How to Use the Particle Ni in Japanese

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What are particles?

Particles are probably one of the most difficult and confusing aspects of Japanese sentences. A particle (joshi) is a word that shows the relationship of a word, a phrase, or a clause to the rest of the sentence. Some particles have English equivalents. Others have functions similar to English prepositions, but since they always follow the word or words they mark, they are post-positions. There are also particles that have a peculiar usage which is not found in English. Most particles are multi-functional. Click here to learn more about particles.

The Particle "Ni"

Indirect Object Marker

An indirect object usually precedes a direct object.

Yoku tomodachi ni
tegami o kakimasu.

I often write letters
to my friends.
Kare wa watashi ni hon o kuremashita.
He gave me a book.

Some Japanese verbs such as "au (to meet)" and "kiku (to ask)" take an indirect object, though their English counterparts do not.

Eki de tomodachi ni atta.


I met my friend at the station.

Location of Existence

"Ni" is typically used with verbs such as "iru (to exist)," "aru (to exist)" and "sumu (to live)." It translates into "at" or "in."

Isu no ue ni neko ga imasu.
There is a cat on the chair.
Ryoushin wa Osaka ni
sunde imasu.

My parents live in Osaka.

Direct Contract

"Ni" is used when a motion or action is directed at or onto an object or place.

Koko ni namae o
kaite kudasai.

Please write your name here.
Kooto o hangaa ni kaketa.
I hung a coat on the hanger.


"Ni" can be translated as "to" when indicating a destination.

Rainen nihon ni ikimasu.
I'm going to Japan next year.
Kinou ginkou ni ikimashita.
I went to the bank yesterday.


Eiga o mi ni itta.
I went to see a movie.
Hirugohan o tabe ni
uchi ni kaetta.

I went home to eat lunch.

Specific Time 

"Ni" is used with various time expressions (year, month, day, and clock time) to indicate a specific point in time, and translates into "at," "on," or "in." However, the expressions of relative time such as today, tomorrow don't take the particle "ni."

Hachiji ni ie o demasu.
I leave home at eight o'clock.
Gogatsu mikka ni umaremashita.
I was born on May 3rd.


"Ni" indicates an agent or a source in passive or causative verbs. It translates into "by" or "from".

Haha ni shikarareta.
I was scolded by my mother.
Tomu ni eigo o oshietemoratta.
I was taught English by Tom.

Notion of Per

"Ni" is used with frequency expressions such as per hour, per day, per person, etc.

Ichijikan ni juu-doru
haratte kuremasu.

They pay us
ten dollars per hour.
Isshukan ni sanjuu-jikan hatarakimasu.
I work 30 hours per week.

Where Do I Begin?

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Abe, Namiko. "How to Use the Particle Ni in Japanese." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Abe, Namiko. (2023, April 5). How to Use the Particle Ni in Japanese. Retrieved from Abe, Namiko. "How to Use the Particle Ni in Japanese." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).