I saw this sentence:

The council-approved plan will also see Bolton Arena get a new sports hall and a residential, office and retail development built near the stadium.

I cannot find a meaning in this dictionary that would fit my example sentence. Could this be an error?

  • I don't know how to clear up you confusion better than giving you more thought-provoking examples. These are all valid sentences in English: The road runs gradually downhill. This book reads well. She will see you to the door. He can see you home. The region has seen several decades of population and economic growth. Jun 29, 2014 at 9:10

2 Answers 2


This is acceptable usage, albeit an idiomatic one. It clearly does not mean 'to see' in a literal sense, but could be reworded as follows with no change in meaning:

Also as a result of the council-approved plan, a new sports hall and a residential, office and retail development will be built near Bolton Arena.

This sense of 'see' indicates that the outcome described will occur in some way due to the role played by the subject of the verb. Unfortunately, simply substituting a definition will not help you understand this as it is idiomatic. However, hopefully my revised wording will help you understand the same meaning.

  • Is this usage so idiomatic that no dictionary definition exist?
    – meatie
    Jun 29, 2014 at 1:48
  • 1
    No, a Google search for the verb see shows 'ensure' as a meaning under #4, that basically conveys the idea. But it is idiomatic so the way it is used in context is equally important in this case.
    – Dan
    Jun 29, 2014 at 2:10
  • From the same link, there is another use of "see": "The pan for the Middlebrook area will also see the arena's outside pitches and other facilities upgraded, the stadium's West Stand main entrance and administration areas extended and more car parking added to the site," which is similar to the first original example, but slightly different. The original example is of the form "see something do something". Whereas, the present example is the form "see something done to that same something" Could the present example be using a different sense of "see"?
    – meatie
    Jun 29, 2014 at 2:36
  • @meatie possibly. I've tried explaining it in my answer. Hopefully someone else answers if this is insufficient.
    – Dan
    Jun 29, 2014 at 2:51
  • @meatie In both examples, the use of see is identical. It is the construction/form that differs. In fact, your first sentence contains both forms: The plan will also see Bolton Arena get a new sports hall. The verb "get" is in subjunctive (I think) because it is a contrary-to-fact situation. (The plan has not yet been carried out). As for the second form, first sentence has The plan will also see a residential, office and retail development built near the stadium. This is identical to your second example and its form; notice that in your second example, pan is a typo for plan.
    – user6951
    Jun 29, 2014 at 3:15

The use of see here derives from a long-established metonymy which makes the Subject of see a timespan—an age, or an era, or a century or decade—standing for everybody who was around during the timespan. The Direct Object of see is an event or development which occurred during the timespan, and therefore may be presumed to have been seen by everybody who was around during the timespan. TIMESPAN saw X is thus a literary way of saying X happened during TIMESPAN.

The Middle Ages saw a decrease in prosperity, stability and population in the first centuries of the period.

The first decade of the twentieth century saw the largest exodus of people from the former British West Indian Islands to the shores of the United States.

This is also commonly used with future timespans:

The next decade will see the job market continue to split along these lines.

The new year will see a changing of the guard in Brussels, with top posts at NATO and the major European institutions changing hands.

Common figurative expressions like this have a way of hardening into fixed phrases only very loosely connected to their original semantics. That is what has happened in your example. The author of that sentence has transferred the will see from this expression into a similar figurative expression, the bill/law/plan/&c contemplates X, meaning the authors of the bill have X in mind and intend the bill to effect X. They foresee that the bill will effect X, and it is no very great step from see to foresee.

This is slovenly writing, and I advise you not to emulate it.

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