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See, Look or Watch?

See, look and watch are verbs that we use to talk about our sense of sight - using our eyes. But they have important differences in meaning.

See

We use see to mean simply that an image comes into our eyes. It may not be deliberate. As soon as we open our eyes, we see things.

  • I can see a cloud in the sky.
  • I suddenly saw a bird fly in front of me.
  • Didn't you see Ram? He was waving at you.

Look (at)

When we look, we try to see. We make a special effort. We concentrate our eyes on something.

  • Look! It's snowing!
  • Look at this photo! Isn't it beautiful?
  • I'm looking but I don't see it.
When we use look with an object, we say look + at + object, for example:
John looked at Mary.

Watch

With the verb watch, we are much more active. Watch is like look, but requires more effort from us. We watch things that are going to move, or change in some way. And we watch the movements and changes.

  • The police decided to watch the suspected murderer rather than arrest him immediately. They hoped he would lead them to the body.
  • I like watching motor racing on TV.
  • If you watch that egg for long enough you'll see it hatch.
Watch or See for movies, concerts, TV etc?
In general, we use see for public performances and watch for television at home.
  • We're going to see George Clooney's latest movie at the cinema tonight.
  • We saw the All Blacks beat Wales in Cardiff last year.
  • Did you ever see Michael Jackson live on stage?
  • Have you seen that Gaddafi video on YouTube?
  • Last night we stayed home and watched some films on TV.
  • When I'm bored I play a few DVDs and watch them on my computer.

See, Look or Watch Quiz >

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