What is the difference between "look", "see", and "watch"?

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3

When should I use "look", "see", and "watch"?

I'm watching "Star Trek".
Have you seen "Star Trek"?

Are the examples above correct?

bytebuster

Posted 2013-01-25T20:04:02.940

Reputation: 7 759

Answers

18

Here are some simple rules that will help deciding which word to use:

  • See is used as inactive word; you just see without any effort:

    • you have visual impression: "I can see my home over there", "I see trees of green"
    • you understand: "I see what you mean"
  • Look is used as active word, you make an effort to see:

    • you try to see: "look at this!" (maybe you have to turn your head or stand up)
    • you pay an attention: "to look for a baby"
    • you search for something: "you can look up the word in the dictionary"
  • Watch is also an active word; you also make an effort, but it is for a longer period of time:

    • "I'm watching "Star Trek", "I like to go to a zoo and watch tigers playing"
    • pay attention: Watch the kittens as they may run away.

Here's an example demonstrating the difference:

I'm looking, but I don't see it.

Back to examples:
I'm watching "Star Trek" — it is a continuous action;
Have you seen "Star Trek"? — it is a question if you ever seen it at all, or do you know about it;
It can be also formulated: Have you watched "Star Trek" all night?, and it will mean that you have spent all night watching a movie.

See also: (1), (2).

bytebuster

Posted 2013-01-25T20:04:02.940

Reputation: 7 759

So can you watch a picture or a statue? – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2015-03-28T19:22:38.737

To watch a picture or statue sounds strange. You look at it, you don't watch it. "Have you seen "Star Trek"? — it is a question if you [have] ever seen it at all, or do you know about it." So in this case, it's best to ask, "Have you ever watched 'Star Trek?'" – Susie Q. – 2016-06-28T14:06:58.837

'+1', Nice answer. I was looking for the difference, and find your answer :-) – user31782 – 2014-05-27T02:21:54.117

3and "I looked at the screen to see what John was watching." – SF. – 2013-01-26T13:28:44.730