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~が前歩いていました

I read this answer but I feel like this case is different because 前 is not a place but a relative position. I'm used to seeing に used for position, for example when giving directions "左にあります". What would be the difference if I were to say "~が前歩いていました"? Are we using を because 前に could be confused with "before" in time? When should we use を for the position instead of に?

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  • 1
    You can say 「前にあります」「左を歩いていました」, too.
    – Chocolate
    Sep 5 at 23:36
  • @Chocolate Yes, so why を for the position with 歩く and not に like other cases? And can you also use に?
    – Simon
    Sep 5 at 23:47
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The answer in your link applies to your sentence, too. See this question, too. 前 is a relative place that may move along with the "parent object", but it's still a place. If someone keeps walking in front of you for some time, を as a location marker should be used, because he is keeping inside your 前. The same is true with 後ろ, 右, 下 and so on.

On the other hand, に used with a verb of motion marks a destination. For example, ビルの前歩く means walking to the front of a building from some remote place (EDIT: ビルの前まで歩く is more common for this meaning). ビルの前歩く means walking in front of a (large) building.

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  • 「ビルの前に歩く」って言いますか?
    – aguijonazo
    Sep 6 at 8:54
  • @aguijonazo BCCWJが使えないのでグーグル検索のみですけど、「ドアの前に歩いていき」みたいな例は割とすぐヒットしますし、とくに不自然でもない気がします。「ていく」があるとより自然かも。「目の前に歩いている人が…」という例も1つ見つけましたが個人的にはかなり違和感が強いです。
    – naruto
    Sep 6 at 9:32
  • 「歩いていく」は「いく」(=行く)で方向性のある移動の意味が強くなるので、行き先を「〜に」で表すのはもちろん自然です。「〜に歩く」はかなり不自然な感じがします。
    – aguijonazo
    Sep 6 at 9:43
  • @aguijonazo 「ていく」があれば自然なのは当然でしたね、すみません。「ていく」なしでも「マイクの前に歩き」などが見つかりはしますし個人的に違和感はありませんが、まあ「前まで歩き」などの方がよりcommonだとは感じます。
    – naruto
    Sep 7 at 0:22
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The particle を is used with certain verbs of motion, such as 行く, 歩く, and 走る, to indicate where someone or something moves through. It is said to indicate a point of passage. It doesn’t matter whether that point is expressed in absolute terms or relative to something else.

The particle に, on the other hand, is used with verbs that describe the presence or existence of someone or something, most typically いる and ある.

〜の前に歩いていました is not totally wrong because of the compound form 歩いている, but its focus is on いる (presence) rather than 歩く (motion).

I can think of an example like this.

玄関を出ると、家の前カブトムシが歩いていました。

Although this sounds a bit awkward and is probably considered ungrammatical, it’s understood with little difficulty in everyday conversation. The main point of the main clause is that there was a beetle in front of the house. It happened to be walking but was, for the obvious reason, too slow to look “passing” in front of the house when you found it. It’s hard to imagine a similar situation with people walking.

You can still use を to describe the same scene.

玄関を出ると、家の前カブトムシが歩いていました。

Actually, this sounds more natural however slow the beetle may have been. The sentence puts greater focus on the passing of the beetle, and that’s usually what you would expect when you choose to say 歩いていました instead of just いました.

By the way, で may also be used with 歩く.

玄関を出ると、家の前カブトムシが歩いていました。

In general, this particle is used to indicate a place where some action occurs, and therefore, the above sentence puts greater focus on the beetle’s action of walking and where that was happening, compared to the earlier sentence with を.


When 歩く is not in the form of 歩いている but in its basic form (i.e. 歩く), it is not usually used with に.

The most natural choice would be を.

毎日、家の前を歩きます。

You could use で but it changes the nuance.

毎日、家の前で歩きます。

In this sentence, walking is seen as an action in its own right, or something you do for the sake of it, perhaps as part of your physical exercise, rather than as a means of moving from one place to another, and that action takes place within the boundary described as 家の前.


に is not usually used with 歩く even in cases where that に would indicate a destination. 駅に歩く sounds weird. 駅まで歩く sounds much more natural.

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  • 「家の前にカブトムシが歩いていました」は bit awkward というより wrong に近い気がします。もちろん「家の前にカブトムシがいました」ならOKなので、その類推で理解はできるんですけど。
    – naruto
    Sep 6 at 6:56
  • @naruto: もちろん「立っていました」や「座っていました」ほど自然ではないですし、厳密に言うと非文法的なのかもしれませんが、この「歩いて」自体から動作や移動の意味をそれほど強く感じないので、8割方「いました」に重点を置いて読めば、日常会話としては許容範囲かなと思います。あるいは、「家の前にカブトムシが〜」の時点で「いました」を期待するので、「歩いて」にそれほど気が回らないだけかもしれません。もう1つ思いついた例は、自分も同じ方向に進んでいる場合です。「ふと見ると、目の前に彼女が歩いていました」はどうでしょう。これは検索すると、それなりに出てきます。
    – aguijonazo
    Sep 6 at 8:53

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