Social Question

Jeruba's avatar

Do you still maintain the old distinction between watching and seeing video (and live) entertainment?

Asked by Jeruba (48711points) April 7th, 2019

This question is not about dictionary definitions. It’s about everyday usage.

We used to see a movie (in a theater) but watch television (at home, implicitly). We’d also see a play or a show; that meant going out to the theatre and buying a ticket to attend a live performance.

I’ve heard people speak of watching a movie when they go out to a movie theater, and it sounds jarring to me. Even more so if someone says they’re going to, for example, watch their daughter’s play at school.

When I put a DVD in the player at home, or tune into a streaming channel, I think of that as “watching” a movie, not “seeing” one, even if the movie was originally a theatrical release. Is it the medium of delivery that makes the difference and not the object of viewing?

Has the distinction between the terms been lost? or is the line simply being drawn in a different place?

When someone says, “Do you want to see a movie?” does that automatically mean “Let’s go out” or not?

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10 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

If someone said, “Do you want to see a movie” I would assume they mean go out to the movie. I think in my head I insert “Do you want to [go] see a movie.”
If they say “Do you want to watch a movie,” I assume they mean on TV.

zenvelo's avatar

I maintain the sma distinction. Implicit with seeing is going. Watching is a passive activity that does not require going somewhere.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I don’t believe I was ever aware before of any distinction. But now that you bring it up, I suppose that the difference between “see” and “watch” can be a subtle and therefore tricky business. Go ask your mother for fifty cents to watch the elephant jump the fence? Does watch imply a more active role or level of attention than see?

kritiper's avatar

It says that additional dialog and explanations are required. “Can you be more specific?”
From where I live, if a person wants to go to Wyoming, they go “back” (East) to Wyoming. They may tell me that they are going “up” or “down” to Wyoming, but I don’t fuss about how they said it, since I know where Wyoming is. If I didn’t, I’d say, “You’re going where???”
( As in “out West,” “back East,” “up North,” or “down South.”)
Now, if a person was in Wyoming and said they were going “back” to Idaho, I might ask if, instead, they may have meant Iowa.

stanleybmanly's avatar

We were warned in grade school that such expressions as “back East” or “down South” were the sort of anachronisms for which we would be starkly punished in future English classes.

zenvelo's avatar

This seems to be one of those idiomatic things that native speakers acquire through conversation and example, but never through being taught.

It’s like the order of adjectives: I had never been aware of an order to adjectives until I was in my fifties, despite a strong education in English and a mother who corrected our grammar until we were in our thirties.

joeschmo's avatar

I distinguish between the mediums thus: anything at home, from streaming to live, from ppv to (now almost extinct) dvd, would be watching a film, movie, netflix original or whatever. GOING to a movie is how I would describe the experience of seeing a film in the cinema.

JLeslie's avatar

I go to see a live show, and I think I use see for a movie also if it’s out at the cinema. At home on TV I’m more likely to use watch. I also might use watch if it’s during live theatre and I’m describing something that happened in a particular moment, for instance, “while we were watching the first act someone’s cell phone kept ringing,” but I would be more likely to say, “during the first act someone’s cell phone kept ringing.

Saying, “let’s go watch a show,” would be very odd to me. I think the “go” makes the biggest difference.

As far as watching children, watch is for babysitting, see is for visiting.

ucme's avatar

Language should not be stifled or curtailed, allow it to flow, express itself & even bend rules a little.
Restriction of its use is detrimental to the wonder of its creation.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The purpose of language it to communicate. There have to be some rules or you just end up with confusion @ucme, and lose the actual purpose of language.

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