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The difference between が and を with the potential form of a verb.

I know the difference between 見る, 見られる, and 見える. I know that 見える and 見られる are verbs expressing a potential, which means they are intransitive, and thus implies they cannot have direct objects marked using を.

How come I sometimes see を used with 見られる? (Examples on Space ALC)

For example, why is




What are the rules for using を instead of が?

marked as duplicate by Flaw, snailcar, Tsuyoshi Ito, Troyen, Ataraxia Oct 23 '12 at 19:33

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  • "I know that 見える and 見られる are verbs expressing a potential, which means they are intransitive..." This statement is simply not true, at least for 見られる. The word 見られる is not an intransitive verb. The potential form of any transitive verb is also transitive. It is identical in English to saying "I can see that place.", where "place" is the direct object. – Ataraxia Oct 23 '12 at 19:33

This is basically conjecture on my part as I don't have an authoritative answer, but from what I've observed, saying を見られる tends to place more emphasis on the seeing part whereas が見られる tends to emphasize the thing being seen, however they may be virtually interchangeable. Despite the rules on using を with potential verbs it's still something that happens pretty regularly. You also need to be careful not to mix up the potential and passive forms of 見られる, as 手紙(など)を見られた is a grammatical sentence.

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