I rarely have any problems with the に and で particles, but I have been a bit confused since seeing the word 揺れる in a few different sentences.

As far as I know it is ok to say either:




Where you could of course replace 旗 with another word like 木 or 電線.

My problem is that I can't tell the difference between these sentences.

To me, at the moment, they both mean "~ is swaying in the wind". But there must be some difference between these sentences that I am not seeing.

Can anybody tell me the difference in meaning when it comes to the に or で particles with the word 揺れる?

Any help would be appreciated.

4 Answers 4


風に揺れる sounds a bit poetic and literary to me. If I'm writing an essay, novel or poem, I'd write 風に揺れる. I think we usually say 風で揺れる in daily conversations.


I agree with user1016's answer. The slight difference in nuance (for me, without strong basis) is this:

'swing against A'
'swinging on its own as a reaction to A'

'swing {by/due to} A'
'swinging, caused by A'

implies a slight spontaneity whereas implies a strong cause-result relation.

So when you say 風に揺れる, it implies that it is an inherent property of a flag to wave against the wind, and the role of wind is just the trigger. 風でゆれる means that the wind is solely responsible for the mechanism of waving.

  • 1
    Ah I see, so 風に揺れる might sound like 風の中で揺れている?
    – user1016
    Feb 4, 2012 at 6:07
  • 1
    @Chocolate I feel so. What do you think? And, I just edited my answer. I think the my new answer is better than my old one.
    – user458
    Feb 4, 2012 at 6:12
  • Thank you both for your answers! I wish I could accept two answers at the same time, but this has helped me a lot - Thank you.
    – Lucas
    Feb 4, 2012 at 6:21
  • @sawa-san, Yes I agree, I didn't notice that until I read your post.
    – user1016
    Feb 4, 2012 at 8:29

I agree with user1016 that に is slightly more literary. But I think that both に and で mean a cause in this context, and に is not necessarily ruled out even in the daily conversation.

I cannot pin down the exact difference between に and で, but I would like to point out that there are similar sentences where both に and で are grammatical and have almost the same meaning just like your examples:

  • [雨]{あめ}(に/で)[濡]{ぬ}れる
  • [病]{やまい}(に/で)[倒]{たお}れる
  • [仕事]{しごと}(に/で)[疲]{つか}れる
  • ビルの前(に/で)車を止める。
    – istrasci
    Feb 4, 2012 at 21:26
  • 3
    @istrasci: Ok, both に and で are grammatical and have almost the same meaning in that sentence, too, but that sounds different from the current discussion although there might be some hidden connection. Feb 5, 2012 at 0:00
  • 2
    Yes, you're absolutely right. I should have mentioned that in my comment. So to clarify: the で in my above comment is a different one than the one in the original post (place of action, as opposed to cause of an action), and my example is one where に/で are interchangeable, although it's a bit different than the situation in the original post.
    – istrasci
    Feb 5, 2012 at 18:52

If you ask why a flag is waving, then you use kazede (風で). But if you are describing a flag's movement, then you use kazeni yureteiru (風に揺れている).

'De' is used for why/method etc.

'Ni' is used for describing a situation/movement etc.

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