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There are two sentences below:

  1. The policeman looked at the boy.

  2. He took a look at me.

What is the difference between 'take a look' at and 'look at'in meaning?

3

No, they are different!

take a look is an idiom which means "to observe or examine someone or something."

On the other hand, looking at someone is merely an act of seeing someone. The purpose of the former one is different.

You look at some product as a normal physiological gesture but if you 'take a look' at the same product, you have a purpose to study/observe it.

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    +1. My car's been acting up, so I'm going to have the mechanic take a look at it. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 15 '16 at 10:02
  • Considering the fact that this question is exactly the same question asked on ES, Can this post be a duplicate? see here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/22827/… – Cardinal Jun 15 '16 at 12:50
  • @TRomano I hope you didn't mean to say that I asked the mechanic to look at my car doesn't mean I asked the mechanic to take/have a look at my car! – Damkerng T. Jun 15 '16 at 14:21
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    The mechanic could say, "Park your car in the lot tonight, and drop your keys through the after-hours slot. I will {take a look at it|look at it} tomorrow." While "look at" can mean either "direct one's gaze towards" or "examine in a brief or cursory manner", "take a look at" never means simply "direct one's gaze towards". It always means "to examine, to size up or assess". If you take your car to the mechanic because it's making a noise and ask him "to take a look at it", you don't expect a bill for $1500. You want a quick opinion of what might be wrong, not a full-blown investigation. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 15 '16 at 17:44
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    @Damkerng T. I don't see what is misleading about my mechanic example. Care to elaborate how it misleads? Care to give me a counterexample, where "take a look at" simply means "turn one's gaze towards" with no implication of "briefly examine" or "quick, cursory perusal"? Looking and examining are quite different. There's no splitting of hairs there. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 16 '16 at 13:44

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