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I remember having learning that に can be used for a simple emphasis of the word before it, like so:

私はケーキを食べた - I ate cake

私にはケーキを食べた - I ate cake (the others may or may not have, but I did)

But then I stumbled upon something about the に for emphasis not being able to be used in with verbs that normally can't take it? Does this mean the following sentences are incorrect, since 知る can't be used with に?

私にはその小説を知っている

誰にも試合の結果を知らない

Or have I completely misunderstood?

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On japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/1096/… read Derek's answer and then read mine. By Derek's explanation those sentences would be invalid, but I think they're kind of okay, because に is simply acting as a subject marker. Although I'm not 100% sure about their validity because the object is not が-marked, which it normally would be with a に-marked subject. –  Darius Jahandarie Jan 29 '13 at 13:22
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None of 私にはケーキを食べた, 私にはその小説を知っている, and 誰にも試合の結果を知らない is grammatical. (They become grammatical if you remove に.) I doubt that に can be used for emphasis. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jan 29 '13 at 13:27
    
@TsuyoshiIto Do you consider 私にはケーキが見えた to be valid? –  Darius Jahandarie Jan 29 '13 at 13:57
    
@Darius Jahandarie: I am not sure why you are asking it, but yes, I consider 私にはケーキが見えた to be valid. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jan 29 '13 at 14:08
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@Darius Jahandarie: (1) “には construction can be used for "emphasis" in certain sentences, because は acts as a contrastive marker”: I do not follow the reasoning you stated as “because.” は sometimes acts as a contrastive particle, but why does it mean that には is sometimes used as emphasis? (2) I do not think that に in 私にはケーキが見えた plays any role of emphasis, if that is what you are claiming. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jan 29 '13 at 19:54

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I do not know where you learned that に can be used for emphasis, but I do not know any case where に is used for emphasis. に is a case particle, and you cannot add に to something that plays roles other than the に-case. (The に-case is used for many purposes such as time, location, destination, direction, and purpose).

The following sentences are not grammatical.

  • 私にはケーキを食べた。
  • 私にはその小説を知っている。
  • 誰にも試合の結果を知らない。

Removing に from these sentences makes them grammatical.

  • 私はケーキを食べた。 I ate a cake.
  • 私はその小説を知っている。 I know the novel.
  • 誰も試合の結果を知らない。 No one knows the result of the match.
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