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I have been wondering about the meaning of "to see" in relation to visiting someone and/or having an affair. Could you confirm (or not) that I understand the difference correctly? I have encountered the following exercise which asks us to choose the correct answer:

Tamara sees/is seeing a new boyfriend.

To me, Tamara sees a new boyfriend implies that they merely have regular meetings whereas the continuous form of "to see" adds this aspect of romantic affair to the meaning. As a result, although both options grammatically correct, the latter makes more sense in the relation girlfriend-boyfriend.

To support this hypothesis, I have found some examples from dictionaries:

Cambridge: They see a lot of each other (= are often together).

Oxford: I can only see you for five minutes.

As opposed to:

Oxford: Are you seeing anyone (= having a romantic relationship with anyone)?

Can we, then, treat "see" as a synonym to "have a meeting", whereas its continuous form implies that there is a romantic relationship involved?

I look forward to reading your insights.

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  • If she sees someone, she catches sight of them (or has a business / professional meeting with them, context permitting). If she's seeing someone, they're dating. Nov 8, 2023 at 23:24
  • Obviously, if he's her boyfriend they are in a romantic relationship, but if he was working a long distance away you could say "She only sees her boyfriend once a month when he can get leave" (has a chance to meet him). Nov 9, 2023 at 9:43

2 Answers 2

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Yes, seeing someone means in a romantic relationship with them. To illustrate the contrast, note that you’d need to be careful about turning the completely idiomatic

I see my allergist twice monthly for immunotherapy shots

into

*I am seeing my allergist twice monthly for immunotherapy shots.

It would generally be understood, but it does almost make it sound as though the shots are enhacing attraction between the pair of you. A very similar construction that has no whiff of such ambiguity is

I am going to an allergist twice monthly for immunotherapy shots.

Here the present progressive conveys “lately,” or “these days.”

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  • Might be worthwhile to explain what "shots" are for the NNS out there. Vaccines? Photo shoots? Alcohol? Allergy shots?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 8, 2023 at 21:30
  • @Mari-LouA, I figured it was clear from context. But transparency of meaning is good in the context of second-language acquisition. Nov 8, 2023 at 21:34
  • I'm seeing an allergist twice a month for immunotherapy treatment doesn't sound very romantic to me. Maybe if you put "immunotherapy treatment" in scare-quotes and add a wink ;-) Nov 8, 2023 at 22:46
  • @Mari-LouA - I gather that 'shots' are what I call 'injections' or, less formally, 'jabs'. Nov 8, 2023 at 22:53
  • @MichaelHarvey you are an Englishman, I wasn't concerned about native speakers understanding though, only non-native speakers who inhabit ELL. Also, I upvoted the answer because I thought it rather good.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 8, 2023 at 23:33
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One of the several meanings of "see" is "have a meeting" or simply "meet", and it can be used with any verb tense.

The verb "see" can also have the meaning of being in a romantic relationship, but it almost always is used with a continuous tense, and never with present simple.

So the this sentence can have several meanings, none of which imply anything romantic:

Tamara sees a new man.

On the other hand, this next sentence has all the possible meanings of "see" as the first sentence, AND it can mean Tamara is in a romantic relationship with a new man:

Tamara is seeing a new man.

Without any context, the structure [ someone + "is seeing" + someone ] will almost certainly be understood to mean a romantic relationship. But with the right surrounding context, it will be clear that this is not the case:

The electrician we've got is useless, so Tamara is seeing a new man right now in her office to see if he can step in.

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