Japanese Grammar

Particle で: Expressing Supplementary Information

Particle で

Last time, you learned how to use objects with Japanese verbs, like ほんみます. Then, if you say, “I will read books at the library,” what should it be like? Here, you will learn how to give more contexts by using the particle で.

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Explanation for How the Particle で Works

Table of Contents
Location of Action
Reason (Causation)
Range (Period of Time)

You have learned three sentence structures so far, which are (1) State-of-Being: わたし先生せんせいだ, (2) Subject + Verb: わたしはしる, and (3) Subject + Object + Verb: わたしうたうたう. Since で can express supplementary information, you can add the で part anywhere before the verb in a sentence. Let’s go over the seven functions.

Seven Functions of the Particle で

Location of Action

[わたしは / が] 書館しょかん ほん む / みます
[Topic / Subject] Location of Action Direct Object Verb
[I will] read books at the library.

The first function is to express locations of actions. Here are more examples.

学校がっこうケンはべんきょう (する / します)。
Ken will study at school.
ケンはいえごはんを(べる / べます)。
Ken will eat a meal at his house.
ケンはやまく / きます)。
Ken will draw a picture at the mountain.
(Advanced Topic) で: Location of Action VS. を: Location to Pass

かわ  (およぐ / およぎます)。

You can use either で or を when all of the actions are performed at a single location. However, the nuance is different. When you use で, you are likely to focus on the action and when you use を, you are likely to focus on the location, e. g. “Where can we swim in?” => 川で泳ぐ (*The place doesn’t have to be a river) and “How can we cross the river?” => 川を泳ぐ (*You have to swim in the river).

こうてん  (つ / ちます)。

In this context, you can use only で because “つ: to wait” doesn’t require locations to pass, but direct objects. Thus, if you use を, it will mean “I will wait for the crossroad,” which doesn’t make sense.  


[わたしは / が] かみ 椅子いす つくる / つくります
[Topic / Subject] Material Direct Object Verb
[I will] make a chair by [using] paper.

The second function is to express materials. This function is most commonly used with direct objects set by the particle を. Here are more examples.

リンゴダンはジュースを(つくる / つくります)。
Dan will make juice by [using] apples.
ダンはつちはこを(つくる / つくります)。
Dan will make a box by [using] earth.
ダンはいえてる / てます)。
Dan will build a house by [using] wood.


[わたしは / が] タクシー 学校がっこう く / きます
[Topic / Subject] Means Destination Verb
[I will] go to the school by taxi.

The third function is to express means. This usage appears with elements such as destinations (に), direct objects (を), and partners of interaction (と). Here are more examples.

電車でんしゃボブはいえに(かえる / かえります)。
Bob will go home by train.
ボブはパソコン書類しょるいを(つくる / つくります)。
Bob will make a document on the PC.
ボブは友達ともだちでんはなす / はなします)。
Bob will talk with my friend on the phone.

Reason (Causation)

[わたしは / が] 風邪かぜ ごと やすむ / やすみます
[Topic / Subject] Reason Location to Leave Verb
[I will] be absent from work because [I caught] a cold.

The fourth function is to express reason or causation. In this context, で has to be attached to nouns. Here are more examples.

電車でんしゃゆきまる / まります)。
The trains will stop due to the snow.
台風たいふうこうが(おくれる / おくれます)。
The flights will be delayed due to the typhoon.

Range (Period of Time)

[わたしは / が] いちかん 会社かいしゃ く / きます
[Topic / Subject] Range Destination Verb
[I will] arrive at the office within an hour.

The fifth function is to express ranges. This also applies to periods of time. Here are more examples.

マンガはかい有名ゆうめい(だ / です)。
Manga is famous in the world.
きゅうはアメリカにん(だ / です)。
Baseball is popular in the US.
けんきゅうなつわる / わります)。
The research will finish during the summer.
ふんごはんを(べる / べます)。
[I will] eat a meal in five minutes [or less].
(Advanced Topic)  Duration With or Without で  

There is a case that you don’t use the particle で even if you express a period of time. If you express actions which take place for a while,  the particle で is not generally used. When you use the particle で, it indicates that you will complete actions. Here are the comparisons.  

いちかん宿しゅくだいを(する / します)。
[I will] do my homework for an hour. 
いちかん宿しゅくだいを(する / します)。
[I will] complete my homework within an hour.

When you use express actions which take place for a moment such as “く: to arrive” and “きる: to get up,” you have to use the particle で because it cannot be actions which take place for a while.

あとふんきる / きます)。
=> Wrong!
あとふんきる / きます)。
[I will] get up within five minuets. 


[わたしは / が] 100ひゃく万円まんえん くるま う / います
[Topic / Subject] Amount Direct Object Verb
[I will] buy the car for one million yen.

The sixth function is to express amount. In this context, で can be placed after any word which indicates quantity. Here are more examples.

10じゅうにんサッカーを(する / します)。
[I will] play soccer with ten people.
うたをみんなうたう / うたいます)。
[I will] sing songs with everyone.
一人ひとりべんきょう(する / します)。
[I will] study alone.


[わたしは / が] はだか かわ およぐ / およぎます
[Topic / Subject] State Location to Pass Verb
[I will] swim in the river while being naked.

The last function is to express states. Here, only nouns can be used with で.

裸足はだしあるく / あるきます)。
[I will] walk with bare feet.
ものきょうに(く / きます)。
[I will] go to Kyoto with a Kimono (*Japanese traditional clothes).


  1. The particle で can express;
    • Location of Action
    • Material
    • Means
    • Reason (Causation)
    • Range (Period of Time)
    • Amount
    • State

Now you can use the particle で to express various things. Memorizing all of the functions may not be easy, however, you will find this to be a very useful and powerful particle once you have got used to them. Next, you will learn the particles から and まで.

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