The correct meaning for a particular usage of "see" was discussed in some thread. In that thread, it was agreed that, according to this dictionary, "see" could mean either
(definition 1) "to notice or become aware of (someone or something) by using your eyes" or
(definition 2) "to be or become aware of (something)".

And it was concluded, in that thread, that in this sentence:

  1. We have seen better test scores than this year's.

definition 2 for "see" should be used.

Suppose the new context is a vehicle manufacturer's current year's model compared to previous years' models. And the current year's cars are not as good as cars made in previous years:

  1. We have seen better cars than this year's.

I have a feeling that definition 1 of "see" fits sentence 2 better than definition 2 does, even though definition 2 seems to work for sentence 2. What do native speakers think?

  • I'm inclined toward definition 13 in both cases. see(v.): "to experience" Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 18:36
  • What @Jason said. OP's context here is similar to "This car has seen better days" (it's now getting a bit tatty). Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 18:56
  • As was pointed out in that previous answer, definition 2 does not say "by using something other than eyes" – that is something that you have [erroneously] added in.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 19:00
  • I don't think this is a duplicate question, nor that a clear answer to this question regarding such visible objects as cars is given in the so-called duplicate post.
    – user6951
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 19:10
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's nit-picking over relevant dictionary definitions for a perfectly ordinary figurative usage. Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 21:39

3 Answers 3


Even if you are standing in front of the cars and looking at them, the verb is going to have some or most of meaning 2, to be aware of something. Notice Meaning 2 does not specifically say "other than eyes." But even if it did my first sentence is still correct.

Gas prices in the USA right now are at their lowest price in many years. Even if two people are standing in front of a gas pump and looking at the price on the pump and one of them says, 'these gas prices are the lowest I've seen (ever, or in many years)', the meaning is mainly the non-literal, eg Meaning 2.


I guess the meaning in your sentences goes beyond the definitions provided by you.

Let me elaborate

Suppose you are watching a magic show and you have already seen all the magic tricks shown by the magician and thereby you are not impressed with his tricks.Then you might say

  1. I have seen it all before.

This dialogue is used in the movie "Finding neverland" where Johnny Depp tries to impress little peter with his magic tricks and Peter is not at all impressed with it. So he utters the above dialouge. There is inherent meaning that says 'I am not impressed with it".

In your sentence "We have seen better cars than this years". - It means the cars which have come out this year are relatively inferior in quality and performance than the ones before. So there is hardly anything new or impressive about these cars.

What if we use this on people?

For example if I am getting threats from someone and I am not disturbed by it then I might say

  1. I have seen their kind before.

It means I have known people like them and also I have dealt with them in the past. So that's why I am not afraid of them and I am capable of dealing with them again.

So if we analyze in a bit detail, we'll come to know that this use of 'see' is nothing related with the definition 1 or 2 but it is more related with 'experience'.So you can use this expression to express your experience with something.


(definition 1) "to notice or become aware of (someone or something) by using your eyes" or

(definition 2) "to be or become aware of (something)".

If the target of to see is something that is obviously, typically, or eventually experienced visually, it doesn't matter whether 1 or 2 is the correct definition.

Cars can be looked at, and test scores can be read (requiring eyes), so it doesn't matter.

I saw his sadness.

The immediate question without further context of this sentence is how? since one's emotional state is internal to a person and not visible except through evidence like facial expressions, or things they've done or talked about.

Something like

I saw the bad odor in the room.

does not make sense, even given definition 2 - because an odor is not something you can see at all.

But for some abstract things which don't have a "sense", see works fine:

I studied this for over a year and FINALLY saw the connection between the two concepts.

Business was bad and John got fired. Honestly, from what I experienced in the company when I was there I saw it coming.

I've looked through the program code and I see no relation between these two variables.

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