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  • 夕焼けに染まる
  • 夕焼けに染められる

I got both examples from here and here respectively. I understand what these sentences mean, but I'm a little confused as to how sentence particle ’に’ works in these sentences. If both of the 自動詞 and 受身形 make use of particle に, does that mean 自動詞 and 受身形 are exactly the same? If so how could we differentiate the use of 自動詞 or 受身形, or to be clear, why would there be two different forms? Shouldn't there at least be like a difference in nuance?

Is there a difference in nuance for both these sentences? Is it that one is more commonly used than the other? Any difference in meaning for both of them?

Also, how would you understand the use of 'に' here? If we were to translate them literally, do they both mean "by" in English? Or is there something else I don't know about?

Sorry if it sounds like a dumb question, but this has been troubling me for a long time.

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First, a small list of grammar terms needed to read both OP's question and my reply.

[自動詞]{じどうし} = intransitive verb

[他動詞]{たどうし} = transitive verb

[能動形]{のうどうけい} = active voice form

[受身形]{うけみけい} = passive voice form

Now, the phrases in question:

1) [夕焼]{ゆうや}けに[染]{そ}まる

2) 夕焼けに染められる

OP says "自動詞 and 受身形" a few times, so it would not be a typo. The truth is , however, neither of the two phrases in question is a combination of 自動詞 and 受身形.

染まる is a 自動詞. = "to turn color" 

染める is a 他動詞. = "to dye something (a particular color)"

「夕焼けに染まる」 is a combination of a 自動詞 and 能動形. Something turns color against or because of another thing.

↓↓

"Something turns color with the evening glow." (It is that something that is doing the action.)

「夕焼けに染められる」 is a combination of 他動詞 and 受身形. Something is made turn color by another thing.

↓↓

"Something gets bathed by the evening glow." (It is the evening glow that is doing the action.)

We have two different に's here.

  • I'm not sure if you want to leave it as the literal translation, so I'm not going to about editing 乱暴, but idiomatically, I think we would say "bathed" instead "dyed". – virmaior Sep 15 '14 at 2:58
  • @非回答者 I was under the impression 夕焼けに染まる is similar in meaning to 夕焼けの色に染まる. The English you wrote ("Something turns color in the evening glow") means 夕焼けの中で染まる to me, which I don't think is equivalent... Is this my misunderstanding? – Darius Jahandarie Sep 15 '14 at 4:45
  • @virmaior Thanks! Advice taken and change made. – l'électeur Sep 15 '14 at 9:56
  • @DariusJahandarie You are right. I think I chose "in" as a safest choice, sort of. I have changed it to "with" but I am still not sure. Please feel free to edit. – l'électeur Sep 15 '14 at 10:04
  • @非回答者 I am not sure myself. "with" sounds like と共に to me. "Something is dyed the (color of the) evening glow." is the most natural English sentence to me, but given that the point of the answer is to contrast 染まる with 染められる, you probably intentionally avoided that for 染まる (since the syntax of that English I just mentioned is parallel with 染められる). Maybe "Something changes color to the evening glow" is the most syntactically parallel English sentence to 夕焼けに染まる. – Darius Jahandarie Sep 15 '14 at 16:35

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