Difference Between Look and See

Main Difference – Look vs See

Look and See are two verbs that refer to our sense of sight. In other words, they refer to the different ways of using our eyes. However, the usage of these two verbs are very specific, and they cannot be used interchangeably. The main difference between look and see is that look is an intentional action whereas see is not an intentional action. This difference will be further discussed in this article.

Look – Meaning and Usage

Look means to direct one’s gaze in a specific direction. When we look at something, we make a special effort to see something. So looking can be defined as a deliberate action. Look is much similar to the verb watch, but watching involves more effort. Looking involves concentrating your eyes on something. Thus, it is not an automatic action. This verb is generally used for things that don’t move.

Look is a regular verb that can be used both transitively and intransitively. Observe the examples below to understand the meaning and usage of this verb better.

She looked up as he entered the room.

Look at this photo. Can you recognize your parents?

They like to look at the night sky.

They looked at each other and smiled; neither spoke.

He looked around fretfully to see if someone was looking at him.

Difference Between Look and See

The man is sitting on the wall and looking at the scene below.

See – Meaning and Usage

See means to perceive with eyes. This verb refers to the action of noticing something with our eyes. Seeing something does not mean that we are intentionally directing our gaze at something. When you see something, an image simply comes into our eyes. We start to see things as soon as we open our eyes. Seeing might not be intentional or deliberate as see refers to the action of using our eyes unintentionally and automatically. Seeing is associated with things we can’t avoid.

See is an irregular verb. The past tense of this verb is saw, and the past participle is seen. See can not be used much in progressive tenses. Look at the sentences below to understand the meaning of this verb better.

I suddenly saw him running out of the house.

I can see a boat in the distance.

She was last seen wearing a light green blouse and black pants.

I saw you yesterday but didn’t have time to stop and talk.

I opened the door and saw his dog lying on the bed.

Main Difference - Look vs See

Children saw a juggler at the beach.

Difference Between Look and See


Look can be defined as directing one’s gaze in a specific direction.

See can be defined as perceiving with eyes.


Look involves an intentional effort.

See might not involve an intentional effort.

Type of Verb

Look is a regular verb.

See is an irregular verb.

Automatic Action

Look is not an automatic action.

See is an automatic action.

Progressive Tenses

Look can be used in progressive tenses.

See is not used in progressive tenses.Difference Between Look and See - infographic

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