See, look or watch?
Seeing happens without trying. It’s what’s visible when we use our eyes.
Please open your eyes. What can you see?
As you get older, you may not see much in dim light.
Did you see the car hit them?
Look (at) involves an effort. We’re active and often trying to perceive something.
Look at this rash on my arm!
Please look up so I can put the eye drops in.
Look both ways before crossing the street.
Watch is also active. We use it when we’re observing something that’s moving or changing over time.
Please be quiet, I’m trying to watch the operation.
I watched her bandaging my ankle.
Do you like watching horror movies?
And speaking of movies, shows and concerts, what’s the difference here?
We watched a movie last night.
We saw a movie last night.
Generally, we use watch for at home on TV, the internet and DVDs while see for going out to public performances.
In a nutshell:
He couldn’t see the clock.
= he had problems with his eyes or the clock was hidden from view
He looked at the clock.
= he wanted to know what the time was
He was watching the clock.
= he was waiting for a certain point in time to arrive
Remember these differences by making up your own catchphrases.
Sign up for email alerts and get a free taster of how we can work together to get your English unstuck.
© Christina Wielgolawski