mean to say that I think your sentences are wrong. Of course they're not. Rather, I think that the に in your first three sentences (which is easy to explain as a suffix turning adjectives into adverbs) is fundamentally different to the に in your fourth sentence (which is the interesting and mysterious case).
    – Billy
    Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 23:26
  • @Taro Sato: Thank you for looking at this. Like Billy, I quite comfortable with your first three examples but 行き違いに (never mind 本状と行き違えに)does not seem like an adverb (or a direct object, as suggested by others). Likewise I can see a similarity to and am quite comfortable with 登校中に but then 通りすがり中に would be a closer equivalent?
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 15:30
  • @Tim Yeah, I see what you mean. My thought was that 行き違い in my example was used like noun + "ni" where the noun describes the state of how the thing was done. I'm very sorry that the lack of formal linguistic background prevents me from articulating in terms of common terms (now I understand why native English speakers cannot explain English grammar to me, haha), but the last example could also be written like 行き違うように手紙を送った. Now, the native in me tells that this sentence is a bit awkward unless making the letter cross was intentionally done.
    – Taro Sato
    Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 17:26

I agree with Ignacio in your comments. Neither of these involve a "pattern." The verb stem can also be used as a plain old noun and に as a plain old particle.

The second one is easier for me to understand and almost seems similar to ついでに, which also provides details about "when" an action is completed.

  • 1
    When Ignacio made his comment the pattern was described as "Vmasu+ に + Verb" and (as reiterated by Axiophase) he could not see a verb in "masu" form. jkerian then explained that Vmasu refers to the "連用形 stem" and the question was revised to be clearer (ie "masu-stem (連用形 stem) + に + Verb"). (I don't understand why you see "本状と行き違いに" or "通りすがりに" as plain old nouns if that is what you are suggesting(?))
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 1, 2012 at 17:10
  • 1
    The stem of the verb can double as a noun. 泊まり for example can mean "a stay." 日帰り can mean a single day or a daytrip. Just because there's a に attached doesn't necessarily mean it's involved in a verb pattern...I think. Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 4:25
  • Tx. Maybe there is something wrong with the question but there seems to be a reluctance to discuss what the に is doing in these sentences. Another unusual use of に came up in another q: "品揃えの多さについつい買い込んでしまった。": に means “because of.” 買い込む means “to buy many things.” Therefore, it means: "Because of the variety of goods they sell, I ended up buying too many things against my better judgment." This was helpful but I am sure there is something more to this.
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 16:02
  • に has tons and tons of usages. I'm not sure that these are all in the same category. Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 3:37
  • 1
    @Tim: Maybe there is something wrong with the question: it seems to me that your question has been answered. The masu-stem is not always a noun in its own right, but sometimes it is, and it is in both of these example sentences. So this is not an example of に with a masu-stem verb (unlike, say, 食べに行く). It's an example of に with a noun. (My favourite such book (by Yoko M. McClain) lists に as having 5 main meanings, one of which has 11 submeanings, one of which has 6 subsubmeanings... you get the idea. Perhaps that's a good place to start.)
    – Billy
    Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 19:47

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