I have a doubt regarding the use of で and に in the following sentences:

  1. 私は車の中に座っている
  2. 私は車の中で座っている

As per me, I think で should be used as, the person is sitting inside the car (i.e. an action is being performed inside the car), so で should have been used. Whereas, when I used Google translator it was showing the first sentence i.e. 私は車の中に座っている, and not で座っている. However, when I clarified it by involving the use of 椅子 then the particle governing 車の中 changed to で i.e. 私は車の中で椅子に座っている.

So, my question is,

  1. Whether the use of に instead of で grammatical (sentences 1 and 2)?

  2. Could you please highlight the difference between 1st and 2nd sentence, if sentence 1 is grammatical?



1 Answer 1


私は車の中に座っている is more natural. When you use the verb 座る, the particle に is used to mark the thing on/in which the sitting is happening. I can understand your confusion because 座る is a tricky example.

Sometimes it helps to analyse sentences in terms of its main message. This is very general advice but, is the sentence mainly trying to describe a 'what' (the action) or a 'where' (the place)? で is generally used with 'what' sentences and に is generally used with 'where' sentences. It's more obvious with things like chairs (椅子に座る) which describe a 'where', but the principle is the same. It's not impossible to use で with 座る, but it would no longer be marking the specific object of the sitting.

So is a sentence like I'm sitting in the car describing a 'what' or a 'where'? The main message of this sentence is not to describe an action being performed (a 'what') - it's to describe where the person is sitting (a 'where'). So に makes more sense. But if you change the focus of the sentence to a 'what', something like I'll eat the bento in the car, now it's clear that the main point of the sentence is to describe an action which is happening in the car. Then it would be 車の中弁当を食べる.

  • ありがとう Kandyman, What I understood from the answer that when the focus is on action で is used, whereas, when it is on place に is used. But when I looked from a different perspective, my confusion arises, as, the same act can be asked in both the ways (one covering the what part and the other the where part). E.g. what are you doing? (Covers the what part) and where are you? (Covers the where part). So now the problem is that, if now I apply my inference from your answer. The answer to first would be 車で座っている (as what is being answered) and for 2nd 車に座っている. Is my inference of your answer correct?
    – APK
    Aug 14, 2020 at 5:15
  • I haven't used の中 as it was exceeding the comment limit, so please consider this as a part of the comment! 本当にありがとう!
    – APK
    Aug 14, 2020 at 5:19
  • 2
    It’s a more general way of saying that に marks specific places, points, locations, whereas で marks the place where an action is being performed.
    – kandyman
    Aug 14, 2020 at 7:44
  • Thank You !. So, are both my example sentence I.e. 公園で立っている and 公園に立っている correct, in the above mentioned context of what are you doing? And where are you? respectively?
    – APK
    Aug 14, 2020 at 8:23
  • 1
    Both are grammatically possible, depending on the context and what you are trying to express. I suggest doing some research on stative verbs vs dynamic verbs - this is another useful way of helping to figure out which particles to use in Japanese.
    – kandyman
    Aug 14, 2020 at 17:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .