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小休止に出た人間が戻らないので、大人たちが客間へ行ったところ、扉が内から閉ざされて開かなかった。

"When the adults went to the parlor because the others didn't come back during the break, the door was locked from the inside and they couldn't open it." Would be my translation, but I'm not sure if that is correct. Does that に mean "during" or am I completely wrong?

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This に does not mean "during"; it indicates the reason why those people left. So I would translate that part as something like "The people who had gone for a short break weren't coming back".

If the intended meaning was "during", a phrasing like 小休止中に or 小休止の間に would be used instead (though with the current word order this would still probably refer to the timing of when they left, not when they didn't return).

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  • I'm kind of confused. Isn't ので already supposed to mean "because"? – Ushiromiya Feb 14 '18 at 14:02
  • Would it be that ので points out that "because they didn't return... X" whereas に points out that "they didn't return because of the break"? So, "Since they took a break and didn't return, ...." I'm kind of wondering why に is used though. I've been told that in most cases it doesn't really work as "because", why would it work this time? Does it work with special verbs or contexts? – Ushiromiya Feb 14 '18 at 14:14
  • @Ushiromiya ので denotes why 大人たち went to the guest room (which is "to check what those 人間 are doing"), に denotes why the 人間 went to the guest room (which is "to take a break") – naruto Feb 14 '18 at 14:20
  • Ah, I see. Thank you. As for my other question (when does に work as a "because" and when it does not), does anyone know? Is there a rule to follow to make it function as a way to indicate a reason? – Ushiromiya Feb 14 '18 at 14:33
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    Perhaps "reason" wasn't quite the clearest way of putting it. The にindicates the objective of the word 出る, in much the same way that it does in a basic sentence like 学校に行く. So you could say they're going out "to" a short break (though that isn't very natural English). It's also similar to the usage in constructions like 取りに行く - they're all answering the question of "where is this person going?" (to the school, to take a break, to get something). It's a usage that I think is limited to a small handful of motion verbs (I have trouble thinking of examples that don't use 行く or 出る...) – Ben Roffey Feb 14 '18 at 14:46

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