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さあ次もビーチバレーという名のウォッチング[に]勤しむぜ!- Ok, next, lets endeavor to watch beach volleyball !

それにしても、人間世界はじつに物[に]あふれておるな。- That being said, the world of humans is actually overflowing with things (this one in particular に over が just feels strange)

私は他動詞の使い方[を]本から教わった- I learned about transitive verbs from a book

我が豪腕[に]奪えぬ物は無し! - There's nothing my strong arm can't steal! (transitive verb for this one)

While trying to do some research I found the 3rd* sentence which feels like it's a similar use case but with を instead.

If I were forced to produce Japanese from the above English sentences, I would default to [が] in all of those brackets if I used that sentence structure. At the same time I feel like I can only interpret those sentences as if [が] were in the [] instead of [を/に]. At a glance it doesn't seem grammatically incorrect, but I don't know what meaning I am sacrificing by doing so.

Yet at the same time for something like this

だから、もっと素直に私[に]甘えて…… - listen, be honest more honest and depend on me

In this case [が] would feel strange to me but there doesn't seem to be anything fundamentally different between 私[に]甘えて and ウォッチング[に]勤しむ / 物[に]あふれて


I have read Difference between に and が for intransitive verbs, but i don't think my issues boil down to false” transitive-intransitive pairs.

I would appreciate any clarification, thank you.

  • you say: "I found the 2rd sentence". This appears to be a typo, but I can't tell -- did you mean to say "third", or "second"? – Eiríkr Útlendi Sep 28 '18 at 23:30
  • 3rd woops, I linked where i got the sentence from :) – charu Sep 28 '18 at 23:37
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Each instance appears to come down to the particulars of each verb, so let's look at those in turn.

勤【いそ】しむ

  • To work towards something, to endeavor to do something, to make oneself busy at something

This is listed as a 自動詞 in dictionaries. As such, whatever is marked as が for this verb would be the grammatical subject -- the agent performing the action of the verb. Since ウォッチング​[が]【●】​勤しむ would mean that the watching was endeavoring, and since that doesn't make any sense, we know that we can't use the が here.

As for why to use に instead, it might be helpful to think of the action of the verb from an English perspective: one endeavors to do something, or works toward something, etc. In a similar way, 勤しむ describes an action towards a particular goal, so the goal takes the particle に in much the same way as a destination takes に with the verb 行【い】く.

溢【あふ】れる

  • To overflow, to be full of

Much as with the English verb overflow, the Japanese verb 溢【あふ】れる can describe either the action of a thing, or the state of another thing that contains the first thing.

For instance, we can say that water overflows from a cup. Since we are using the verb to describe the water, we use が after the 水【みず】:

  • カップから水​[が]【●】​溢れる

Alternatively, we can say that the cup overflows with water. In this case, we are using the verb to describe the cup, so we use が after the カップ. Moreover, the water is causing the cup to overflow, so we use に after the 水【みず】 to mark that cause, similar to passive verbs where に is used to indicate the causal agent:

  • カップ​[が]【●】​水​[に]【●】​溢れる

教【おそ】わる

  • To be taught something, to learn something

Etymologically, this verb could be viewed as the passive form of 教【おし】える, to teach somethingto be taught something, and thus by extension, to learn something. That said, it is still a 他動詞, and thus it can take an object marked with を.

If we were to say 使い方​[が]【●】​教わった, it would mean that the way of using something had been taught or learned something. This again doesn't make any sense -- what we want to say instead is that I learned how to use something. Much as in this English sentence, the I is the subject, and the how to use something is the object -- so in Japanese, we mark the subject with が (or optionally は, depending on context, etc.) and we mark the direct object with を:

  • 私​[が]【●】​使い方​[を]【●】​教わった

奪【うば】える

  • To be able to be stolen or taken by force

This is a potential verb, and these work differently. They essentially describe a quality of a thing as being [VERB]-able. 分かる functions in a similar way -- it describes something as being understandable, which is why we say 何々​[が]【●】​分かる, marking the thing as the subject in Japanese. This construction is puzzling when translated, as English uses transitive verbs in these cases, much like understand or like.

Your sample sentence describes the 物 as 奪えぬ or being unstealable. In English, if we called something unstealable and wanted to explain that in relation to who might try to steal it, we would say it is unstealable by someone. In Japanese, we again use に to mark the agent, similar to 溢れる above and similar to passive constructions. If we marked the 腕 with が, we would instead be saying that the 腕 themselves are unstealable -- which might still be the case, but it sounds a little funny and it definitely changes the meaning. :)

  • Wow thank you, this is really thorough, will be a great reference. Regarding "に as causal agent", outside of Xに~られる constructs, what is the difference between using で over に in places like 物にあふれる and 腕に奪える? Also, under the formal definitions of に, i could never seem to find a good approximation of "to/towards", even though that was the most common usage when i see XにIntransative Verb. It seems to only list physical destinations/directions (definition 3), it it technically under that umbrella? Thank you! – charu Sep 28 '18 at 23:34
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    カップが水に溢れる -- ふつう、「~~が水あふれる」じゃないですかね・・ – Chocolate Sep 29 '18 at 2:45
  • @Chocolate I think the point is that that structure itself is possible, though it's not so much "full of " as "affluent in" – user4092 Sep 29 '18 at 5:49
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    「~にあふれる」は、「活気にあふれる」「やる気にあふれる」とかいうふうに使いますよね(「お風呂がお湯であふれる」とは意味が違う)。あと、「野次馬が歩道にあふれる」「目に涙があふれる」「偽ブランド品が市場にあふれる」とか。(これはあふれるものが「~に」じゃなくなる) – Chocolate Sep 29 '18 at 7:01
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    @chocolate could i extrapolate this as both「世界が物にあふれる」and 「世界に物があふれる」being correct? Would [the world is overflowing with stuff ] vs [In this world, the stuff is overflowing] be a good way to look at it? – charu Sep 29 '18 at 23:14
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In order to know which particle to use, you have to consult the dictionary.
Different words will require different particles.

According to the dictionary, を indicates what you learn.
に indicates who teaches you.
And since 教わる means 教えてもらう, the speaker is automatically the subject.

Examples:
水泳を教わった
I learned [was taught] how to swim.

算数は上田先生に教わった
Mr. Ueda taught me arithmetic.

おそわる【教わる】教えを受ける。教えてもらう。
https://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/word/en/教わる/#je-8504
https://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/jn/31383/meaning/m0u/おそわる/
https://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/jn/31383/example/m0u/おそわる/

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