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Use of 拝見 (はいけん)

Hobby1, Lesson 3 has a new sentence that is giving me trouble:

私は その手紙を 拝見します。 わたしは そのてがみを はいけんします。

This is supposed to be a translation of "I read the letter".

If I understand the entry in imiwa? correctly, this is a polite verb - so I guess it is not merely "read" but more "peruse with your kind permission"?

(Also, 拝見 does not show up in the drop down hints for "read", nor are there hiragana or pronunciation given for it. Luckily I am getting better at the drawing function in Google Translate.)

December 1, 2017



拝見する is the modest form of 見る so it means "see" in the modest language 謙譲語 (けんじょうご). 謙譲語 is the branch of polite language where you show respect to the listener by lowering your own status, so 拝見 is used to talk about oneself, and should not be used to refer to the listener. The sentence you gave means "I saw the letter" or " I took a look at the letter" depending on context.

PS: It seems that you created duplicate posts of the same question here and here.


Yeah, sorry about the multiple posts - I kept getting Error 404 messages and having to retype. I'll try to take them down but interesting to see that they made it after all!

I'm still not quite understanding the concept of "looking with lower status". Is it a kind of Wayne's World "We're not worthy" thing? So: "I am looking at the letter and consider myself lucky that lowly me gets to see an exalted thing like this"?


I guess like BJCUAI said, “We're not worthy” is close enough, and it’s also interesting to check the kanji chosen in each case because there’s cultural information in that choice. 拝 or 拝む (おがむ) is the verb used for “praying to the Buddha statue”, so 拝見 literary means “look with reverence”.

About the 404 problem you had has, it’s a glitch that started after the forum maintanence, and that’s another reply I keep in my clipboard because I’ve been seeing duplicate posts almost everyday since then. When it happens, the first post isn’t really lost, and you’ll see it if you open the discussion stream page and refresh it few times.


Just to expand on Arachnje's answer, I believe that it is closer to 'view' than 'see' in nuance. 拝 is used often in three circumstances: 拝見 (to view), 参拝 (さんぱい) to visit a shrine/temple, and 拝啓 (はいけい) a salutation to open a formal correspondence.

While 拝見 is used for 'viewing' something yourself (謙譲語), you would use ご覧(ごらん)to ask the other party to view/look at/watch something. 「ご覧になってください。」. The latter would be 尊敬語 (そんけいご).

And, it is a bit like your Wayne's World example.

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