The term 捉{とら}え直{なお}す has come up in three different essays in my JLPT practise book, and I can't determine exactly what it means.

My understanding of 捉{とら}える is that it means "to catch, to capture", and my understanding of 直{なお}す is that it is "to fix, to restore". Of course, each of these has other meanings as well, but it hasn't helped me to try and consider the myriad combinations of each word's nuances.

"To capture and fix"? "To catch and restore"? The literal combination isn't very evocative.

捉{とら}え直{なお}す doesn't have a direct entry in any dictionary I've looked, nor has a Google search come up with much.

What does it mean, exactly?

Here is an example sentence where it is used (though it may be a little opaque without the rest of the essay to support it):


WIthout having clarity about 捉{とら}え直{なお}す, my attempt to translate will be half-baked, but here is a rough attempt: "Cultivating the roots of a place, in order to connect with the area, not as an emblem of the construction, the reality (existence) has to be caught and repaired."

2 Answers 2


Japanese can form compound verbs readily, and only a subset of them end up in dictionaries, usually after they've been lexicalized (reinterpreted as a single element) and especially if they've been idiomatized (given an idiomatic meaning you can't figure out from the individual elements, like 落ち着く). In particular, certain verbs compound very readily as suffixes, giving the same meaning no matter what the first verb in the compound is.

In this case, you can find the answer in EDICT under 直す, marked with the (aux-v) tag:

3: (Auxiliary verb) to do over again (after -masu base of verb);

The "-masu base of verb" in Japanese is called the 連用形, so let's look for something that attaches after the 動詞の連用形 in 大辞林's entry for 直す:





The examples mean to recalculate, to rewrite, and to redo. Based on this, what does 直す mean when you attach it to 捉え? I'd say it means to recapture.

  • I did not know about the auxillary verb as a separate dictionary entry and it's special use in compound verbs. I thought just about all compound verbs were fixed entities with their own definitions. Great tip. Thanks!
    – Questioner
    Jun 23, 2013 at 10:51

Personally I would translate the example sentence as such:

In order to settle in and connect with a place, one must perceive it afresh, not as a symbol of the architecture, but as an existence in itself.

捉え直す is made of two parts as you have mentioned. 捉える can indeed mean "to catch, to capture" but applied figuratively it also means "to perceive/comprehend" (usually in a specific way), much like how "to grasp" is applied to both tangible and intangible things in English.

Thus as snailboat has explained, the second part 直す here acts as a suffix, such that the entire phrase means "to re-perceive" or "to perceive afresh".

On a separate, slightly unrelated note, isn't the furigana for 根を生やす supposed to be ねをはやす and not こんをはやす?

  • I guess "reinterpret" could be another translation of 捉え直す. Also, it's definitely ねをはやす.
    – Earthliŋ
    Jun 23, 2013 at 15:54

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