In which cases would you say, "I am seeing" instead of "I see"?

5 Answers 5


To summarise other people's answers, there are three uses of "I am seeing":

  1. Habitual in the present. ("I'm seeing my analyst every week now") Nearly always in transferred senses of "see" = "have an appointment with" or "have as partner", but can be used literally in eg "I'm seeing that more and more nowadays", to emphasise the ongoing process (cf 3).

  2. Definite appointment in the future: "I'm seeing my doctor next week"; "I'm seeing Harry Potter 7 tomorrow". Again, usually in a non-core meaning of "see".

  3. Present sensation, strongly emphasising the current and continuing process: "Yes, I'm watching him on CCTV. I'm seeing him walk up the stairs, and go into the room". Generally verbs of sensation don't take the present continuous, except in this particular highly marked construction.


It should usually be for a process in progress.

Should you send a quick message from a movie theater during the projection of a film, you would type:

"I am seeing this movie (as in "right now") and it's awesome!"

(and not "I see...")

The expression "to see someone" (meet regularly as a boyfriend or girlfriend) is more often used as:

"I'm seeing someone"
(as in "I am still engaged in this relationship right now")

  • 7
    Also, if you have a doctor appointment tomorrow, you can say "I'm seeing a doctor tomorrow".
    – b.roth
    Nov 30, 2010 at 9:21
  • @Bruno: Wouldnt that be "I will be seeing a doctor tomorrow"?
    – JoseK
    Nov 30, 2010 at 10:52
  • @JoseK: both can be used in that kind of context. Nov 30, 2010 at 11:05
  • 7
    I would never say "I am seeing this movie", rather "I am watching this movie"
    – invariant
    Nov 30, 2010 at 13:31
  • 1
    @JoseK: depends if you're going out with said doctory =P
    – Claudiu
    Nov 30, 2010 at 15:42

I guess 'to see' is something you could/should be doing with your eyes.

I see what you are doing there. I see the doctor every day

'Seeing' something/body should be for the action itself.

I'm seeing what you did there. I'm seeing the doctor everyday since my infection started.

  • 1
    No; both the examples on the last line are incorrect. This question is really about the difference between the simple present and the present continuous. Nov 30, 2010 at 11:50
  • I am sorry, Barfieldmv, but even I can tell that Your last two examples are grammatically wrong.
    – brilliant
    Nov 30, 2010 at 13:31

“I see” describes the present.

To describe something that is ongoing you use the word “be” + a word with the ending “–ing”. As in:

I am seeing, feeling, dancing...

  • But take a look here: "I kind of don't understand, if Jack bought coffee, why did you go outside?" - asked Jenny. "Jack didn't buy coffee, he only bought some water, so I still needed to go" - answered Paul. "Aaaah, I SEE!" - cried Jenny. - Jenny's process of gradually understanding things is quite ongoing here, yet she still says "I SEE" instead of "I AM SEEING". Another example: (two people taking to each other in the movie theater) "Do you think George will make it back home?" - "Well, I think he must be already arriving now as WE SEE this movie" - Seeing move here is also ongoing.
    – brilliant
    Nov 30, 2010 at 13:29
  • @Rhodri: Well, I think You are right here. But what about something like "Gradually I SEE more and more people coming out of this building" - I heard one BBC reporter say that while reporting live. For sure, it's an on-going process, not one moment.
    – brilliant
    Nov 30, 2010 at 15:51

"To see" is what is considered a punctual achievement verb; a verb that happens instantaneously. Other examples of achievement verbs are: catch, faint, hit, kick, recognize etc.

Many of these verbs cannot take the progressive form to describe an action that is happening at the moment of speaking. For example, we can't say,

"He is seeing the movie." or, "I am seeing myself in the mirror."

Rather, in these cases, we use the simple present tense:

"I see you!" "Do you see that crazy guy over there?"

Furthermore, using achievement verbs in the progressive tense means that the action is repeated (iterative):

"Why is he kicking the door?" or, "I'm catching butterflies!"

Now, onto the present progressive, "I'm seeing..." As stated earlier, this can be used to express

  1. Habitual, repeating action in the present: "I'm seeing my chiropractor once a month now."

  2. Action in the near future: "I'm seeing the doctor tomorrow."

In addition:

  1. To convey a polite tone (colloquial, less common): "I'm just seeing if you needed any help."

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