Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Aren't they both considered correct? "Yesterday I watched a film" "Yesterday, I saw a film.'

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Yes, they are both correct and in both cases the comma is optional. To watch something is to intentionally pay attention to it for some period of time. So certainly you "watch" a movie. To have seen something just means that the thing was within your visual field. "Seeing" something can be instantaneous and unintentional. You "see" the flash of a camera, but you don't "watch" it. In the case of "seeing" or "watching" a film, I don't think either of the words is preferred over the other.

share|improve this answer

In this case, let me first paraphrase Swan's "Practical English Usage" (#368):

  • See is used when to talk about visual impressions coming to our eyes; it's not always deliberate, might be accidental; seeing could happen without you thinking about it, or even without you realising that you've done it

  • Look (at) suggests intention or concentration

  • Watch suggests intention or concentration while looking at something that is happening, changing, moving, developing.

  • While we say "watch TV", we usually use "see" with public performances of plays and films


That being said: - you can watch TV, but you can't see TV (unless in the sense of, "I saw a nice TV in the store the other day" - in which case you can't really watch it).

  • you can both watch and see movies. In some cases, the watch version may imply more of a deliberate looking than the see version:

    I saw 'Gone with the Wind' yesterday.

    I watched 'Gone with the Wind' yesterday.

  • however, note that if you're talking about movies you have seen at some point in the past (ie., you have watched them, and now you know what they're about), then "I've seen 'Gone with the Wind'" would seem a bit more natural to me than "I've watched 'Gone with the Wind'".

  • finally, if you're talking about watching a film/movie N times, you can say both "I've seen 'Gone with the Wind' 5 times" and "I've watched 'Gone with the Wind' 5 times" (and the same goes for sentences of the type "I watched/saw X for the Nth time today"), and which version you choose here is up to you.

share|improve this answer
1  
The corollary to your final point is that if you were to say "I XXXX'ed 'Gone with the Wind' for the third time yesterday", you'd be more likely to use watched than saw (but both are perfectly valid, and it would be fatuous to suggest either is "more correct" than the other). –  FumbleFingers Mar 28 at 14:02
    
Yes, I was planning on adding that comment, but then forgot :) Thanks for adding it. Will update the answer accordingly. –  Alicja Z Mar 28 at 14:04
    
Was the question really about the comma (or lack thereof), or see vs. watch? –  Phil Perry Mar 28 at 14:14
    
@PhilPerry Did you meant to post this comment on Jolene's answer? :) –  Alicja Z Mar 28 at 14:25
    
No, though it was triggered by her answer. Your answer was excellent, but hers got me to wondering just what was being asked. –  Phil Perry Mar 28 at 14:26

I would say that it depends on context. It comes back to the question of "intent" or "concentration".

So, I could say "I went to see a play". Intent (and presumably contration) are implied.

"I watched a movie." Could have been from the comfort of my own home, the use of the word watched implies intent and concentration. Had I gone to the cinema, I could have easily said "I went to see a movie".

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.