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Hi^^ I'm studying the usage of せい and せいで, and it says (I'm using "Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar" as main reference) that it cannot be used to express a reason :

1)宿題がたくさんある *せいで パーティに行けない。
2)誰も手伝ってくれない *せいで 一人でやらなければならない。

(in both cases it uses から・ので・ために)

I'm not clear on these sentences: can't we consider the presence of a lot of homework as a cause for not having time? [or is it related to the fact that maybe homework are a "controllable" thing? ] what is the difference between n°2 and, say, 私のせいで作業が遅れてしまった。[other than the past tense]?

I would really appreciate if you could also give me some other examples of sentences where I can't use it. Thank you in advance.

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2 Answers 2

Your book is correct on this if it explained the exceptions.

Even though quite a few of us native speakers DO use せいで to express reasons, it is certainly not a recommendable use of the word in many cases. This is because if you use it to express a reason, you will sound like you are blaming someone/something in a harsh way instead of objectively analyzing the reason for something. It could make you sound unnecessarily upset or, in some cases, as if you were cursing.

Regarding your sentence 「私のせいで[作業]{さぎょう}が[遅]{おく}れてしまった。」, it is no problem to say it because it is yourself, not another person, that you are blaming for the delay.

Examples where one should avoid using せいで :

「[雨]{あめ}が[降]{ふ}ったせいでピクニックに[行]{い}けなかった。」

「[鉛筆]{えんぴつ}が[短]{みじか}くなったせいで[宿題]{しゅくだい}ができなかった。」

「[日曜日]{にちようび}のせいで[公園]{こうえん}に人がたくさんいた。」

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Toyko Nagoya, what word could we use to express if we 'wanted to do something but something prevented us' without せい? I've wondered about this myself. For instance, in the above 'not being able to go to the picnic' example, what would be the correct way to express it (without せい), but keep the nuance intact? –  Kirk Dec 25 '13 at 1:03

せいで/おかげで can only be used with nouns, after の. The difference between your number 2 and number 3 is that in number 3 it's a noun (私) that's the reason, but in number 2 it's a verb ([誰も]手伝ってくれない).

The converse is that から/ので/ために can't be used with nouns to express reason - they can only be used with verbs. (ために can be used after nouns, but then it's purpose rather than reason.)

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When I search BCCWJ for せいで, I find plenty of examples following verbs and adjectives in various forms. A Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar (p.379) gives the example 「昨夜飲みすぎたせいで今日は頭がふらふらする。」 Are you sure it can only be used after の? –  snailboat Dec 24 '13 at 15:47
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mmh, I don't think is that kind of problem, for example in my textbook (文化中級日本語)there is this sentence 飛行機の到着が遅れたせいで、大切な会議に出席できなかった. with verb used before せいで. The DIJ clearly state a difference between "cause" and "reason", I understand this in theory (maybe because English is not my native language), but I'm not sure about the examples, so I'd like other sample sentences.. –  Daniela Dec 24 '13 at 15:59
    
I may be wrong then! 'Pologies. –  Sjiveru Dec 24 '13 at 17:56

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