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I was doing some practice JLPT questions, and am having trouble determining when to best use に対して vs に応えて.

所長は今回の事件( )どう責任をとるつもりなのか。

The correct answer is listed as に対して.

I choose に応えて thinking that 'in response to this incident' made sense. However, thinking about it more, I suppose that に応えて prefers to take an action verb... Am I on the right path?

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応える has much narrower meaning than English "respond". It is almost only used in the context of human communication, and means "give what they expect/deserve in return for their (incoming) action" (hint: it has the same reading as 答える "answer").

通信に応える respond to the transmission
疑念に応える address the suspicion
要望に応える respect/fulfill the request
期待に応える live up to the expectation (directed at you)

事件 is just a fact, not a message from anybody, so you can confront it, but cannot 応える.

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  • I agree in general, but something like 期待 isn't really a message either. It seems to me that 応える is about responding to something that results from human thought/feeling/intent, whereas 対する can also be used when responding to something purely situational.
    – Will
    Apr 13 at 8:28
  • @Will I actually want to say something like "communicative activity coming to you". Do you come up with any good wording? Apr 13 at 9:57
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    Hmm, I see what you mean. On second thought, maybe it's useful to note that it seems like all the applicable 応える examples involve some kind of "expectation directed at (or centered on) you".
    – Will
    Apr 13 at 11:00
  • @Will Ah, I think now I know what that English phrase really means. Thank you. Apr 13 at 13:41

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