事故にあいました。

English Translation

I just had an accident.

Would other particles in the place of に, such as を or は, work in this sentence?

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@ericaw
Good question! I believe many other learners have the same question when it comes to the complicated system or particles.

Before taking your question, let me give you an extra explanation about Kanji. あう is better spelled as 遭う in Kanji. Unlike 会う (another homophone), 遭う precisely means “to encounter unpleasant/unexpected incident”.

  • 事故遭いました sounds unnatural because は in this sentence structure functions only as a particle for subject, not object. So, this altered sentence means “The accident met (something unknown)”.

  • 事故遭いました is a trick one. You guys probably learnt that を is a particle for object. So, I understand why you wanted to replace に with を. But 遭う in this sentence functions as an intransitive verb, not transitive one followed by an object.

  • 事故遭いました can be literally translated in an intentionally unnatural way as “I (or someone) bumped into the accident”. The particle に is used to show the direction of action. You went on your way, and your initiative was interupted by an unpleasant/unexpected accident. It’s like a metaphorical car crash. We use the particle に as English speakers say “go to” or “go into”.

You can use 事故 + を in the following cases:

私は事故を起こしました。= I caused an accident. / I am the one who caused an accident.

トムはその事故のことを知りませんでした。= Tom didn’t know the accident.

起こす and 知る are transitive verbs in these sentences. And there is no nuance of “direction”, so you cannot replace を with に.

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