4

雨{あめ}ぬれる

Why shouldn’t it be

雨{あめ}ぬれる

Could you please explain to me why に is used in this expression? Is で incorrect here or is there a difference in nuance?

2

First off, let us check a corpus to see if there is actually a difference in distribution. Here are some results from BCCWJ (searching with the stem 「濡れ」 to capture multiple different inflections):

                      
雨に濡れ 138 / 雨で濡れ 12 = 11.5
水に濡れ  48 / 水で濡れ  7 =  6.9
涙に濡れ  21 / 涙で濡れ 20 =  1.1
汗に濡れ  22 / 汗で濡れ 26 =  0.8

There definitely seems to be a difference in distribution: some arguments (雨、水) highly prefer に, while other arguments are more indifferent between に and で (涙, 汗).

I think the fundamental difference that に is more about simply describing what something is wet with, suggesting a natural, spontaneous, or passive process, while で suggests an active cause-effect process. (Similar to these two answers: 1, 2 on 揺れる with に or で.)

That's not to say you can't use で with 雨; I think the following is just fine, for example:

「どうせ雨で濡れるし行かないわ」

In this case you are emphasizing that you will "get wet because of the rain", not just that you will get wet in the rain, so the cause-effect nuance of で fits. Of course 雨に works fine here too.

Despite the rather tilted BCCWJ hit counts, I think in general both で and に are acceptable, but nuance-wise one sometimes fits better than the other.

  • 2
    「涙濡れる」は「悲しむ」とか「泣く」とかいう意味があるよね、「涙濡れる」は物理的に涙で何かが濡れるって感じだけど。「雨濡れる」は傘を差さなかったりして、降ってくる雨にかかってる感じね、「雨濡れる」は雨がかかったりしみ込んだりして物理的に濡れるって感じだけど。 – Chocolate Jun 28 '18 at 14:28

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