I was reading a children's book and came across the following sentence:


I can tell that it means "Because of the extreme cold, he woke up," but I was kind of surprised to see に used as the particle to indicate cause.

An Internet search does tell me that に can be used to indicate a reason or cause, especially, it seems, for feeling verbs, like in the case of something like 雷に驚いた (startled by lightning) or 私に怒っている (angry with me). But I wouldn't have thought "waking up" was a feeling verb, so I'm not sure why the author used に instead of で to indicate the reason the character woke up.

Is it just a matter of style or personal preference? Is it idiomatic and I just need to grow more accustomed to when it feels more natural to use に? Would あまりの寒さで目を覚ました also be correct or does that sound weird?


1 Answer 1


In short,

  • あまりの寒さ目を覚ました is idiomatic.
  • あまりの寒さ目を覚ました is equally natural.
  • There is a difference in nuance, but it is small enough and you shouldn't worry unless you are translating literary texts.

My impression is that the usage of に is common when describing some reaction. E.g., あまりのうれしさに泣き出す (From #7 of this) is another example of "non-feeling" verb.

Some other things vaguely relevant:

  • In English, I suppose it is possible to say I wake up to the sound of something (even if not to the coldness).
  • The に in に怒る means more object of the anger, not reason. English angry to should be unacceptable, but anger towards someone should be fine.

So as you mention, it is ultimately a matter of getting accustomed to various usages, but in my opinion に shares much with to, even when using to itself is not the norm in English expression.

  • About the English for に怒る, I think angry at works even better. :) Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 4:11
  • @EiríkrÚtlendi - When you say “I woke up to X”, does that mean X caused the subject to wake up, or the subject found himself with X after he woke up?
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 16:04
  • 1
    @aguijonazo, my sense is that it's closer to the latter -- "I woke up, and X [was there, was doing something, etc.]" Like. "I woke to the sound of the garbage trucks" just means that they woke up, and they heard the garbage trucks. It doesn't indicate any reason for waking. To indicate a reason, I might say "I woke up because of X", or "I woke up due to X", etc. Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 1:40
  • 1
    @EiríkrÚtlendi - Thanks. Then I would say it doesn't quite correspond to に here.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 2:10
  • @aguijonazo: Idiomatically speaking, I’d probably reword things to use the transitive verb ”to wake” — something like ”the X woke me”, as in ”the cold woke me” or ”the noise of the neighbor’s dog being sick on my front porch woke me from disturbing dreams of corn chowder...” 😆 Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 4:52

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