Japanese particle combination での (de no)

By | February 18, 2016

Mastering Japanese particles can be difficult, especially when you have to worry about various combinations of particles as well as individual ones. Some time ago I wrote about the combination ならではの which is one of the tricker ones.

This time I’d like to talk about the combination of で (de) and の (no), namely “での” (deno). While this isn’t the most frequent particle combination (では is much more common),  it’s good to learn it in case you come across it. It’s meaning is actually not that hard to grasp if you have a good handle on both of these particles individually, because the meaning is roughly just the composite of the two.

I won’t cover either of these particles in detail here, but one of the main ways で is used to show where an action takes place, for example:

  • 男の子は部屋勉強をしている。
  • The/a boy is studying in the room.

で can also be used in the sense of “by means of”, for example in the following sentence.

  • バス行きたい。
  • I want to go via bus.

Another common use you will encounter frequently, especially as a beginner to the language, is when you use で after a language to describe doing something (speaking, reading, etc.) in that language.

  • 二人は日本語おしゃべりをした。
  • The two people chatted in Japanese.

The の particle also has a few different uses, but the one we are most concerned here is when it is used to help one noun modify another.

  • 日本語教科書を買った。
  • I bought a Japanese textbook.

So now lets put these ideas together, and see how での can be used to help one word modify another word, where there is more attention to the fact some action is occurring with (or via) the first word, than the word itself. This sounds a bit confusing at first, but let’s start with a simple example:

  • 日本語での授業を受けたい。
  • I want to take a class that is taught in Japanese.

Here, the “日本語での” part is modifying “授業” (class) to specify which type of class. At first, you might wonder why we even need the で here, as in:

  • 日本語授業を受けたい。
  • I want to take a class in Japanese.

I’ve purposefully written the English sentence to show the ambiguity of the Japanese sentence. “日本語の授業” can be a class “in” Japanese (like a math class where everyone speaks in Japanese), or it can be a class “about” Japanese (where people focus on just learning Japanese).

Now another example sentence:

  • 電車でのマナーの質問です。

Can you guess what this means? Here we have a での early in the sentence and a の a little later, so there is a chain of words modifying 質問 (question).

In the phrase “電車でのマナー”, “マナー” (manners) is being modified by “電車での“, which has to do with something on the train, not the train itself.  In English this could be translated as “Manners on the bus”.

Like the previous example, the で within the での removes vagueness. If you remove で you get “電車のマナー” which means something like “manners of the train”, “train manners” or “(the) train’s manners”. While you could probably tell from context you are not talking about the train’s manners (i.e. the train is making too much noise), adding the で clarifies you want to talk about “Manners on the train”.

Since this entire phrase is modifying 質問, we get something like:

  • This is a question about manners on the train.

One more example:

  • 今から公園での会議が始まります。
  • The meeting in the park is starting now.

If we remove the で, we get 公園の会議 which could mean “meeting about the park” (a meeting whose subject is the park), whereas 公園での会議 clarifies the meeting is being held in the park. Of course, if you literally want to talk about the meeting being held in the park, you would just use で not での:

  • The meeting is being held in the park.
  • 会議は公園開かれる。

Here 公園 is not being used to directly modify 会議, so の is not used. Rather, it is specifying the location of the action 開かれる (to be opened or to be held).

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