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Why do we use particle に in the following sentences?

試合に勝つ・負ける。 試験に合格する・失敗する。 試験に出る。

In case of  「試験に出る。」is it because of the explanation 「に」は入る場所を表す。

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Related: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/11855/1478 –  snailboat Jun 13 '13 at 14:17
    
Some verbs take を, some take に. That's not a satisfying answer, but it's probably the most honest. 負ける pretty much always takes に, whereas the meaning of 出る changes depending on which particle it takes, for example. –  Billy Jun 16 '13 at 23:54

2 Answers 2

I think the weirder language is English here, not Japanese.

Think about it this way. を marks a direct object. The noun preceding を "gets verbed" in the sentence.

Now consider 試験に合格する. Suppose we use を instead: 試験を合格する. This would correspond to English "(I) passed the exam". Now invert it and you'll see why the English doesn't make sense:

The exam gets passed.

This sound really weird. The exam "stays there" and doesn't have any of its attributes changed etc when you "passed it". You can't pick up the exam your friend did and wave it around saying "this is a passed exam".

Another important factor is probably that 合格 is originally an adjective borrowed from Chinese, meaning "qualified". So 合格する actually means literally "show qualified", and is something that happens to you, not to the exam. You only 合格する the exam indirectly, thus the dative (indirect object) に not the accusative (direct object) を. You are getting qualified, not the exam.

私は試験に合格した。

I showed qualification towards (に) the exam.

Speaking of which, English is very weird in not saying I passed with respect to the exam.

Regarding 試合に勝つ it's the same with English. I won in a soccer game makes more semantic sense than I won the soccer game, since again, games don't "become won". English verbs often have this weirdness that accepts both in/to/for (に) and nothing (を). Sometimes nothing is used where a preposition (に) is expected. Try saying ** 私は友達本をあげる to a Japanese person...yet consider I gave my friend a book.

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This is the answer I have received from my Japanese Teacher.

試合に出る⇒動作の目的。 勝つ、負けるの「に」は結果。 試験に合格する/落ちる/失敗する、これも結果だと思いますが、「合格する」するは到達点でもよいかなと思います。

Thanks.

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