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  1. I have seen them grow up.
  2. I have watched them grow up.

Though the intended meaning is conveyed in both sentences, I want to know which in this case is a better fit, see or watch.

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possible duplicate of I have always been confused between using watch or see a movie –  jwpat7 Jul 26 '12 at 17:17
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That answer's specific to a different idiom, involving movies. The basic semantic difference between see and watch (and for that matter, look) is that see is non-volitional, while look and watch are volitional; additionally, watch is durative, i.e, it means that the looking went on for a while. In this context, the best fit is a matter of what you want to imply, and what you want to state, and that's up to the speaker in context. –  John Lawler Jul 26 '12 at 17:26
    
@JohnLawler Please add that as an answer :) –  coleopterist Jul 26 '12 at 18:47
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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

(text lifted from John Lawler's comment - he probably won't post it himself, but it's solid stuff)

The basic semantic difference between see and watch (and for that matter, look) is that see is non-volitional, while look and watch are volitional; additionally, watch is durative, i.e, it means that the looking went on for a while. In this context, the best fit is a matter of what you want to imply, and what you want to state, and that's up to the speaker in context.

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You're right, I wouldn't've bothered repeating it; but thank you for the compliment. –  John Lawler Jul 26 '12 at 20:45
    
@John Lawler: I think this might be the first time I've ever set an answer as "community wiki" (which I've never bothered reading up on, so I wasn't sure what it meant). As seems reasonable, I don't get points from any upvotes - though I don't see the logic of why I can't upvote it too! Having looked at that "possible duplicate", I'm not convinced it adds anything beyond blindingly obvious context-specific extrapolations from your summary. I think it makes more sense to close that one in favour of this. –  FumbleFingers Jul 26 '12 at 23:11
    
Votes are irrelevant, and I find the whole mystique of "closing" simply mysterious, not to mention the diff between "Answers" and "Comments". I understand that this works well in some subjects, but discussing the English language using the English language, in writing only, without regard for dialect, native language, or education, seems to me an impossible task to start with, without piling on unnecessary interface distinctions. ... and, like all teachers, I suppose, I get tired of repeating myself. –  John Lawler Jul 26 '12 at 23:18
    
@John Lawler: There you go! - anyone can get get tired of repeating himself, even a guy who used to lecture for a living! One good thing about my line ("teaching" computers) is if you arrange things right you hardly ever have to repeat anything - you just "call" the routine you already wrote. Translated to ELU, that means closing a question with a pointer to an earlier answer covering the same ground. The concept's imperfectly implemented, but I like to think "archetypal" questions/answers could evolve. Surrounded by a pile of clarifications and context-specific examples. Works for me! –  FumbleFingers Jul 26 '12 at 23:31
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Well, maybe. But the fact is that most of the previous answers that get linked to are far from archetypal, and quite a few are simply wrong. Closing questions under those circumstances simply keeps answers from improving. –  John Lawler Sep 1 '12 at 17:12
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Watch has the connotation of both duration ("watch a movie") and vigilance ("watch your back!")

See typically means simply to successfully observe ("I see you!") There is a secondary meaning of "investigate" ("I'm going to see what's up.")

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I think vigilance is just one manifestation of John Lawler's observation that watching is volitional. For most contexts, that implies paying attention - hence "Watch this!" means "Pay attention and look at this!". But you could of course say "I just watched tv last night", without having even paid enough attention to recall what you actually saw. –  FumbleFingers Jul 26 '12 at 23:17
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There are supportable arguments for the use of either word. The sentence is meant to convey that the speaker has witnessed a process, "growing up". "Seen" can be used in relation to an event that occurs in an instant or or one that occurs over a period of time. However, "watched" is appropriate only in relation to an event that occurs over a period of time. Therefore, "watched" would be the better choice here.

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