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.

Hear and Listen

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“Do you hear that noise? I think the neighbors got a new dog.”

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“You should listen to my advice, I’ve done this before.”

Hear” and “Listen” are two very similar words that have to do with our auditory senses.


Hear” is very basic, it just means to notice a sound. It is very passive.

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“My father is hard of hearing.” (he can’t notice sounds well)


Listen” could be defined as Hear and understand/process”. It is an active skill. You are paying attention.

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“I had to listen to my professor lecture for two hours.”

The student hears the professor and uses his brain to try to understand the information.


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“I love listening to music.”

You not only notice a sound, you pay attention and enjoy it.
This is very different from:

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“I hear music”

which means you notice that there is music, as a sound, but you are not trying to process and enjoy it.


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“Are you listening to me?”

Might be something a parent or friend asks if it looks like you’re not paying attention.

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“Can you hear me?”

would be something said over a bad phone connection. You are asking if their ears can notice the sound of your voice.

“Can you eat spicy food?”

One of the most perplexing questions I get asked by Koreans is “Can you eat spicy food?” This seems like a strange question.

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The main problem is the “Can you…” part. This makes it a question of ability, not preference. “Can you fly?”, “Can you speak Chinese?”, “Can you come to my party tomorrow?”. Asking someone “Can you eat spicy food?” is like asking them “Are you able to eat spicy food?”, “Is it possible for you to eat spicy food?” This almost sounds like a challenge, as if you are questioning their abilities.

I have heard many, many foreigners complain about getting this question.
“Can you eat spicy food?” (sounds like a challenge)
“Of course I can!”
It’s much, much better to ask “Do you like spicy food?” Then the question isn’t about ability, it’s about preference. Even someone who hates spicy food can eat it.

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Personally I like spicy food. Most Korean food isn’t spicy to me, but some tastes pretty hot.

Being Stuck

Being ‘stuck’ means something is “attached” or “can’t move”. A mouse that gets caught in a glue trap is a great example of this- because of the glue it is now attached to the trap and can’t move.

We can use it for either meaning:

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attached: “The women stuck a flyer on the community billboard”
can’t move: “The fat thief tried to escape through the small window and got stuck”
We also use it for times when you aren’t literally “unable to move” but it feels that way.

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“Sorry I’m late I got stuck in a meeting.”

= I was in a meeting I didn’t want to be in, and I couldn’t escape.

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“I got stuck in traffic.”

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“She is stuck in a bad marriage.”

It has the impression of helplessness that you’re in a situation that you cannot overcome with your own power.
This is why we use it for problems as well.

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“I got stuck on a problem in my homework, it made me so frustrated I had to take a break.”

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“I’m stuck on the last level in this game, I can’t figure out how to kill the final boss.”

Abstract Places

 

 

“I’m going to Jamaica”

“I’m going home”
These two sentences are very different. In the first one Jamaica is a real specific place, an actual location and it is a noun. So we use the preposition “to”.
In the second sentence ‘home’ is not a real specific place (my home and your home are different places), it’s a more abstract idea. It operates as an adverb of place. We don’t need to use “to” because it’s an adverb that really means “in the direction of home”.
When the place you are talking about is not a single, real, specific place then we don’t use “to”.


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“I’m going home” (abstract place, different for everyone)

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“I’m going to my house.” (real place)


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“I’m going upstairs” (the direction of up)
“I’m going to the second floor” (a real place in this building)


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“I’m going abroad.” (any country other than this one)
“I’m going to Spain.” (a real place)


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“Come here.” (my “here” and your “here” are different. It’s not a real place)
“Come to this spot” (a very specific location).


Learning how to think of places as nouns or adverbs is tough, so just try your best.

Abstract nouns


It can be very hard to understand which nouns are abstract and which are concrete.


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Concrete nouns are easy. Just like the concrete we use to make buildings and roads we think of them as solid and strong.

Concrete nouns are things you can:

see (a sunset) ,

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hear (a song),

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touch (an icicle),

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smell (a fart)

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or taste (honey).

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Abstract nouns are things you can’t see, hear, touch, smell or taste.

They are ideas or concepts (time, money, freedom),

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actions (running, drinking, falling)

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and feelings (hatred, love, confusion).

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Abstract nouns are uncountable.

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Money is a concept. Dollars, Won and Yen are concrete things that represent money to people.

“I have money.”

“I have 10 dollars


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Time is an idea. Hours, days and years are measurable, real nouns that represent time to people.
“Do you have time this weekend?”

“Do you have a couple of free hours this weekend?”


Some words can be both abstract and concrete, but the meanings change.

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“I love you.” love is a concept or feeling.
“I left my love overseas” here ‘love’ refers to an actual person = the person that I love.

“I don’t have time.” time is a concept
“That happened two times.” here ‘times’ is a completely different word, = the number of occurrences.


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“I hate winter.” all winters, the concept of winter.
“I went to Europe two summers ago” we are counting a year’s summer as a period of time, not as an abstract concept.
I don’t expect you to master abstract nouns with a short audio clip. I just want you to try to start noticing them more. Mastery (an abstract quality) will come later.

Articles

Articles “a/an” and “the” are what is called basic grammar – but basic doesn’t mean easy.

English is a very exact language and that means that all nouns need a ‘determiner’ in front of them. Articles are a type of determiner. They give us information about the noun.
“The” is called the definite article. It comes before words the listener/ reader already knows. “Hey honey, the cat is on the sofa” could be a husband talking to his wife about their pet.
“A/an” is the indefinite article, it is used to describe any member of a group. “Hey honey, a cat is on the sofa” would be the husband telling the wife that one random cat out of all the cats in the world is on the sofa. This could be a problem, no one wants a random cat on their sofa.
Nouns can quickly change from indefinite to definite.
Sentence 1: A man walked into the restaurant.” indefinite: we only know that he is one of the many men in the world. His identity is unknown or unimportant.
Sentence 2: “Then the man sat down.” definite: we are talking about the man introduced in the previous sentence. We still don’t know who he is, but we know he is the same man as before.
If it was Sentence 1: A man walked into the restaurant.” then Sentence 2: “Then a man sat down.” We would be saying one man in the world walked into a restaurant and one of the men in the world sat down. There is nothing indicating they are the same.