Would one of sees and looks at be more appropriate for this particular context (and if yes, why?) or are they interchangeable?

Nina is standing at a sink desperately trying to wash the wine stains off her dress when a woman enters the bathroom. Nina sees/looks at her spotless dress.

Nina: Can I buy your dress?

Woman: Excuse me?

Nina: Can I buy your dress? How much do you want?

2 Answers 2


It's a matter of agency. Generally, look [at] is a deliberate act, whereas see is merely a consequence of an object being in view.

The word 'see' does get misused, though: People say Come and see this! when, technically, they should say Come and look at this!.


This is only my intuition but I understand that

In Nina sees the dress the emphasis lies on the action of seeing.

In Nina looks at the dress the emphasis is on the fact that during this action something makes her think and make a decision which is made clear in the rest of your context.

If i were the author, I would prefer to use looks at, it is more intense.

  • 3
    You can see something by chance if you happen to turn your eyes towards it, but you can only look at something deliberately. Dec 8, 2020 at 15:43

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