Watch, Look or See? How to use these English verbs

Do you know when to say look or see in English? What’s the difference? And do we see a movie or watch a movie? Learn how we use the English verbs look, see and watch in this video.

Click here to learn how we use look in the expression looks like.
Click here to learn how we use the verbs listen and hear.
Click here to learn more about English sense verbs.

Watch Look or See video script

Can you see anything?
No. No. No. No. No.

What are you doing?
Don’t look. It’s a secret.

Vicki said she’d meet me here, but I don’t know where she is. Hello. Where are you?
I’m over here by the statue.
Oh, I see you now.

When we see something our eyes pick it up. It happens naturally, whether we’re paying attention or not.

Wow, these cookies smell great.
I know. I made them for the kids. Hey, I saw that.

‘See’ is an irregular verb: see – saw – seen.

Have you seen the story about the robbery on Chestnut Street?
No.
Take a look at it.
Oh.

So what’s the difference between seeing and looking? Seeing is an unconscious act.
We don’t think about it or want to do it. We just open our eyes and it happens.
Looking is intentional. We decide to look.

Do we have any salt?
Yes, it’s in the cabinet.
But…. I’m looking but I don’t see it.

We use ‘look’ when we’re giving something our attention. Concentrating. Trying to see.

Could you look at this contract for me and see if it’s OK?
Sure.
Thank you.

Hi, can I help you?
Erm, no thanks. I’m just looking.
No problem.

Looking is similar to watching. We generally watch things that move or change.
So we watch games and matches. We watch a show. And we watch television, or not.

Ah, I can’t watch. It’s too scary.
Right.

So we might look at something for just a short time, but we generally watch things for a period of time.
So let’s recap. ‘See’ – what happens when you open your eyes. ‘Look’ – what happens when you open your eyes and pay attention.
And ‘watch’ – what we do for periods of time. And that’s it. So why not watch some more of our videos now?

There’s that man I was telling you about. Don’t look. He’s gone. Did you see him?
You told me not to look!

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.
Click here to learn how we use look in the expression looks like.
Click here to learn how we use the verbs listen and hear.
Click here to learn more about English sense verbs.

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