I have seen a non-native English speaker write "Still seeking for a job". That got me thinking, what is the difference between to seek and look for?

  • You do realize "seeking for" isn't grammatical, right? – RiMMER Aug 27 '12 at 10:31
  • "To seek" and "to look for" are exact synonyms. No difference. But I think you realise that you shouldn't use "for" after "seek". – user16269 Aug 27 '12 at 10:33
  • I didn't know that, but wouldn't use it that way either due to "gut feeling". I am still more interested in the difference between two verbs though. – Maxim V. Pavlov Aug 27 '12 at 10:33
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    @David Wallace: Hmm. The OED has 104 citations that include 'seek for'. – Barrie England Aug 27 '12 at 10:46
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    @Barrie: I haven't bothered to look at the 104 citations (yet), but I still agree with David in that seek for does sound "off" in some contexts, like "still seeking for a job." (Now, I might say, "I'll seek for awhile, and if I haven't found anything by tomorrow...") – J.R. Aug 28 '12 at 9:53

I regard them as synonyms. However, there is a lexical difference. 'Seek' is a pure verb and 'look for' is a phrasal verb - a pure verb plus, in this case, a preposition. Phrasal verbs carry an idiomatic meaning and are more typical in spoken or informal usage.

A similar pair might be 'discover' and 'find out' - but we would never think to transfer the preposition from the phrasal verb and use it with the pure verb - 'discover out'.


Perhaps the applicant is using a telephone to seek employment?

This would be considered seeking but not literally looking.

In a non-literal sense, "looking for" is synonymous with "sniffing out" but I don't think you can use that to argue that these terms are synonymous in every other context in which one of them might be used.

Logically, seeking encompasses a greater variety of methods and senses than does looking.

  • do "seek out" and "look for" mean the same thing? – アレックス Apr 7 '14 at 9:02

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