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Source - The Hungry Tide

It seemed to him that he had not till this moment been able to see her for the person she was.

I can't understand the meaning and usage of "for the person she was". Yet I guess it means that "He was not able to see her real self". Am I right? I need the explanation. Thanking you in advance.

  • Are you certain it's “had” and not “had not”? – Tyler James Young Jan 31 '14 at 15:58
  • Sorry it's a typo. It is "had not". – Man_From_India Jan 31 '14 at 16:05
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I think you're completely right. "The person you are" can refer to personality, feelings, opinions, really anything that makes up the identity of a person.

It would be equally valid to say:

...to see her for who she really was.

Which is possibly a bit easier to understand.

  • What is the meaning of "for" here. I have checked the dictionary for the meaning of "for", but no definition seems to go along the intended meaning conveyed here in this case. – Man_From_India Jan 31 '14 at 16:06
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    Check definition 6 A. – JMB Jan 31 '14 at 16:37
  • No problem. Glad to help. – JMB Jan 31 '14 at 16:43
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You are correct. This is basically a fixed phrase, but I think it is somewhat logical anyway.

In my mind, the emphasis is on “person” (not that you would stress that word when saying this).

. . . he had not [. . .] been able to see her for the person she was.

The word “person” is meant as a total encapsulation of identity; someone fully formed, no longer a façade or vaguely perceived stranger.


“See [subj] for [quality]” is a common construction, but it uses a sense of “for” that really only survives in various fixed phrasings (where it basically means “as”). The most common of these is “taken for granted” which means that something is treated (or perceived) as if it were granted (or already a given).

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