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Children Actually Get This Right

When I was a child,  friends very often would want whatever it was I was holding. They would say, “Let me see that.” I always knew see referred to the eyes and vision, so I would hold up the object so my friend could get a better look. Later, I realized see also referred to understanding and mental awareness, but I would still not give the object to my friend. To me, my friend needed to at least say, “Let me have that.”

Adults seem to know better, for they rarely ask to see something when they mean have; children, on the other hand, use it freely and often. Maybe it’s because their vocabulary is so small. Maybe they hear their friends use it that way and copy them. Regardless, adults know to ask to pass something.

I was reminded of this today as I drove my daughter to school. I held her CD case as I put the CD into the car’s player. My daughter asked for the case by asking “Can I see that?”

Being the smartass I am, I held it up before giving it to her. Then it dawned on me: Misusing see would make a good blog post.

So I sat down to write it but first checked my dictionary. I read through the 17 definitions referring to vision and understanding before coming to the first definition of see as an intransitive verb:

To give or pay attention.

I couldn’t believe it. My kid — and my childhood friends — with limited vocabulary, actually had been using see correctly all this time.

So, I said goodbye to being a smartass when anyone asks if they can see something I’m possessing.

Until next time! Use the right words!



August 21, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Hmmmmm. When saying “Can I see that?” see is a transitive verb, not an intransitive verb. In addition, you might address the use of “Can I…” where it should be “May I please…”


    Comment by Anne Davies | August 21, 2012 | Reply

    • My Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary lists it as the first definition under vi.


      Comment by usingtherightwords | August 21, 2012 | Reply

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