see - look at - watch

see - look at - watch
When you see something, you are aware of it through your eyes, or you notice it.

We saw the black smoke rising over the barbed wire.

We suddenly saw a boat.

See entry at ↑ see.
'look at'
When you look at something, you direct your eyes towards it.

He looked at the food on his plate.

People looked at her in astonishment.

See entry at ↑ look.
When you watch something, you pay attention to it using your eyes, because you are interested in what it is doing, or in what may happen.

He watched the newt with interest.

After watch you can use an infinitive without `to' or you can use an `-ing' form. You use an infinitive without `to' when you are referring to a complete event or action.

He watched her climb into a compartment.

You use an `-ing' form when you are referring to an action that was continuing to take place.

They watched Sheila driving around in her yellow car.

If you go somewhere in order to look at something or watch something, you can say that you go to see it.

He went to India to see the Taj Mahal.

We went to the zoo to see the giant pandas.

entertainment and sport
Both see and watch are used when you are talking about entertainment or sport.
When you go to the theatre or cinema, you say that you see a play or film.

I saw `Dear Brutus' on its first night in 1917.

We saw Greta Garbo in `Queen Christina'.

You do not say that someone `looks at' or `watches' a play or film.
You say that someone watches television. However, you can say that someone watches or sees a particular programme.

He spends several hours watching television.

...a rugby match he watched on television.

I saw it on television after the news.

Similarly you say that someone watches a sport such as football, but that they watch or see a particular match.

More people are watching cricket than ever before.

I'd sooner go out with a gun than watch a football match.

...those of us who saw England's defeat at Wrexham.


Useful english dictionary. 2012.

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