In the episode of Fringe called The Road Not Taken, the protagonist is having visions once in a while, seeing alternative realities for a few seconds. In one of the conversations, she asks:

Why am I seeing these visions?

The grammar behind the question struck me as extremely strange. I think the proper way of forming such question would be:

Why am I having these visions?

Are both correct? If yes, is there any difference between them?

  • Ngram shows "have a vision" is more common than "see a vision", but not by an overwhelming amount.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 17:02
  • 3
    I see your vision and raise you a hallucination.
    – JeffSahol
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 17:24

4 Answers 4


Both are fine and can be used to refer to a supernatural vision or a mental image. However see a vision places emphasis on perception of the image while have a vision places emphasis on possession of the experience.

  • 3
    Quite so. But you're far more likely to encounter metaphorical use with "have" and singular "vision". If someone says "I have a vision" he's probably about to expound on his idealistic view of the future. If he says "I see visions" he probably needs psychiatric help. Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 17:15
  • 2
    Fumble, I like your comments :-).
    – Raku
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 17:17

According to the Corpus of Contemporary American English, "having visions" is 1.7 times as popular as "seeing visions".

Google nGrams shows that seeing visions has a more established history, but there is an interesting downward trend in the use of "seeing" and rise in "having".

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Personally, I don't think it's odd that someone would "see" a "vision". Isn't that what makes it a vision in the first place? You see it.


I think they both work. To "see" a vision probably preassumes that someone, like a deity or a higher being, wants you to see it. Having it, in my eyes, leaves the source unmentioned. The vision could be drug-induced as well.

One more thing: I think it's natural to "see" a vision too. The word comes from "videre" (to see) in Latin.


I think this is more a question of semantics, so the answer should come from examining the exact meanings of the words.

If you look at dictionary entry for vision it lists

something seen in a dream, trance, or ecstasy

So to ask 'Why am I seeing these (somethings seen in a dream, trance, or ecstasy)?' seems perfectly fine.

From this definition it is actually harder to justify the use of 'having a vision'.

From the pocket oxford's definition

an experience of seeing someone or something in a dream or trance, or as a supernatural apparition

Maybe the implication that the word denotes the 'experience' was more important before. Etymology does not really help as the experince is not emphasized there, on the contrary we get to L. visionem which is "act of seeing, sight, thing seen".

Also of note, if you compare ngrams for Br.E. and Am.E. you'll see that just recently 'having visions' became more popular.

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