Wild Nihongo!
に Particle (Indirect object)

に Particle (Indirect object)

に Particle (Indirect object) Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Particle

Essential Meaning: Indirect object marker

Construction: Indirect object + に


  • に (Indirect object) marks the indirect object in a sentence (i.e. the person or thing to or for whom an action is performed). This version of the に particle generally corresponds to the English prepositions “To” or “For“, as in “I gave a book to my father“, “I listen to my teacher”, and “I bought a cake for my girlfriend“.
  • Sentences with indirect objects typically involves a transfer of some direct object from one party to another, whether it’s a transfer of a physical object (e.g. “A gives a ball to B“) or a transfer of a non-physical thing such as knowledge (e.g. “A teaches something to B” or “A tells something to B“).
  • Sentences with に (Indirect object) always include transitive verbs such as あげる [To give], くれる [To give], せる [To show], げる [To throw], or おしえる [To teach]. They also typically include a direct object, because indirect objects are almost always paired with direct objects. However, certain verbs of communication (e.g. はなす [To speak], 電話でんわする [To call], or う [To meet]) may appear without direct objects.
    • E.g. ボブに電話でんわする。[I will call Bob.]
    • E.g. ももにはなす。[I will speak with Momo.]
  • に (Indirect object) can be paired with any transitive verb that includes the auxiliary verbs てあげる or てくれる, as long as the indirect object is not also the direct object.
    • E.g. ちいさいときかあさんはわたしによくほんよんんでくれた。 [When I was young, my mother often read books to me.] This example is OK because the direct object (ほん) is distinct from the indirect object (おさん).
    • E.g. *先生せんせいわたしめてくださいました。[The teacher gave me praise.] In this example, the speaker is both the indirect object and the direct object. In such cases, the object must take the direct object marker rather than the indirect object marker に.
  • Intransitive verbs can never be paired with に (Indirect object), even when modified by てくれる or てあげる.
    • E.g. *ジョンはメアリーにパーティーにてあげた。[John came to Mary’s party.] is intransitive, so it cannot be paired with に (Indirect object). In this instance, に can be replaced by the particle to form a noun phrase (i.e. メアリーのパーティー [Mary’s party]).

Example Sentences:

わたしはは手紙てがみをよくく。[I often write letters to my mom.]

ちちはぼく時計とけいをくれた。[My father gave me a watch.]

わたしいもうとにおかねをすこしやりました。[I gave a little bit of money to my little sister.]

クリスに電話でんわしましたがいませんでした。[I called Chris, but she wasn’t there.]

大川おおかわ先生せんせい学生がくせい色々いろいろ辞書じしょせた。[Okawa-sensei showed various dictionaries to the students.]

WILD Examples:

ただ、あなたにだけとどいてしい、ひびけこいうた [But I want to deliver it only to you. Let this love song ring on.] The singer is delivering this love song to his partner, so the parter is the indirect object that is marked by に.

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