Quick check on 見る and 観る

Okay, so I just had 観る come up on Wanikani. I’ve been familiar with the onyomi かん for a while, as it appears in several useful words (参観, 観光), but up until this moment didn’t realize its kunyomi was an alternate version of 見る.

Wanikani defines 観る as “to watch” or “to view,” and has an interesting example sentence where I’d thought 見る would more commonly be used: どっちの映画を観るか迷っています。

In my experience, also, Japanese speakers have terrible trouble learning the difference between “look, see and watch,” so I was surprised to find they might have such a distinction in their own language.

Or … do they? A Japanese teacher once specifically pointed out the difference of nuance between 聞く and 聴く as we were talking about how one didn’t exist for 見る (which is what makes the “look, see, watch” situation so difficult). I’ve also never encountered 観 in the wild outside of its compounds.

So is this just an archaic kanji usage that Wanikani doesn’t quite put the right spin on? If I presented the idea that 見る is “see/look at” and 観る is “watch” (or something along those lines), would that aid understanding, or would I just get blank stares because there really isn’t a difference?

Edit – Or is it just a register difference without real separation in meaning or something?


観る is used for purposeful watching, like TV, movies, etc.

見る is not wrong, strictly speaking, but it would be less commonly used by natives.


Interesting! Must have just been a gap in my knowledge then. Might be one of those things I actually have seen but have never taken in.

I found a pretty good explanation on stackexchange

Basically, in terms of 見る and 観る, 見る can be used for anything that means to look, see, or watch, and it would be correct, but 観る would be a more specific way of use when referring to 1) looking at scenery (like a tourist does), or 2) watching something for entertainment

So in the WK example sentence, どっちの映画を観るか迷っています, the speaker is trying to decide on a movie to watch, which they’re doing for entertainment, so 観る would be more specific in denoting that type of watching


Thanks! Looks like it really is the kind of distinction we have been “watch” and “look at” then. That’s super helpful!

1 Like

There are also 診る and 看る, used in mostly medical environments.

1 Like

Thanks for the heads up. I noticed them popping up as suggestions in the IME just now and was wondering if they were additional synonyms or closely related words.

If you learn the kanji meanings the nuances should be clear.

1 Like

Just to further this.

Are the same but for listen.

That was mentioned in the first post, but in the context of there not being an equivalent for 見る. The only thing I can imagine is that this teacher’s point about 聞く was different from what we’re talking about, because I doubt any native would be unaware of the usage of 観る.

I figure in retrospect it just slipped their mind in the midst of conversation, as little English parallels and caveats do all the time for me when I’m talking about the language. Or that there was some miscommunication. No harm no foul.

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.