SEE, WATCH and LOOK are all things we do with our eyes. But which verb should we use, and when? Well, it depends on a few things:

First, do we intend to focus on something? Or, did we only notice something, accidentally? Second, was the thing we were looking at still, like a statue? Or was it moving, like a theater performance? Third, were we focused on how it looked? For example, the color, the shape? Or, were we focused on how it moved? Lastly, I'll show you a few exceptions. Let's get started.

What's the difference between SEE, LOOK and WATCH? They're similar but we use them in different ways.


SEE is what you do when you open your eyes. It's one of your five senses like smell, hear, taste and feel. It's how we perceive the world around us. What do you see outside this window? I see a blue sky.  I see green hills. I see clouds. I see an airplane. And Oh! I see a bird. Hey Buddy! We SEE something without trying.  It's the thing we notice when we open our eyes. 

“Have you seen my shoes?” 

“Yes, I saw them in the hallway.” 

He wasn't trying to see them. But he noticed them.


LOOK is more active. You must want to do it. These girls are looking at the painting. He is looking at the time. We look at things that are still. Things that don't move.  For example, we look at photos. Oh, look at my cute dog! We look at monuments and buildings. We look at towers. We look at statues. They’re looking at starts. We also use LOOK when we want to focus someone's attention on something: 

“Hey look at that shooting star!”

Here's a common mistake we make with LOOK: we don’t look ON the picture, we don’t look TO the picture. Look the picture? No that's not right. “Look AT the picture” is correct.


We WATCH things that move. We watch things that entertain us, like fireworks. We watch things for a longer time than we look at them. We use WATCH when we want to focus on the time we spend watching something. I watched the monkey all afternoon. We watch TV because the people on TV are moving. We watch videos on our computers. We watch people perform at the circus and on the street.


There's a small difference between SEE and WATCH when we are talking about films or performances. It depends on where we watch them—at home or in the theater. If we are at the cinema, or the theater, we use SEE. But if we are at home, we use WATCH.

“We saw a great film last night.”

“Have you seen Shakespeare’s Hamlet?”

“We’re going to see an action film tonight.”

“We watched Jurassic Park last night at home.”

“Did you watch TV before you went to bed?”


There's also a small difference between LOOK and WATCH. We can say, "Look at that plane in the sky!" when we want to focus someone's attention on the color, the size, the shape, or the existence of the plane. Basically, we are saying: There's a plane. You should look at it.

But if we are at an airshow and the planes are flying in amazing ways, we would say, “Watch that plane, it's flying upside down!”

Another example. If I said, “Look at that woman, she looks like my sister,” I want you focus on her appearance. Her hair, her eyes, her clothes. But if I said, “Watch that woman lift weights, she’s so strong,” I am focusing your attention on her activity, not her appearance.

“Look at that man’s silly mustache.”

I want you to focus on his appearance.

“Watch him juggle, I hope he doesn’t drop the balls.” 

I want you to focus on his activity.

See you next week!