In this post I’d like to go over the word “nite”, which is generally written in hiragana as にて.
While one of my Japanese/Japanese dictionaries has a full six meanings for this word, fortunately in modern Japanese the use is somewhat limited and easy to understand.
“nite” is classified as a “case particle” (格助詞), which basically means that it describes the role of the word before it. Other case particles that you are probably familiar with are を,に, and と. See this page for a description of case particles.
にて is used after a word (often a noun) to describe how, when, or where an action takes place. This description might remind of the で (de) particle, and in fact this is a good way to think of にて.
- カフェにてコーヒーを飲みました (kafe nite koohii wo nomimashita)
- (I) drank coffee at the cafe.
In this case にて simply describes where the action (drinking coffee) took place, which is at the cafe. You could safely replace にて with で in this sentence.
Besides the meaning of にて, it’s equally important to understand the nuance. This particle has a decidedly formal or literary feel, and you will generally not hear people using it in spoken language. One place I’ve seen this particle used before is in chapter names for novels, like:
サーカスにて (at the circus)
Because of the context, in this case にて is arguably more suitable than で. On the other hand, In the previous example (with the cafe) で sounds better to me since it is not particularly literary or formal. Other places you can see にて used are printed advertisements or newspapers.
Given the many other Japanese particles out there and their varied (and often confusing) meanings, this is probably one of the simplest out there. Also, unlike most of the other particles, just understanding it will be sufficient for most situations––you don’t have to actually use it yourself.