1 : Je te voyais pas pleurer de joie, remarque.

= "It’s not like I’d expected you to cry with joy."

2 : Je le vois mal réussir sans notre aide.

= "I can’t picture/imagine him succeed without our help."

In these two sentences, the verb « voir » means "expect/imagine/picture" – in other words, "see something in your mind, not with your eyes".

My question is: How do you distinguish this specific use of « voir » from its more usual meaning "see something physically with your eyes"? I wonder if this « voir » usage isn't somewhat ambiguous?

I mean, won't the interlocutor misconstrue the two sentences as:

1 : "It’s not like I saw you crying with joy." {see with my eyes}

2 : "I don’t/won’t see him succeed without our help." {see with my eyes}

  • I don't think you can ever have a confusion between the two. Even in contexts where the two are close, it just shows why the verb has the double meaning :) By the way there is no private message on SE so I'll try here : 1. Your profile says "here my email : " but there's no address, and 2. you profile pic disappeared and I don't know why :( – Teleporting Goat Nov 25 '16 at 15:24
  • @TeleportingGoat Hi. No particular reason, actually. Just a change of scenary. :) I hadn't noticed about removing my address from there, by the way. Quite unwittingly, I might add. I just put it back, so feel free to contact me for any PM. :) – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Nov 25 '16 at 17:44

One simple answer : context.

This meaning could be ambiguous of course. If so, you should ask for clarification or provide/search for more context.


Same issue in English "I don’t see him succeed/succeeding without our help" is likely to imply expectation rather than sight with your eyes.

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