See, look at and watch

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To see is to use your eyes in order to recognize things. We can see things even if we are not paying attention.

See can also mean understand.

We do not normally use the continuous form of see with this meaning.

However, continuous forms of see can be used to talk about future arrangements.

Look (at)

To look at something is to try to see what is there. It involves paying attention. Note that we can see something, even if we don’t want to see it. However, we can only look at something deliberately.

When look has an object, it is normally followed by the preposition at.

When there is no object, we use look without a preposition.

The use of the preposition is optional when look is followed by a wh-clause.


Watching involves paying attention and in that sense it is like look at. We watch things that change or develop.

Watch is normally used with TV.

Both watch and see can be used to talk about films and TV programs.

See if / whether

See can be followed by an if-clause or a whether-clause. Look and watch cannot be used in this way.

See also

say and tell
See, look at and watch
Sensible and sensitive
What is a sentence?
Shade and shadow
She is ill and she has been ill: difference
Should in subordinate clauses
Since and for
Since as an adverb and a conjunction
Since, as, because and so
Subject - verb agreement: basic rules
Such and such...that

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