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I have seen a lot of older posts about the differences between the particles に and で. But I am surprised that neither pair in this question seems to have been asked before.

道に迷う

進路に悩む

セックスレスに悩む主婦

森で迷う

人間関係で悩む

ケーキを食べるかどうかで迷ってる

拒否と受容の間で迷う

仕事のことで悩む

「Xで」implies X is the reason for the confusion, puzzlement, or troubling. This seems an easy enough criterion. I feel roughly 60% confident about picking one over the other. But there are still cases where I am not sure about the particle.

For example, why doesn't 「人間関係に悩む」work? This may not be the best example, because I probably wouldn't make a mistake here, but I can't articulate the reason for で over に either. How about this 「セックスレスで悩む主婦」?

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  • This is just my intuition, but I feel like 道に迷う sounds like you are "wavering" or unable to choose a road, which therefore leads to being lost: 道 seems to be acting as the indirect object of 迷う. 森で迷う sounds like you are "wavering/getting lost inside a forest". で marks the location where 迷う occurs. The reason why 森に迷う sounds odd is because it sounds like you are "wavering over choosing a forest": 森 instead becomes the indirect object instead of the location. Another way to think of it could just be looking at the difference in function in the sentence: 「森で道に迷う」
    – Shurim
    Commented Feb 26, 2021 at 21:21
  • I don't understand the différence between 森に迷う and 森で道に迷う, what is the nuance if 迷う and 道に迷う means get lost ?
    – Poulp
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 8:22

1 Answer 1

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に迷う vs. で迷う

  • For specifying where the subject is lost at, like Shurim said.

森で迷う 東京で迷う

  • For indicating the choices between which one is indecisive about

ケーキを食べるかどうかで迷う 新婚旅行はハワイとバリとで迷ってる

Basically everything else.

に悩む vs. で悩む

に is more abstract/conceptual whereas で is more specific/concrete. So I think they can be interchanged and still remain grammatical, but the meaning would slightly differ. IMO, this is very subjective and some Japanese speakers might even say they mean completely the same.

仕事に悩む: The subject is worrying about work in general or the concept of work. 仕事で悩む: The subject is worrying about something in their job.

For example, why doesn't 「人間関係に悩む」work? This may not be the best example, because I probably wouldn't make a mistake here, but I can't articulate the reason for で over に either. How about this 「セックスレスで悩む主婦」?

I don't think either is wrong. Do you have specific examples which would make them wrong?

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  • Thank you for the answer! I think my understanding was based off of some preliminary Google searches and things I have seen/read in the past. セックスレスに悩む seems much more in use than セックスレスで悩む. Thank you for explaining that neither is wrong.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 16:39

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