Difference between See and Watch

Key Difference: The difference is that seeing in unintentional. You ‘see’ because that is what your eyesight is for. However, ‘watching’ is what we do intentionally. It is when you are looking out for something, with or without expectation.

Both ‘see’ and ‘watch’ are actions you do with your eyes. You see out the window. You watch for the newspaper delivery boy. So what’s the difference? The difference is that seeing in unintentional. You ‘see’ because that is what your eyesight is for. However, ‘watching’ is what we do intentionally. It is when you are looking out for something with or without expectation.

For example:

You see out the window. – You can see out the window, as the window is there, you can see it. However, you are not looking out for something specific. You are just looking through it because you can.

You watch for the newspaper delivery boy. – You are doing this intentionally. You are looking out for the newspaper delivery boy, because you are waiting for him to deliver the newspaper, so you may read it. You are watching to see if he shows or not, or if he is late.

According to Dictionary.com, the definition of ‘see’ is:

  • To perceive with the eyes; look at.
  • To view; visit or attend as a spectator: to see a play.
  • To perceive by means of computer vision.
  • To scan or view, especially by electronic means: The satellite can see the entire southern half of the country.
  • To perceive (things) mentally; discern; understand: to see the point of an argument.
  • To construct a mental image of; visualize: He still saw his father as he was 25 years ago.
  • To accept or imagine or suppose as acceptable: I can't see him as president.
  • To be cognizant of; recognize: to see the good in others; to see where the mistake is.
  • To foresee: He could see war ahead.
  • To ascertain, learn, or find out: See who is at the door.
  • To have knowledge or experience of: to see service in the foreign corps.
  • To make sure: See that the work is done.
  • To meet and converse with: Are you seeing her at lunch today?
  • To receive as a visitor: The ambassador finally saw him.
  • To visit: He's gone to see his aunt.

Dictionary.com defines ‘watch’ as:

  • To be alertly on the lookout, look attentively, or observe, as to see what comes, is done, or happens: to watch while an experiment is performed.
  • To look or wait attentively and expectantly (usually followed by for): to watch for a signal; to watch for an opportunity.
  • To be careful or cautious: Watch when you cross the street.
  • To keep awake, especially for a purpose; remain vigilant, as for protection or safekeeping: to watch with a sick person.
  • To keep vigil, as for devotional purposes.
  • To keep guard: She was assigned to watch at the door.

Further examples of ‘see’:

  • He tried posting an unimaginable array of things, to see whether the post office would deliver them.
  • I saw Joe yesterday.
  • Suddenly I saw something strange.
  • I can see an elephant.
  • I can see the sign for a Chinese restaurant down the street. Let’s have lunch there.
  • You were supposed to stop the car. Didn’t you see the stop sign?
  • I saw a really nice coat in the window of ABC department store. I want to buy it.

Further examples of ‘watch’:

  • All claim to scrutinize every possible angle of the cases of condemned persons facing execution under their watch.
  • Did you watch the football match yesterday?
  • What are you doing? I am watching the TV serial.
  • Watch him – I am certain he is up to something.
  • Don’t spend too much time watching TV.
  • I watched a DVD with my friend last night.
  • I like to sit by the window at this cafe and watch people walking around outside.
  • My science teacher asked us to watch an experiment he was performing.

Image Courtesy: galatiansfour.blogspot.in, thehockeyjunkies.blogspot.in

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