Difference Between Look and See


Main Difference

The main difference between Look and See is that Look is to focus your eyes in a particular direction, whereas See is noticing something using your eyes.

Look vs. See

Look means to direct our eyes on something or someone and pay attention to it, whereas see is defined as glancing something that comes into our sight without particular attention. Look is a voluntary action. On the other hand, see is an involuntary action.

Look is an intentional act, which means that we pay special attention to something with our will. On the other hand, see is an unintentional act, which means to notice or observe something casually without our will. We look with care and attention to full detail, whereas we see without care and attention to full detail.


When we look at something or someone, we try to see forcefully and concentrate on the object. On the flip side, we see something when an image comes before our eyes, and it may not be deliberate. Look cannot be used when we are talking about sports, matches, or public performances, which may include films, theatres, and dramas, etc. On the other hand, see can be used with sports and entertainment.

When look is used with an object, “to” is used after look, whereas when we use see with an object, “to” is not used. Look is used to state an object specifically. On the other hand, see is used to make simple statements.


Look can be used to describe an action, while see is used to manifest that experience has completed. We use look in progressive actions, but we don’t use see in progressive actions.

Comparison Chart

A voluntary action of concentrating your eyes on something is called look.An involuntary action of noticing and casually observing things is called see.
RequiredNot required
Regular verbIrregular verb
Automatic Action
Not an automatic actionAn automatic action
Progressive Tense
Can be used in progressive tensesCannot be used in progressive tenses
Way of Perceiving
Directing gaze in a specific directionPerceiving with eyes
Relation with Facts
Not related to factsRelated to facts
Past Tense
Past Participle
I was just looking at this artistic piece of nature.Mary saw me at the party yesterday.

What is Look?

Look means to intentionally concentrate over something and pay attention to its details over time. Look is a regular verb that can be used transitively or intransitively, which means that it can convey its meaning with or without an object.

Look is not a programmed or unconscious action. Looking can be defined as a deliberate action that gives full information about the object. This verb can be used for progressive actions but generally is not used for moving things.


  • Goggling: Looking with astonishment is called goggling.
  • Examining: Observing, noticing, and looking over carefully is called examining.
  • Scrutinizing: Inspecting carefully for accuracy is called scrutinizing.
  • Gazing: Constant looking for a long time is called gazing.
  • Gawking: Looking with amazement is called gawking.
  • Observing: Looking attentively is called observing.
  • Beholding: Seeing with attention is called beholding.
  • Leering: Looking suggestively and obliquely is called leering.
  • Scowling: Looking with displeasure is called scowling.
  • Ogling: Staring or looking with romantic intentions is called ogling.


  • Alina looked up as Haris entered the lounge hastily.
  • Look at this picture. Can you recognize me here?
  • I like to look at the moon at night when everyone is asleep.
  • The lovely couple just looked at each other’s eyes and smiled.
  • Ali looked around furtively to see if someone had watched him stealing the gold and the money.
  • Just look at the rain. See how heavily it’s raining.
  • I am trying to look at the tower, but I do not see anything.

What is See?

See means to observe the surrounding from eyes. An image forming in front of the eyes and noticing the scene with eyes is called seeing. It is not a gaze or an intentional act of focusing on something. It is related to the things we cannot escape.

The word “See” refers to the automatic visualizing of events. It is not as deliberate as look. See is not a regular verb. This irregular verb cannot be used for progressive tenses or moving things. “Saw” is marked as the past tense of see, whereas “Seen” is considered the past participle of see.


  • Frowning: Making angry facial expressions or looking at something displeasantly is called frowning.
  • Blinking: Rapid opening and closing of eyes are called blinking.
  • Winking: Partly closing of one eye showing something as a joke is called winking.
  • Glancing: Taking a quick look at something or someone is called glancing.
  • Glimpsing: Seeing someone for a very short interval is called glimpsing.
  • Gaping: Seeing something with your mouth opened in amusement and bewilderment is called gaping.
  • Staring: Looking constantly at something or someone for a long duration is called staring.
  • Peeping: Seeing something furtively and secretively trying not to be disclosed is called peeping.
  • Peering: Looking at something carefully, which is not clear before your eyes are called peering.
  • Squinting: Looking with partly closed eyes is called squinting.


  • I can see white clouds all over the sky.
  • Did you see Ryan? I think he was waiting for you in the bar.
  • Ahmad saw her running out of her house wildly.

Key Differences

  1. Look is defined as to ponder about something in a deliberate manner using your eyes, whereas see is defined as casual visual perception of things using your eyes.
  2. Looking is a regular verb. On the other hand, seeing is an irregular verb.
  3. We can use the word “look” transitively or intransitively. Conversely, see is used transitively only.
  4. Look is gazing in a particular direction to show your concern, whereas see is just about noticing and observing the surroundings without any concern.
  5. Looking is a voluntary action, which is under our conscious control. Contrarily, seeing is an involuntary action, which is not under our conscious control.
  6. To look, we force our eyes to focus on the object. On the flip side, to see, there is no need to force your eyes in a specific direction to concentrate or chew over something.
  7. Look can be used for progressive actions, which means that it can describe things in motion. In contrast, see cannot be used for progressive actions, which means it cannot describe the motion of things.
  8. The past tense of look is not changed and remains the same. On the other hand, the past tense of see is changed to “saw.”
  9. The past participle of look remains unchanged, whereas the past participle of see is changed to “seen.”
  10. The preposition “to” is used when look is used with an object, while no preposition is used when see is used with an object.


Look refers to elaborated, inspectional, and thoughtful visualization of things, whereas see refers to the unintentional, casual, and thoughtless visual perception of things. Look involves an intentional willingness, while see involves an automatic response.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson