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みえる / みられる

みえる / みられる

みえる / みられる Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Verb (Group 2)

Essential Meaning: To be visible / To look X

Construction: Group 2 Verb


  • The primary usage of みえる (える in kanji) is to indicate that something is passively visible. In other words, える means that something can be seen regardless of the volition of any agent. For example, on a clear, dark night the stars are visible regardless of whether there is actually anyone there to see them. In Japanese, you could say ほしえる。 [The stars are visible.]. Note that with える, the visible object is marked by .
  • Be careful not to confuse える with the potential verb form られる. られる indicates that something is actively rather than passively visible (i.e. the agent has control over whether he or she chooses to see something).
    • E.g. テレビをったからテレビがられる。[Because I bought a TV, I can watch TV shows.] In this example, the speaker has the active volitional potential to watch TV.
    • E.g.わたしえない。[I’m blind (i.e. My eyes don’t have the potential to see).] Expressing blindness is a common usage of える. The idea is that the blind person has no potential to see, regardless of his or her volition. Thus, られる would be inappropriate.
  • In some cases, both える and られる are acceptable, depending one whether the speaker believes that he or she has control over the situation.
    • E.g. となりたかいビルがったのでやまえなくなった。[Because a tall building was built next door, the mountains are no longer visible.] The use of える in this case implies a lack of agency. There’s nothing the speaker can do to rectify the situation.
    • E.g. となりたかいビルがったのでやまえられなくなった。[Because a tall building was built next door, I can’t see the mountains any more.] The use of られる implies that the speaker has some level of control over the situation. Perhaps he or she can move to a higher floor.
  • There are two special usage of える to take note of:
    • (1) える means “Look~” or “Looks like~” after adverbial adjectives or after Noun + に.
      • E.g. あのひととしりずっとわかえる。[That person looks much younger than his age.]
      • E.g. おんなひとよるきれいにえる。[Women looks pretty in the evening.]
      • E.g. 中島なかじまさんは学生がくせいえる。[Nakajima-san looks like a student.]
    • (2) える can be used as a polite way to say る [To come]. Rather than saying “Mr. X came“, you are essentially saying “I was able to see Mr. X“. It comes across as more gracious and polite.
      • E.g. かあさん、おきゃくさんがえたよ。[Mom, we have guests.]
      • E.g. 学会がっかいには上田うえだ先生せんせいえた。[Professor Ueda came to the meeting, too (i.e. We had the pleasure of seeing Professor Ueda at the meeting too).]

Example Sentences:

わたしにははやくのものがよくえる。[For me, distant objects are very visible (i.e. I have the ability to see distant objects well).]

まどからうみえる。[The sea is visible from the window.]

今日きょうやまちかえる。[The mountains appear close today.]

わたしにはうえちいさなとりえた。[I was able to see small birds at the top of the tree.]

東京とうきょうタワーからは東京とうきょうまちがよくえる。[From Tokyo tower, the towns of Tokyo are quite visible.]

WILD Examples:

Listen to this line at 1:08: ほら、おとこどもきみえる位置いちにいる [Look, the men are in a position where they can see you]
Listen to this line at 1:49: ゆめはいつも現実げんじつとの隙間すきまえる [Dreams are always visible through cracks in reality]

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