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What does お察しいたします mean?

The context (manga) is that a family's son is about to die; I think the speaker is trying to express condolences. However, the dictionary meaning seems to be "I make a guess", and I don't think that can be right in the context!

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

察する means "to pick up on the hidden nature of something (often, a situation or feelings) without it being made explicit for you" (hence "infer", "surmise", "guess" -- although I think we're getting pretty far from the original meaning at that point).

You can 察する that it is not appropriate to speak, for instance (i.e. 空気を読む). You can also use it like 少しは察しろ ("use some tact", "realize how I feel", etc).

In お察しいたします, the speaker says he understands something intuitively -- the listener's feelings. So this is a statement of sympathy.

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I think a loose translation to English that might convey the intention of お察{さっ}しいたします is, "I can only guess how you feel". – Questioner Feb 17 '13 at 4:38
Note that although both お察しいたします in Japanese and “I can only guess how you feel” in English are expressions of sympathy, the ways the sympathy is expressed are completely different, because お察しいたします does not have the meaning of “only.” In other words, these expressions use similar words as components and are used for the same purpose, the logic behind them is very different. We cannot understand a language just by translation. – Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 17 '13 at 13:10
@TsuyoshiIto: That's why I said loose translation. The whole point of adding the word "only" in there was precisely because we don't express sympathy using the same logic which makes modifying the words necessary in order to end at the same result, which is a culturally appropriate expression of sympathy. It seems you don't or can't understand the concept of translating for equivalency. – Questioner Feb 17 '13 at 15:08
@DaveMG: I was also a little concerned that you chose an expression containing the word "guess", where "guess" means "make likely inaccurate conjectures about", which is how the OP interpreted it. This is an interpretation that disagrees with the actual meaning of 察する in this expression as I understand it, which means "guess" only in the sense of "to correctly estimate or conjecture without proof". So, while your translation does fit as a rough culturally equivalent replacement, it seems to invite misunderstanding to mention it when the point of my answer was to explain this sense of 察する. – Hyperworm Feb 17 '13 at 15:52
@Dave M G: 察する and “guess” are superficially related. See Hyperworm’s comment. I already wrote that the true logic behind お察しいたします and “I can only guess how you feel” is very different. By the way, I am not asking for your clarification. I already gave up convincing you that coming up with pun-like translations is not a good way to learn a language. I just wanted other readers to be cautious not to be misled by your first comment. – Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 18 '13 at 15:33

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