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In a quiz, I got a question where one had to complete with に、を、で or が the following sentence:

この道(?)まっすぐ行ってください。

The correct answer being:

この道まっすぐ行ってください。

It always seems more natural to me to put で here instead of を as 道 describes where the action will take place.

Could anyone please give me the reason behind this choice in Japanese?

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2 Answers 2

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There are basically four choices with motion verbs in Japanese. Each has a slightly different implication.

  • に - "to" indicates the final goal of the travel. If chosen in your sentence it would be slightly nonsensical due to the この "Go directly to the street right here"
  • で - "in or around" tends to indicate meandering inside of the boundaries of a location. In other words, で treats the street not as a path to travel along, but as a place to move around inside of. This might be appropriate if you were at a street-fair or similar event (although this would probably be better with a verb other than 行く). In this case, however, the まっすぐ contradicts the implication of で, so it's not appropriate here. (EDIT: As several commentators have pointed out, で is a reasonable choice if there is a discussion of which way to travel. But this requires a context in which the conversants are discussing different options: "this road", "that sidewalk", "hang-gliding")
  • を - "across/along" indicates traveling the length (or a significant portion thereof) of the road/mountain/sky/(distance). More details are at this question
  • へ - "to" - very similar to に, and へ can be replaced with に in pretty much all situations involving movement verbs. There is a slight emphasis on the "direction" with へ, such that へ is often called the "direction particle", as opposed to the "destination particle" に.

There are, of course, other possible particles for marking destinations, such as まで, までで, までに, the catch-all topic marker は, and even simple omission.

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    What about へ? I know it's not an answer to the question, but I think that one's worth mentioning with the other particles. Sep 20, 2012 at 21:40
  • で can also mean "from", e.g. 家を出る/去る
    – dainichi
    Sep 21, 2012 at 8:14
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Building off of jkerian's answer, here are some translations which illustrate why を is the correct choice:

この道でまっすぐ行ってください。

Please go straight in this road. (nonsensical)

この道をまっすぐ行ってください。

Please take this road straight ahead.

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    If someone can provide a translation or situation where この道でまっすぐ行ってください。would make sense, please do so, as I am curious about this as well.
    – yadokari
    Sep 20, 2012 at 18:13
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    When there are multiple choices "で" could be used. For instance, "目的地へ行くには道路Aと道路Bがありますがどちらですか?Aで行ってください."
    – Teno
    Sep 21, 2012 at 17:07

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