I have a question whether you can use "meet" when you see wild animals.

Someone wants to see a wild deer and perhaps take some photographs of it. When you know a road around which deer are seen very often, can you say this sentence?

You can meet deer around the road.

I think you can go to the zoo to "meet" animals, but I am not sure if you can use "meet" when you are expecting to see wild animals like this.


5 Answers 5


No, it isn't normal or idiomatic to use "meet" in any of the situations you describe, including the zoo. It can be done, but it would be unusual, and it would typically only be used by a native speakers in order to create an unusual emphasis, comparison with human encounters, or irony. Part of the problem is that "meet" doesn't just mean "encounter" or "meet with," it implies being introduced to a person, having some social interaction with them, and learning to recognize their face so you will know them the next time you see them. There is an implication that the familiarization, future recognition of the individual, and social interaction are mutual, not one way. So, for example, it would be idiomatic to say:

She told me I could use her bathroom, and while I was there I met her cat, an old tom who looked at me suspiciously but clearly didn't want to be stroked.

It would not be normal to say:

I sat down in the restaurant and met the waitress.

You don't really meet the waitress. She won't remember you next time, and you don't introduce yourselves or interact socially except in a very limited way. There would have to be some other reason to use "meet:"

I sat down in the restaurant and met the waitress. Her uniform said Amy on it. I told her I was from out of town and asked if she knew a good place to stay that was cheap. Yes, Johny, that was your grandmother.

I think you can go to the zoo to "meet" animals, ...

No, not really. This lacks almost all the necessary elements: familiarization, future recognition of the individual, social interaction, and mutuality.

Someone wants to see a wild deer and perhaps take some photographs of it. When you know a road around which deer are seen very often,

... you would idiomatically say...

You can see deer on that road.

Sometimes there are deer on that road.

You might run into (encounter, meet up with, cross paths with ...) a deer on that road.

Once in a while you get deer on that road.

  • 19
    I would say "meet up with" is a worse fit than "meet". That implies it was an arranged meeting.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jul 16, 2021 at 22:21
  • 5
    If you should chance to meet a mountain lion .... Jul 16, 2021 at 22:54
  • 13
    This is not a great answer, because it implies that "meet" isn't perfectly normal to use in this context. It is, and that's what the OP needs to be told. Jul 17, 2021 at 13:58
  • 7
    @NickMatteo It is not normal to meet at animals at the zoo. You merely see them there; you don't make new friends and acquaintances. They will not greet you with fond recognition upon your next visit.
    – tchrist
    Jul 17, 2021 at 14:36
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    (1) Google reports 142 results for "what to do if you meet" a bear
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 17, 2021 at 20:35

Yes, you can use meet to mean "encounter" or "come into the presence of", and it is sometimes used with wild animals, for example

...when I met a coyote for the first time.

During one of these trips, Vladimir Igorevich met a mountain lion.

Yorick was working in a shed when he met a rattlesnake.

However, to "meet" a wild animal implies a surprise or chance encounter, and if you expect to see deer, it would be more idiomatic to say "You may find deer" or "You may encounter deer."

  • 10
    This is not a great answer, because it implies that "meet" is common or the default here. It isn't, and that's what the OP needs to be told.
    – user118305
    Jul 16, 2021 at 19:47
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    I think "meet" also (usually) implies you are very close to the animal and possibly even that it interacts with you. I would say it is a word not to use unless you are very good at recognizing what is or is not idiomatic English. And even native speakers may disagree about when the word is correct to use.
    – David K
    Jul 17, 2021 at 21:19
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    @DavidK I'm thinking of a woman I met who accidentally cornered a mountain lion. It growled, she beat a hasty retreat, end of incident. I would have no problem with saying she met the mountain lion. On the other hand, the deer I photographed yesterday were definitely keeping an eye on me but I certainly didn't meet them. Jul 18, 2021 at 1:24
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    The woman who met a puma also nearly met a messy end. Jul 18, 2021 at 1:49
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    @BenCrowell It's not as uncommon as your Answer made it sound, though. So I think it's nice to have an Answer that discusses when it is in fact used.
    – trlkly
    Jul 18, 2021 at 7:28

You can use it this way. If you explore the examples at Webster, you will see that "meet" has a variety of meanings. The most common sense is "to become acquainted with," but there are many more.

For example, we can say this of two streets that cross:

Elm Street meets Cherry Street in two blocks.

The literal meaning of the following is that "this" is the place where a tire touches the pavement:

This is where the rubber meets the road.

We tend to use it more when we mean, "This is where your hypothetical suggestion gets tested in reality."

This is a colorful way of explaining where you can board the train:

You can meet the train at the station.

I've chosen most of these examples to illustrate that the act of meeting does not require human subjects or even a sense of awareness.

So it would be unremarkable to say,

I was walking through the forest when I met a deer.

A child of a certain age might be amused by the idea—specifically, a child who has outgrown the notion that animals can converse with people, but who has not yet seen the word "meet" in many contexts.

  • 3
    An additional example of crossing or touching (from geometry) is using "meet" to mean intersect, as in "calculate where the two lines meet".
    – J W
    Jul 18, 2021 at 19:50

"What to do if you meet a bear" is so common it's almost a cliché, and "I was walking in the woods and met a deer" is also very idiomatic. In these contexts "encounter" is a direct replacement.

But it very much implies some level of interactivity, and also surprise, so it would be odd for me to hear it in reference to a zoo visit, or distant viewing of birds or wildlife. In those cases you'd use "saw" or "watched".

  • 2
    (1) Google reports 142 results for "what to do if you meet" a bear [cont'd]
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 17, 2021 at 20:33
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    (2) and 193 results for "what to do if you encounter” a bear.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 17, 2021 at 20:34
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    I once met a gorilla in a zoo who was throwing apples at the visitors. We also saw a group of giraffes, who ignored the visitors entirely. Yes: "meet" does seem to suggest a degree of interaction. I'm not so sure about surprise: "Every time I go to the park I meet a cocker-spaniel who greets me with..." With human encounters, "meet" suggests by default that the encounter was planned and foreseen and therefore unsurprising; if not, we say something like "I bumped into...". Jul 19, 2021 at 11:53
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    But of course "meet" can also be a chance encounter: "As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives". It all depends on context. Jul 19, 2021 at 11:58
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    For me, since a zoo is such a contrived environment where the animals are on display, it'd be odd to say I "met" one of the zoo animals, even if they flung something at me. It'd be like saying I went to a broadway play and "met" the lead actor, from my seat in the fourth row. This may be idiosyncratic on my part. Certainly encountering a notable person on a trip would be "met" assuming you had some interaction with him and weren't just watching him from a distance.
    – CCTO
    Jul 19, 2021 at 15:13

You can "meet" pretty-much anything, including wild animals, but almost never in a zoo. There, bars and fences get in the way.

You can "meet" not only animals but also bad weather or stormy seas, avalanches or crevasses, rock-falls or simple walls.

You can go to the zoo to "see", to "look at" or to "watch" animals but because of the barriers, you would not "meet" them except, for instance, in the children's petting section, where you could play with small furry creatures without bars or fences.

There can almost never be an "expectation" of seeing wild animals like that but if you do bump into, happen upon or otherwise encounter a wild creature yes, you will "meet."


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