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This sentence comes from my JLPT practise book in a section explaining the use of 解{と}く:

練習{れんしゅう}問題{もんだい}は答{こた}えを見{み}ないで、自分{じぶん}で解{と}いてください。

I get that 解{と}く means to "unravel" or "solve", but the sentence seems to be saying "When you can't see the answer to the practise questions, solve it yourself."

Which seems odd conceptually to me, because I can't really imagine a situation in which someone needs to be looking up answers for questions they could solve anyway.

So I'm wondering if there's something about 解{と}く that I'm not getting. Or perhaps some other part of the sentence.

What does the sentence mean, and how does 解{と}く play into it?

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Perhaps because what you think you didn't know does not coincide with what you actually didn't know. If the question was retitled to make ~ないで the scope of the question then it would make more sense. –  Flaw Nov 25 '11 at 11:02

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

It means "Try to solve it without looking at the answers" 見ないで doesn't mean "when you can't see", it's a negative command/encouragement.

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Oh! Of course. Now that you point it out it seems obvious. I feel a little silly now... –  Dave M G Nov 25 '11 at 4:06
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@Sam Agree with your first sentence, disagree with your second one ("it's a negative command"). This 見ないで is equivalent to 見ずに, not 見るな. –  Hyperworm Nov 25 '11 at 18:08
    
@Hyperworm I disagree that is not a command. In absence of context it can both be "without ~" and also can be a command. Negative commands are of the forms 連体形 + な, 未然形 + ないで, 連用形 + なさるな, お + 連用形 + なさらないで, お + 連用形 + なさいますな. In increasing order of politeness/formality. But I agree that for this particular case it is more likely to be the "without ~" rather than the command. –  Flaw Nov 26 '11 at 16:11
    
I know that 見ないで can be a command; I said this 見ないで (meaning, in this particular case). If I've misunderstood you I apologize. :) –  Hyperworm Nov 26 '11 at 18:36

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