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Which Verb to Use (Part 1): See / Look / Watch

Have you had a hard time deciding which verb to use? Do some verbs seem to have the same meaning to you? Did you finally decide to use them interchangeably? And what do you think about the following verbs: see / look / watch? Do you know how to differentiate them? Well, in this article, I’d like to talk about the differences and examples of using ‘see’, ‘look’, and ‘watch’.

First, let’s define their meaning individually:

  1. The verb ‘to see’ means seeing something or someone naturally without much thinking (in Bahasa Indonesia, we normally refer this verb to as melihat).
  2. The verb ‘to look’ means making an effort to gaze toward something or someone, and usually, it is in a specified direction (in Bahasa Indonesia, we normally refer this verb to as menatap or sometimes also melihat).
  3. The verb ‘to watch’ means to look at or observe something (or someone) attentively and typically for a period of time (in Bahasa Indonesia, we normally refer this verb to as menonton).

Based on the definition, it is clear that one should not confuse them for having the same meaning and that they cannot be used interchangeably. To make things easier to understand, let us take a look at the following examples on how each of those verbs is used:

  • To see:
  1. When I was walking down the road, I saw the beautiful hills.
  2. Can you see him wearing a bright blue shirt?
  3. Have you seen Tim? I need to talk to him about the project we’re doing this month.
  • To look:
  1. She looks at me fiercely and I’m not sure why.
  2. I’m looking at the sign and reading it out loud for the kids.
  3. I don’t have to do it again because I’ve looked at the signs and memorized them.
  • To watch:
  1. Were you watching Korean drama again? No wonder you’re always late.
  2. Have you watched their new advertisement videos? They are awesome.
  3. My father doesn’t have much to do in the morning so he usually watches news on TV.

So there you have it. There will be more articles on ‘confusing’ verbs coming and I hope they can help with your English. Happy learning!


Published at : Updated
Written By
Asih Zunaidah
Language Center Officer | BINUS Malang
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