Today’s 2 words are various inflections of the same verb, taking care of visual sight. Verb endings and verbs time form are one of the many confusing topics for English speakers, so don’t feel bad if you require a refresher.

You are watching: When to use seen and saw

A quick note prior to we begin, there are other meanings to these words, such together a cutting saw, but, today, us are just going to attend to the sense of visual eyesight.

What is the Difference in between Seen and Saw?

In this post, I desire to talk around when to use seen and also saw, exactly how each word functions in a sentence, and also how to make sure you don’t confuse lock again.

After analysis this post, girlfriend should ever before again wonder come yourself, “Should I use seen or saw?”

When to use Saw

Saw is the past tense of the verb see. It forms the straightforward past, i beg your pardon is offered to refer an activity that has started and also finished at a particular time in the past.

I witnessed Star battles yesterday.We observed the parade this morning.He observed her jogging ~ above the sidewalk in the afternoon.

As you can see with every one of these examples, the activity that takes ar is over and done with. I observed Star wars yesterday. That occasion is over and done with; it isn’t ongoing.

There doesn’t always have to it is in a particular time discussed in the straightforward past, yet the speaker usually has one in mind.

The security camera experienced the burglars.John witnessed the accident take it place.

One vital note around saw is that it have the right to be supplied as a standalone verb; it doesn’t require a help verb.

I saw you.You experienced me.

There is no need for a help verb, which is essential when comparing checked out vs. Saw.

When to usage Seen

Seen is the previous participle the the verb see, and also it is provided to kind the perfect tenses: current perfect, past perfect, etc. If this sound confusing, don’t worry. Ns will define everything below.

The easiest means to phone call which indigenous is correct and also which is incorrect is that seen must have alongside that a helping verb. Past participles cannot appear by us in a sentence.

I observed the movie. (Correct)I viewed the movie. (Wrong)

Instead, past participles require what we speak to helping verb to type the perfect tenses.

I checked out the movie. (Wrong)I have seen the movie. (Correct)

If girlfriend see the word seen every by itself, you know a mistake has actually been made.

Seen through the existing Perfect Tense

The current perfect it is too dirty is developed by the native has/have + the previous participle.

I have actually seen you around here before.We have seen all the we should see.

It is necessary to note that you cannot usage the present perfect it s too dirty with specific time expressions.

Instead, that is provided to define an activity that has actually happened at an unspecified time prior to now or one whereby the activity extends come the present.

I have seen this take place all my life.

In this example, ns am relenten a past (and ongoing) occasion that leads up till the present. In such cases, the jet verb (seen) acts together a connector native the past to the present.

Let’s look in ~ one an ext example.

I have actually seen this play critical week. (Wrong)

This instance is one incorrect use of the current perfect tense. The verb development itself is good (have seen), but last week describes a certain moment in the past, which the current perfect tense cannot do because there is no connection in between the past and also present. The is acting as the basic past should and deals with an event that is over, completed, and definite.

Instead, let’s change last week to a different word.

I have seen this play before. (Correct)

This sentence is correct. The word before is one unspecified time and simply method that you have seen the movie at somewhere in the past up with the present. You can have viewed it last week; you might have watched it last year.

The allude is, however, that is it unspecific and bridges the gap in between the past and the present. In ~ some point between all things past and also where we space now, you experienced the play.

To check out a additional explanation of the present perfect tense, click here.

Seen in the previous Perfect Tense

The previous perfect it s too dirty is developed by the word had + the past participle.

The past perfect tense is offered to define the idea that something emerged before another action in the past.

I had already seen the movie twice before seeing it tonight.I had never checked out such a gorgeous landscape prior to I saw Hawaii.

In other words, if you space talking around a past event and need to walk further right into the past to talk about something else, the is what the previous perfect it is too dirty is supplied for.

Trick to Remember the Difference

The best means to save track of experienced vs. Watched is to usage the cheat I pointed out above.

Saw must never show up with a help verb in front of it and stands alone.

I witnessed you.You saw me.

Seen is the specific opposite; it cannot appear without a help verb and never was standing alone.

I have seen you.You have actually seen me.

The differences in meaning between this two examples are outlined above.


Is it experienced or seen? while these two verbs develops are sometimes mixed up, they room pretty easy to store track of.

Saw is supplied with the an easy past. It can stand alone and doesn’t show up with help verbs.

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Seen is a previous participle and also forms the perfect tenses. The cannot was standing alone and also must constantly appear v a help verb.