Look at, See and Watch


Look at”, “See” and “Watch” are all very similar verbs, but we use them differently.


See” is very passive. It just means to notice something with your vision. It doesn’t require any effort.
“I saw Tom at the party, but I didn’t say hello.”

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“It is so dark I can’t see anything”

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Look at” is active and involves some effort. You are seeing + concentrating for a reason, and paying attention.
Look at that beautiful sunset.”

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“Stop looking at my chest.”

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Watch” is where you look at some action that is happening (usually something is moving or changing) for a period of time.
“I watch TV every night.”

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“I watched the ballerina spin.”

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Exceptions (advanced)

Sometimes people will say

“I watched a movie” or “I saw a movie”
“Do you want to watch a musical?” or “Do you want to see a musical?”

In these cases “watch” and “see” are both okay.
That is because the nouns “movie” and “musical” are always moving actions that happen.
If you see it, you watch it.

But TV is different.
“I watched TV” = “I watched a TV show” = the event

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I watch TV in bed.

“I saw a TV” – “I saw a television set” = the thing

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I saw a TV in the room.

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