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According to goo, We can say 「彼を訪ねる」 but not 「彼を訪れる」 and we should instead say 「彼の家を訪れる」if we use the verb 訪れる. Does it have a nuance? Does it open the doors to another interpretation(visiting his house instead of visiting him for example)?

I know this classification is debatable, but 訪れる is JLPT 1 and 訪ねる is JLPT 4 on jisho.org, is 訪れる more formal or rare than 訪ねる?

2 Answers 2

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Regarding frequency first, 訪れる is roughly three times more common than 訪ねる on BCCWJ. 訪れる is seven times more common if we limit the results to Yahoo! blog/chiebukuro articles, which indicates 訪ねる is even less common in relatively casual written materials. I personally think you should master 訪れる first. But 訪ねる is not uncommon at all, and you may have to learn it before JLPT 1 level.

IMHO, ~を訪れる is a neutral word usable in business settings and other everyday situations. You can also say ~に訪れる. (Note that 訪ねる is not a keigo and you often have to use honorific いらっしゃる or humble 伺う/お邪魔する instead.)

On the other hand, when an object is a place name, I feel ~を訪ねる is a rather literary and somewhat "nostalgic" term typically used with historical attractions (石川啄木ゆかりの地を訪ねる), one's hometown (母校を訪ねる), temples/shrines (東北の神社を訪ねる旅), etc. Using it with nearby modern facilities (e.g. 駅前のクリニックを訪ねる) is fine in stiff novels, but it can sound a little off in ordinary blog articles and such.

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  • Thanks for the answer but I have the impression that this part of the question is not addressed?=> "We can say 「彼を訪ねる」 but not 「彼を訪れる」 and we should instead say 「彼の家を訪れる」if we use the verb 訪れる. Does it have a nuance? Does it open the doors to another interpretation(visiting his house instead of visiting him for example)?"
    – Jirei
    Aug 8, 2018 at 8:00
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    @Jirei 彼を訪れる is plain ungrammatical. 彼を訪ねる and 彼の[家/職場/学校]を訪れる are usually interchangeable, but of course you cannot say 彼を訪ねる if 彼 is a dead/missing person. I think there's nothing unsurprising here.
    – naruto
    Aug 8, 2018 at 8:11
  • Maybe there is a little typo when you say "one's hometown (母校...".
    – Tommy
    Aug 9, 2018 at 7:53
  • @naruto I agree that 彼を訪れる sounds a little funny, but ジーニアス和英辞典 contains the example sentence 私は友人[友人のアパート]を訪れた, suggesting that a person can indeed be the object. I also found several examples in Weblio where the object was 私たち or 叔父, etc. I'm trying to figure out if my gut reaction reflects a real thing (that 訪れる more typically takes a location) or simply some internal bias. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts here. Apr 10, 2020 at 21:55
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    @どっかのおっさん I wouldn't say 友人を訪れる is wrong but it sounds a little unnatural to me. 友人の家を訪れる is much more common.
    – naruto
    Apr 14, 2020 at 1:38
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訪ねる is informal, can be considered as just one of a set of actions, and contains an implied purpose for visiting:

オバマさんが、広島を訪ね, 慰霊碑に献花した。
Mr Obama visited Hiroshima and laid flowers at the Memorial (implying perhaps he visited to pay his respects???).

With the informal 訪ねる, it's likely "visiting your friend's house" is contracted to "visiting your friend" in everday usage as your listener expects from the verb that your friend will be at home。 If you were catching up with your friend elsewhere, you would more likely state the location, use a verb such as 会う, and say something to the effect that "you are going to 'meet' your friend at a cafe".

訪れる is more polite and 訪問する more formal and are used when there is an explicit purpose for visiting a place:

米国のオバマ大統領は広島を訪問した... 「核なき世界」の理想を追い求める決意を強調した。
The President of the United States, Mr Obama, visited Hiroshima... (explicitly) emphasizing his pursuit of the ideal of a 'nuclear-free world'.

[Examples are from the 2017 News Kentei Guide]

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