Look, Watch & See

English has 3 often confusing verbs to describe actions you can do with your eyes. They are all describing the same thing, but are very different. So how do you decide which one to use?


Look is the most active of the three verbs and we use Look to describe the action of turning our eyes towards an object.

Generally, Look is used with the preposition AT to help you describe the Object that is in view.

‘What are you looking at?’

‘I am looking at the beautiful mountains’


And the preposition FOR to describe the action of searching for an object that is not within view.

‘What are you looking for?’

‘I am looking for my book.’


If you have to move your head or eyes towards an object, then you should be using the verb Look.

Watch is another active verb, and it is used to help you describe concentrating on a particular thing over a period of time. For example, watching a movie or a football game.

So, you would Look AT the TV but Watch a movie.


Usually, the things that you are watching are moving or constantly changing. The actors on the TV, the football players on the pitch, or the animals in the zoo.

‘When I am in Paris, I like to drink coffee outside and watch the world go by.’


See can be used to describe your ability to use your eyes.

‘I can’t see anything. It’s too dark in here.’


But it is also used to describe a more passive form of viewing objects. Look and Watch require you to focus your attention and you are an active participant in these actions.

However, See is more passive and you are not necessarily an active viewer, even though the information is received by your eyes. You may notice something with your eyes, then use the verb See to describe this action. Things that you See, tend to be only for a few moments.

‘Wow! Did you see that goal.’


There are always exceptions, but if you follow these simple rules, you will be correct most of the time.

December 6, 2019
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