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– to become aware of somebody/something by using your eyes
I see a black car in front of the hotel.
present simple I / you / we / they see
he / she / it sees
past simple saw
past participle seen
~ See is automatic, you do it naturally. If something is close to you, you can see it without trying. It just happens.
“I see a black car in front of the hotel.”
(The past tense of see is saw.)
“Last night I saw a black car in front of the hotel.”
“One person in the group is green. I can see him easily.”
*In English conversation it is very natural to use see for questions about movies and sports events, even though we watch them. (read the watch section below!)
“Did you see the game last night?”
“Have you seen the new Superman movie yet?”
*In English conversation we sometimes use the verb see to mean meet.
“I saw Sam last week at the gym. He told me he got a new job.” = I met Sam at the gym…
“That’s cool. I’m going to see Sam tomorrow night. He wants to talk about going fishing.” = I plan to meet Sam tomorrow…
– to look at somebody/something for a time, paying attention to what happens
Let’s watch the baseball game tonight!
present simple I / you / we / they watch
he / she / it watches
past simple watched
past participle watched
Watch means you try to see something, but watch is for a longer time. You focus in one direction for a longer time. Usually we are looking at things that are moving.
We watch TV or we watch a movie.
“Let’s go to the stadium and watch the baseball game tonight!”
*With sports events you focus on one area for a long time.
– to examine something closely (phrasal verb)
I looked at your X-ray. I’m afraid your foot is broken.
Look at means you try to see something, focus. Look at is just for a short time.
“I looked at your X-ray. I’m afraid your foot is broken.”
= I focused on your X-ray (for a short time) and unfortunately (I can see that) your foot is broken.
*If you want someone’s attention in English we often use the expression: “Hey look at this!”
“Look at my new smartphone!” = Focus on my smartphone.
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