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「雨にぬれる」 Why does it have to be used に in this phrase

  • Rather, why would another particle have to be used? – Breton Loïc Jun 27 '18 at 11:16
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    I can't speak for the OP but I would have guessed that 雨で should have been used because で can indicate means. This seems like a special use of に to me (it may not be) that doesn't fit in with the more common ones. – G-Cam Jun 27 '18 at 12:24
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    is it possible that using で would tend to be seen as implying there is some "agent" of the action? In other words, に is being used because there is no "will" behind it? Or am I overthinking? – ericfromabeno Jun 27 '18 at 13:05
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    Possible duplicate of 揺れる with に or で – Chocolate Jun 27 '18 at 14:11
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I think it's likely this particular phrasing stems from classical Japanese.

If we look for に on http://kobun.weblio.jp we find this:

〔動作や作用の手法・手段〕…で。…によって。

出典竹取物語 火鼠の皮衣

「この皮衣は、火に焼かむに焼けずはこそ真(まこと)ならめ」

[訳] この皮衣は、火で焼こうとして焼けなかったならば、本物であろう。

Essentially, に could be used as a particle to refer to means of action. This helps to account for the "poetic" feeling referenced in the question posted by Chocolate as well as the supposed declining usage of "雨に濡れる" specifically by younger speakers of modern Japanese.

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