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?

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    You do realize "seeking for" isn't grammatical, right?
    – Frantisek
    Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 10:31
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    "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
    Commented Aug 27, 2012 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. Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 10:33
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    @David Wallace: Hmm. The OED has 104 citations that include 'seek for'. Commented Aug 27, 2012 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.
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 9:53

3 Answers 3


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.

  • 2
    do "seek out" and "look for" mean the same thing?
    – Incerteza
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 9:02

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'.

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    Actually, look for is not a phrasal verb like look up, but rather a transitivizing preposition like look at or listen to. The difference is that transitive phrasal verbs alternate NP objects, but not transitivizing verbs: He looked up the word, He looked the word up, He looked for the word, but not *He looked the word for. Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 19:39

The general difference in usage is "seek" is used for something untangible whereas "look for" is used for something concrete.

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    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 13:26
  • Hello, phoebe. I suppose some would regard the Scarlet Pimpernel as intangible. But Job 30:26 (NKJV) reads :'But when I looked for good, evil came to me' [BibleHub]. Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 16:45

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