In my second mini quiz (Japanese particles で and に), there was one question which was answered incorrectly more than half the time, so I’d like to review it in this post.
(If you haven’t taken the quiz yet, you can do so here: testmoz.com/450945)
The problem goes like this:
Choose the most appropriate particle(s) which fit in the above 「 」:
- に or で
You may be surprised to learn the answer here is actually ”３. に or で”, because either particle can be used here.
If で is used, performing the action of ‘sleeping’ at the location of ‘floor’ is emphasized, while usage of に would emphasize existing at the location ‘floor’ while sleeping.
Besides 寝る, there are some other verbs where you could probably safely use either で or に, including 眠る (ねむる)、待つ（まつ)、立つ (たつ）or 滞在（たいざい）する. You may have noticed all of these verbs involve staying in one place, hence the overlap with the concept of ‘existing’ at a certain place.
My general advice is to use で in all cases except for a few specific verbs like ある, いる and 住む, where you would typically use に. Of course if you hear a native speaker use に with some other verb, it’s probably best to mimic them next time you say a similar phrase.
If you use に to express “existence” for a verb or situation where it doesn’t make sense, you could end up with an awkward phrase. For example, the following sentence sounds unnatural.
Here using で would be best.
- 部屋で勉強しています. (natural)
1) Although I’ve heard from native Japanese speakers that に is the right particle to use with 住む (i.e “日本に住んでいます”), I have seen で used as well.