Let’s start with look and see.
The fundamental difference between these two verbs is the intention behind them.
Seeing is «unintentional.» Meaning, I may see things even when I do not want to or am not trying to.
Looking is «intentional.» Meaning I am focusing my attention on something.
So, if I am looking AT you, I am focusing my attention on you, but that does not mean I will not see other things that are moving and taking place around me.
To have a clearer idea of this, imagine a camera lens. When you take a photo you capture everything that enters in the frame. Some things may be in focus and others may be out of focus. You can still see everything in the image, but you are looking at (focusing) on one specific thing.
To watch is a bit different. The verb «watch» means you are looking at something as it moves through time; you are staring at something for a prolonged amount of time.
I watch the television, a soccer game, a movie…
You can watch the clock but you can also look at the clock. The difference is, if I look at the clock I do so for an instant, long enough to see the hour. If I watch the clock, I sit staring at the clock as the second and minute hands move.
Then of course there are dozens of phrases like «watch out» meaning be careful or «look for» meaning to search for something.
Look can be used to describe the appearance of things. For example, «It looks like it will be a beautiful day.» «You look really pretty today.»
It takes some getting used to but with time, you will find, these three verbs are easier than you think!
Can you complete the following exercises with the appropriate verb?
I cannot ____________________. It is so foggy today.
Denise lost her keys. She has been_______________ for them for hours.
Did you_____________the movie last night?
_______________ at me when I am speaking to you!
When you are traveling, you must ___________________ out for pickpockets.
I look forward to ________________ you tomorrow.
It ______________ like it might rain, doesn’t it?
Hey, what’s wrong? You ________________ really unhappy.