The gist of this question is about you determine whether intransitive verb takes に as "対象/に対して" or に as "原因/によって", when it's not especially obvious

対象 is def 3, and 原因 is def 7

に as 対象/に対して:

人に頼る  仕事に熱中する  



に as 原因/によって

物音に驚く   酒に酔う   雨に濡れる




While sometimes this distinction is obvious, other times it is definitely confusing. For example:


at first glance it would seem the fluid is being smeared but in fact it is a fluid being smeared with/by 汚辱. With further research As far as i can tell ~に塗れる is always the 原因/によって usage of "being smeared by ~".


is this "butt glistening "via" to sweat or is it "butt that has light shining at the sweat" ? Based on the only related sentence i can find, "女の目が怒りに光った" i believe is the first choice, but how can i know for sure?

There's also randomness in terms of the ~ before に

take 知恵の輪に没頭する。

which would be very similar to the 仕事に熱中する example under 対象/に対して. In fact 彼はそれぞれの仕事に没頭している is also an example. All look like 対象 usage.

but ゴミを破壊する簡単なお仕事に彼は酔っていた。is also a thing,

this ...仕事に looks like> it can only be 原因 usage. So if i look at 知恵の輪に没頭する again, can i be sure that this isn't "because of 知恵の輪, 没頭する"?

Lastly lets look these sentence i havn't yet searched up example sentences to confirm yet.

Aくんも私と同じように、恋に破れて泣く日が来るんだろうか (about unrequited love)

am i (原因) "getting torn apart because of love, crying days have come?", or am I (対象)"tearing" the love(my relationship) apart, crying days have come?"


(原因) tripped because of rock, or (対象) trip into rock?

  1. Is there a way to tell without looking up example sentences? Is there a more obvious way to classify verbs in terms of this usage?

~にまみれる looks like it only takes 原因 and ~に触れる looks like it only takes 対象

  1. Are there any exceptions regarding this for まみれる and 触れる? More generally can intransitive verbs only take one or the other? Are there any intransitive verbs that can take both 原因 and 対象?

thank you for reading to all the down here.

edit further clarification:

This my be born out of my on misconceptions i'll try and explain where i am coming from:


ウォッチングに勤しむ, it is logical to look at it as "ウォッチング<--towards(対象)--勤しむ" or " to work hard at (towards) ウォッチング

私は禁忌に触れない: "禁忌<--towards(対象)--触れない" or " to not conflict against (towards) 禁忌"


恋に破れる: "恋--because(原因)-->破れる" or "to be broken due to love "

歓喜に震えている: "歓喜--because(原因)-->震えている" or "to be shaking due to joy"

The point is that depending on the verb, the "direction" of concept changes. And sometimes this "direction" is hard to discern. Like with XXに困る, to be perplexed at(towards) XX, to troubled "because of" XX ??

Compared to something like:

君が言う, the only option is 君 --> 言う.

君を殴る, the option of is 君 <--- 殴る.

This can never be reversed no matter what the verb.

If there is no way to determine "direction" a verb falls under without reading a lot of examples for ~にV-int, is it possible to at least confirm whether each verb only take one of 原因 or 対象, or can some take both?

1 Answer 1


I doubt there is a simple method to tell the function of に. Ultimately, I think you have to look up each word, read example sentences and memorize which particle should be used. ~にまみれる, ~につまづく and ~に触れる mean one thing, respectively. ~に破れる means either "to be defeated by ~" or "to be heartbroken regarding ~" depending on the context.

(English learners including me are bothered by functional words like "to", "at", "by", etc. In English, the closest equivalent of に is perhaps "to", but it has dozens of meanings. Sometimes the meaning is obvious, but English learners have to memorize non-obvious ones like "to listen to ~". See also: 後で vs. 前に. Why not the same particle?)

  • Hm, perhaps i wasn't clear. I wasn't really asking about when to use に over other particles but rather the way different verbs take different uses of に . i edited the end of the post. Thank you for your efforts
    – charu
    Nov 5, 2018 at 19:21

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