"I saw him yesterday."
Though im inclined to agree with you on the omission of particles when relative to time, it is the が particle not the は particle that would put emphasis on that translation you made.
The が particle declaritively identifies an unknown, so it would be like answering the question, "so what day did you see him?"
Is this really a good sentence to be teaching? I feel like when we say, "I saw him yesterday" in English, what we really mean is I MET him yesterday (かれに会いました), not just "I looked at him yesterday" (かれを見ました). That sounds more like you saw someone in the distance but didn't talk to them or something like that.
The comment previously made by PStrotman (under ei283's question) was a mistake, mixing up two different verbs: those of to see (見ます = romaji "mimasu") and to hear (聞きます = romaji "kikimasu").
In short, as for the kanji parts:
- in a verb, kanji may be used to write its radical (but not its inflected parts, which are written in hiragana);
- 見 is related to seeing;
- 聞 is related to hearing.
In short, as for the hiragana parts:
- in a verb, hiragana is used to write any inflected parts (while the radical is preferably written in kanji);
- ます is a verb ending marking the present/future tense in formal use;
- ました is a verb ending marking the past tense in formal use.
So, the き in the verb 聞きました ("kikimashita", meaning heard) is just an inflected part (which kind of corresponds to a thematic vowel) before the ending ました.
By the way, just a few days ago,
PStrotman's comment correcting it, now you can check it out there.
No, that's not right. See https://japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/17858/difference-between-見る-and-観る. In fact 見る is probably more common than 観る for a present tense.
There is a verb 見切る but it is a godan verb so wouldn't form a past like that.
No because in English we use the verb 'see' as we either observed someone or we went up and talked to them with out much of a distinction. In Japanese however, they make that distinction clear. By using the verb '見る' you are only saying you saw him, not talked or interacted with him. The verb '会う' implies that you met and talked to them, instead of just seeing them.