Many English learners have a problem understanding the difference between the verbs see, look and watch. Which verb you use depends on what the object of your eyes is doing (is it still? is it moving?) and whether you are ‘looking at’ it with or without intention.
Let’s look at some examples:
I spent two hours looking at paintings.
I looked at my watch to check the time.
Don’t look at John! He doesn’t like it.
In these examples, we say look because paintings, your watch and John are not moving. We do not use look when we talk about observing moving objects.
I watched TV all evening.
I like watching the children play.
I watch the sun rise every morning.
In these examples, all the objects are moving. A TV set doesn’t move, of course, but the images on the screen do. We use watch when we look at a moving object carefully, to observe it.
In the picture above, they are watching TV.
I didn’t see you at the party last night.
I saw a car crash this morning. It was horrible.
I can’t see you. It’s too dark.
We usually use see when something comes into our sight or view by chance. We were not looking for it.