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I have this sentence in one of my JLPT practise books:

電子{でんし}レンジは冷{さ}めた料理{りょうり}を温{あたた}めるのに重宝{ちょうほう}だ。

I thought のに meant something like "in spite of". So, to me, this sentence seems to be saying that a microwave oven is convenient (or a "precious treasure") in spite of the fact that it warms cold food.

... but, isn't that exactly what a microwave oven is supposed to do? Shouldn't the sentence be something more like:

電子{でんし}レンジは冷{さ}めた料理{りょうり}を温{あたた}めるので重宝{ちょうほう}だ。

Is this a typo, or is のに used in another way that make sense here?

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It's a bug with the bolding system - meta.japanese.stackexchange.com/q/120/162 - you can get around it by using <b></b> tags though. –  Troyen Nov 8 '11 at 7:25
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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

のに can have several meanings, "despite" being the most common one. But it can also mean "in order to" (~のため)。Here are some examples (taken from here http://www.jgram.org/pages/viewOne.php?tagE=noni-2):

パスポートは海外旅行に行くのに必要です。

A passport is necessary to travel abroad.

電子レンジは冷めた料理を温めるのに重宝だ。

A microwave is handy to heat up cold food.

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Actually, the second translation might be better with "invaluable" instead of "handy" but I think it makes not much of a difference. Or does it? –  Matt N. Nov 8 '11 at 7:39
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I suspect it's the nominalizer の, making the noun phrase "...温めるの". Then the 'directional/intention' particle に is appended, giving intention towards which the 電子レンジ can be considered 重宝.

This can be occasionally tricky to sort out from the "in spite of" usage, but it is an alternate parse to be aware of.

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