Grammar Info

N4 Lesson 4: 17/18


To be visible, To seem, To be in sight

見える was originally a conjugation of 見る, but nowadays we treat it as a standalone intransitive verb. It is also used in honorific speech, meaning “to come.”


Noun + + ()える


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About 見える

In the same way that ()こえる is used to describe things that are 'audible', ()える can be used to describe things that are 'visible'. ()える itself is an intransitive verb, meaning that the object that is 'visible' will be marked with .
  • この部屋(へや)から富士山(ふじさん)()ます
    Mount Fuji can be seen from this room.
  • (とお)くに建物(たてもの)()えるけどあれ(なに)
    I can see a building in the distance, but what is it?
  • パンツ()えるくらいを()先生(せんせい)(おこ)られ
    My pants were sagging to the point where my underwear was visible, and I got scolded by my teacher.
When using ()える, (A) will always be followed by . However, the 'way that something looks' will be marked adverbially. This means that an い-Adjective will be changed to its く form, and な-Adjectives/nouns will be followed by .
  • ここから(ちい)さく()えるけどあのビル130メートルもある。
    From here, the building looks small, but it is 130 meters tall.
  • あの仕事(しごと)大変(たいへん)()えるけど簡単(かんたん)らしい
    That job looks difficult, but I heard that it is easy.
This usage of ()える will be covered more in our focused lesson on this particular grammar structure.
Fun Fact
The primary difference between ()える, and ()られる (the potential form of ()る), is that ()える is used to identify things that do not require the active concentration of the spectator to be seen. In other words, seeing it is unavoidable (if looking in its direction of course). However, ()られる is used when the onlooker, is trying to concentrate on some specific object, and is referring to their 'ability' to see it.
  • 部屋(へや)(くら)くし(そと)()たら(ほし)()える
    If you make your room dark and look outside, you will see the stars. (Even without trying, you will see them)
  • 部屋(へや)(くら)くし(そと)()たら(ほし)()られる
    If you make your room dark and look outside, you will see the stars. (If you focus past the clouds, and give your eyes some time to adjust)
Fun Fact
()える is also sometimes used to describe the 'sense' of sight, and refers to whether anything is visible at all for the speaker.
  • (わか)(とき)(おお)怪我(けが)があったからなにも()えない
    Because of a big injury when I was young, I cannot see.




    'Since that signboard is big, it can be seen from anywhere.'


    'Mount Fuji is very big, so it can be clearly seen even from afar!'


    I can see clearly now, the rain is gone♪


    There is less light in the countryside than in cities, so stars are clearly visible.


    Blind people often have a sharp sense of hearing. (Literally - People who cannot see)

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見える – Grammar Discussion

Most Recent Replies (8 in total)

  • Pushindawood


    @pasi Thank you for your comment. I have rearranged the order of the sentences and review questions so that this particular example only appears after you have been reviewing the grammar point for some time. Cheers!

  • pasi


    Sorry to trouble you once again, this is not strictly related to the grammar point but I was wondering why is “ハッキリ” written in katakana? I googled the meaning of the word and most examples seem to use hiragana and I couldn’t really find a reason for the katana…

  • Pushindawood


    @pasi Hey! This post on Japanese StackExchange does an excellent job of answering your question. In this case, it is like making the text bold or italicizing text in English; it is used for emphasis. Cheers!

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