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Are "close" and "hard" the same below?

He took a close look at the cat.
He took a hard look at the cat.

Or are they subtly different? For this particular usage, web dictionaries appear to define "close" with "hard" and "hard" with "close".

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closed as not a real question by tchrist, Kristina Lopez, RegDwigнt Feb 13 '13 at 14:51

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This is a question of writing style, so it's off topic here but on topic at SE.writers. The answer to your question, however, is that writers sometimes use synonyms in this way to intensify their expression: it's far better than saying "a very {hard / close [CHOOSE ONE]} look". It also gives the sentence a different sound & feeling. Careful writers are sensitive to such things. I'm neither endorsing nor condemning the usage, but I see nothing unusual or inherently wrong with it. – user21497 Feb 13 '13 at 8:44
Not at all the same. hard: cool or uncompromising "we took a long hard look at our profit factor" - close - examining in more detail – mplungjan Feb 13 '13 at 8:45
@BillFranke So, it would make no difference in this as well: "He took a close/hard look at the evidence." – user37561 Feb 13 '13 at 9:22
@mplungjan: I don't see how it's possible to take a "hard" look without taking a "close" look. OTOH, I can see how it's possible to do it the other way around. Ergo, I conclude that there is a small overlap, as does Thesaurus.com (compact, p3 & factual, p4). – user21497 Feb 13 '13 at 9:23
The long hard look includes the close. – mplungjan Feb 13 '13 at 9:27

They do not mean the same thing. The distinction is more than subtle.

macmillan dictionary
have a good/close look (=look carefully): He got out of the car so he could have a closer look.

take a (long) hard look at something (=think very carefully and seriously about it): You seem to be permanently stressed out – I think you should take a long hard look at your life.

Furthermore, while some dictionaries do show the two phrases as nearly interchangeable,
close look is synonymous with scrutiny: careful examination;
hard look implies dispassionate, cool or uncompromising.

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It's one of those phrases to emphasise the fact that someone's had a good look at the cat "Close'(rhyming with dose) in this sense is used to mean 'close up' to the cat. "hard' means you looked at it for a long time, trying to see every detail.

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I would think that the cat had done something to deserve a hard look – mplungjan Feb 13 '13 at 8:46
So, it would make no difference in this as well: "He took a close/hard look at the evidence." – user37561 Feb 13 '13 at 9:22
@masener: No, it would make no difference. When looking at evidence, one carefully examines every detail: close and hard. – user21497 Feb 13 '13 at 9:32

Close means with attention to detail.

Hard means without leniency, or emotional softness.

The two overlap, but aren't exactly the same.

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