See, Look, or Watch?

The Quick Answer
What is the difference between see, look, and watch?

To see means to perceive through the eyes. For example:
  • I see you.
To look means to apply the ability to see. For example:
  • I will look for you in the shop.
To watch means to pay attention to something you are seeing (usually something that is moving). For example:
  • I watched the sunrise.

See, Look, or Watch?

The verbs to see, to look, and to watch are closely related, but there are subtle differences.


The verb to see means to perceive without your eyes. In other words, it means to be conscious of your surroundings using your eyes. For example:
  • I saw you waving at me.
  • I see a ship on the horizon.
Of note, to see can also mean to understand (e.g., I see what you mean).


The verb to look means to deliberately apply the ability to see. In other words, it means to make a conscious effort to see something. To look is usually followed by at or for. For example:
  • Look at the beading on her wedding dress.
  • I am looking for my car keys.


The verb to watch means to observe something deliberately. It is similar to to look, but it implies more effort. It means to look at something carefully (usually at something that is moving). For example:
  • The policemen watched their suspect for half an hour.
  • I watch the news every morning before work.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited and printed to create exercise worksheets.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose?
What are nouns? List of easily confused words