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Japanese Prepositions


Due to several requests I have put together this overview of Japanese prepositions. This should cover the main ones. Be sure to see my page on particles, because many of them also have "prepositional attributes," and it will help explain the difference between the particles used on this page, for example ni and de.

© Tim R. Matheson


Naka is used to express inside:

  • Neko wa hako no naka ni iru. (The cat is in the box.)
  • Keeki wa sono fukuro no naka ni aru. (The cake is inside that bag.)
  • Hasami wa hikidashi no naka ni aru. (The scissors are in the drawer.)

When a large room or building is referred to, the no naka is usually omitted:

  • Bob wa toshokan ni iru. (Bob's in the library.)
  • Pasokon youhin wa san maru nana kyoushitsu ni aru. (The computer supplies are in Room 307.)

Naka is also used for among:

  • Yamamoto sensei wa gakusei no naka de ninkimono desu. (Mr. Yamamoto is popular among the students.)
  • Kono kasa no naka kara erande kudasai. (Please choose from among these umbrellas.)

Soto is used for the outside of things or places:

  • Kodomotachi wa soto de asonde iru. (The kids are playing outside.)
  • Neko o soto ni dashite kureru? (Would you let the cat out?)
  • Ayako wa taiikukan no soto de taberu no ga suki. (Ayako likes eating outside the gym.)

Ue is for things sitting on things, the top of things, as well as above things:

  • Jisho wa tsukue no ue ni aru. (The dictionary is on the desk.)
  • Tokei wa tsukue no ue ni kakemashou. (Let's hang the clock [on the wall] above the desk.)
  • Ki no ue made nobotta. (We climbed to the top of the tree.)

Shita is the opposite of ue:

  • Inu wa teeburu no shita ni iru. (The dog is under the table.)
  • Ano hon no shita ni sen en satsu ga aru. (There's a thousand-yen bill under that book.)

Mae is used for in front of:

  • Eki no mae de matte ne. (Wait in front of the station, okay?)
  • Jitensha wa ie no mae ni oite kudasai. (Please park your bicycle in front of the house.)

Ushiro or ura is used for behind:

  • Kuruma wa ie no ura ni aru. (The car is behind the house.)
  • Hako no ushiro ni nezumi ga iru. (There's a mouse behind the box.)

Soba, yoko, or tonari are used for next to:

  • Shako wa ie no soba ni aru. (The garage is next to the house.)
  • Miki wa tonari no ie ni sunde imasu. (Miki lives in the house next door.)
  • Gakkou no yoko ni kouba ga aru. (There's a factory next to the school.)

Aida shows that something is between two other things:

  • Yuubinkyoku wa toshokan to eigakan no aida ni aru. (The post office is between the library and the movie theater.)
  • Watashi no kasa wa reizouko to kabe no aida ni atta. (My umbrella was between the refrigerator and the wall.)

Mawari is used for around a thing or area:

  • Kare no ie no mawari ni tambo ga aru. (There are rice paddies around his house.)
  • Bokutachi wa Awaji Shima no mawari o doraibu shita. (We drove around Awaji Island.)

Ni shows motion directed towards something:

  • Kouen ni ikimashou. (Let's go to the park.)
  • Sono okane wa fuutou no naka ni irete ne. (Put that money in the envelope, okay?)
  • Ashita Osaka ni iku. (I'm going to Osaka tomorrow.)

Ni is also used for in, on, at specific times, days, dates, seasons, etc:

  • Rokuji ni kite ne. (Come at 6:00, okay?)
  • Senshuu no kayoubi ni tsuita. (I arrived last Tuesday.)
  • Sen kyuuhyaku hachijuu ichi nen ni nihon ni kita. (I came to Japan in 1981.)

Kara shows motion from something:

  • Kono hon o amerika kara motte kita. (I brought this book from America.)
  • Ano hako kara ringo o totte kudasai. (Please take an apple from that box.)

Chikai or chikaku ni is used for near:

  • Kuukou wa chikai. (The airport is nearby.)
  • Watashitachi no ie no chikaku ni takusan no mise ga aru. (Near our house there are many stores.)

Tooi (pronounced like "toy") or tooku ni is used for far:

  • Eki wa koko kara tooi. (The train station is far from here.)
  • Kare wa tooku ni sunde imasu. (He lives far away.)

Mukai is used for opposite something:

  • Honya wa kouen no mukai ni aru. (The bookstore is opposite the park.)
  • Kanojo wa gakkou no mukai ni sunde imasu. (She lives across from the school.)

While mukou is used for beyond:

  • Minato wa hoteru no mukou ni aru. (The harbor is beyond the hotel.)
  • Shokudou wa kaigishitsu no mukou ni arimasu. (The cafeteria is on the other side of the conference room.)

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