I am thinking often which to say.

Can I go see my shoes?


Can I go look at my shoes?

The above is just an example, what I am asking is what's the difference between look at and see...

I wonder which is more preferred, and why? What's the different meaning of these two sentences...

  • If you look towards something, but something else gets in the way, you might not be able to see the thing.
    – The Photon
    Dec 24 '20 at 5:04
  • Of these examples, I would prefer look at, because I would use go and see for going to meet a person. Dec 24 '20 at 9:09

Neither of your examples makes much sense.

If you are asking about the difference between “see” and “look at,” they have overlapping fields of meaning. You cannot, except figuratively, look at anything that you cannot physically see. But you may physically see something without looking at it.

To “look at” in a non-figurative sense means to focus mental attention on something that you can physically see. If I am lying in bed at night, I may see my feet while I am looking at the cat sleeping beside my feet. “Looking at the cat” means that I am paying attention to the cat rather than to other things that are impinging on my retina at the same time such as my feet.

Once we get to figurative uses, “look at” means to “consider with attention.”

Look at Sally’s marriage

does not mean that you can physically see a marriage. A marriage is not a physical object that reflects light to the human eye.

In figurative usages, “see” means “understand,” and “look at” means “consider.” Those figurative meanings are not dependent on each other.

In literal usage, however, “look at” entails “see,” but “see” does not entail “look at.” They are related but different in scope. You simply cannot physically look at something that you cannot see, but you can see something without paying attention it.

  • But you can look for something or look towards something without seeing it.
    – The Photon
    Dec 24 '20 at 5:04
  • You asked about “look at.” That has a different meaning than “look for.” And “look towards” has a third meaning. Dec 24 '20 at 13:07

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