I have a question about the specific usage of 見えます and 見られます.

As already explained on the net, 見えます is used when something is visible to the speaker or comes into view. 見られます is used instead, when the speaker wants to express that he/she "is able to see smth", like a movie in a theater. I hope I did get that correct?

I'm now struggling with a small, but tricky sentence and I just can't wrap my head around it. It is, translated from German into English:

From the (train) station, the fireworks can be seen, but from my house, they can not be seen.

I have translated this into:


I think this sentence is tricky, because the speaker both has the potential to "be able to see" them, when the time comes, but he/she will also be able to see them directly once they happen, so I am unsure of which form to use. If they were happening right now (which I don't get the feeling they are), I would have gone for 見えます, but as you can see, I decided for 見られます. I hope someone can further explain why that is, or is not, the case and why the other form can't be used.

1 Answer 1


I don't think your assumption about 見えます/見られます is correct. They are usually interchangeable, and they both describe the ability ("to be able to see") and the visibility ("to be visible"). See also: 「星が見えない=Stars can't be seen」 but 「目が見えない=Eyes can't see」, why?

When in doubt, you can stick to 見える, because 見られる is long and tends to have a passive meaning today.

  • 駅からは花火が見られますが、家からは見られません。
  • 駅からは花火が見えますが、家からは見えません。

These two sentences are both perfectly correct, and mean the same thing. Personally, I always say the latter. The ら抜き version, 見れる, is also common in casual settings, although it's nonstandard and must be avoided in formal settings:

  • 駅からは花火が見れますが、家からは見れません。
  • 図書館が見えてきた needs to be 見える, right? May 31, 2020 at 2:05
  • @DariusJahandarie Yes. (見られるようになってきた is fine but usually too long.)
    – naruto
    Jun 1, 2020 at 2:41
  • Thanks. 星が見える日 also strikes me as a place where only 見える is usable, or at least better (because you’re talking about the visibility of the stars more so than the ability of someone to see them), unlike 星が見える場所 which works fine with 見れる too (since in this case it’s “place (you) can see (the stars) from”). Sorry to go long in your comments btw. Jun 1, 2020 at 2:52

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