I'd like to know the difference(s) between the verbs go over, go through, look over and look through.There are other words that have similar meaning to these verbs too but I chose to compare these verbs because they contains the same prepositions, which are over and through, so this is very confusing for learners.

Here are the definitions by Oxford Dictionary

Go over :Consider, examine, or check (something)

Go through :Search through or examine methodically

Look over : Inspect something with a view to establishing its merits

Look through : Peruse (a book or other written material)

What I observe is that dictionaries cluster their synonyms as search and examine.

I am familiar with the verb go over that is used to mean study before exams and I think the verb go through implies more detailed examination whereas look over means more like check out (appearance of something) quickly or superficially more than a office document which contains financial figures.

I read also these verbs may have an ambiguous meaning without a context but let's go over them.

Some examples from various dictionaries:

In the competition, the judge goes over each dog and assesses it.

Dave went through his pockets looking for the keys.

Customs officers went through all my bags.

Forensic ​scientists are going over the victim's ​flat in a ​search for ​clues about the ​murderer.

We're are still going over the ​details of the ​contract.

It's a good ​idea to get someone to go over ​your ​application ​form before you ​submit it.

Do you have a few minutes to look these samples over?

Students were given five minutes to look through the examination paper before they were told the start writing.

  • Intuitively, while fairly interchangeable, I would consider going through to be more intensive (and potentially more invasive, depending on the object of the sentence) than going over. It is really the object of the sentence that complicates matters, as some occasions of use (such as going over a contract vs. going through a contract) are slightly metaphorical if you think about the prepositions literally; there's also the fact that literal use of some prepositions sounds weird (e.g. a judge could more intensively inspect a dog, but they would still not go through the dog).
    – Myles
    May 30, 2017 at 12:20

1 Answer 1


As with any good Chinese menu

Column A

Column B

The terms

have a look

means to see what is visible on the surface, not too much involvement

have a go (BrE)

means to try to do something, which mean more involvement

gloss over

means to superficially cover

plough through

means to use effort (to move dirt around, in the literal example)

In order of intensity of activity (one from column A, one from column B)

Look over
Look through
Go over
Go through

Arguably, in your dictionary sentences, one could say

Forensic ​scientists are going through the victim's flat
We're are still going through the ​details of the contract

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