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I am not a native speaker. Could you please explain the difference between the phrases "take a look at" and "look at"?

For example:

  • Take a look at this issue.
  • Look at this issue.

What is the difference? Or are these phrases equal?

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There's a third one as well: “Have a look” vs. “Take a look” –  RegDwigнt Aug 27 '12 at 8:44
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closed as general reference by MετάEd, kiamlaluno, tchrist, Andrew Leach, F'x Sep 12 '12 at 23:31

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I write as an Empire Antipodean (aka a New Zealander) and it is possible that, because the usage differences are so subtle, the usage may be somewhat different in less far flung realms. That said -

There is no difference in meaning*, but there is a somewhat informal difference in usage.
"Look at" is slightly more "formal than "Take a look at".
The difference is so slight that either form could be used in almost all cases without "discomfort" on the part of the hearer.

In written usage "Look at ..." has the feeling of a command or instruction.
It is somewhat more formal.
If it was used in an informal invitation context no offence would be given, and the usage would not even probably be noticed by the reader, but a writer would tend to favour "Look at..." for a master-servant or master-student context and "Take a look at ..." in more peer to peer roles.

In spoken communications "Look at ..." has a greater sense of immediacy.
A child may say "Look at the flower!"
An adult may say "Look at the view" when an impressive view is suddenly encountered.

If passing on instructions to someone re what they may see along a route one would be more likely to say "Take a look at the view as you crest the rise beyind the village".


*All comparative references with implied subjects are between "look at" and "take a look at"

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