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OK, so I've explained to my students that "watching" is something you do intentionally and "seeing" just means that your eyes come in contact with something, but then I began to question myself when I thought of this example:

What are you doing? I'm WATCHING a movie.
VS.
Have you SEEN that movie already?

If watching a movie is something you do intentionally, why would it change from "watch" to "see", just because of a change in verb tense?

Also, how does "look" fit into this whole equation?

Thanks!
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because life's like that? not always as patterned as we would like for easy teaching!
I believe we use it (see) idiomatically when we say "Let's see a movie this weekend." or
"Have you seen the play, Lez Miserables?". So verb tense doesn't have anything to do with it.

Your explanation on the difference between watch and see is correct. I've also had the same problem with my Korean and Japanese students. It even becomes more complicated to explain when they add look, check, and observe into the mix!
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'Watch' is used with movement; hence we 'watch a movie/TV/baseball game/ballet'. 'See' is the objective activity. 'Look at' is the conscious intent.
When listing movies as a hobby, as in my hobbies are: collecting stamps, writing emails, cooking, dancing, etc. Do you say:

1. Watching movies
2. Seeing movies
3. Movies
4. Going to movies
To go back to your original question. Alexanndra-- it has nothing to do with verb tense:

'What are you doing? I'm WATCHING a movie. '-- this is a Q & A about the activity and the speaker/listener's involvement in it. Both 'watch' and 'look at' are intentional, but the former tends to move while the latter is immobile. ( 'I have been watching movies/TV/professional baseball since I was a kid'; 'I've been looking at this picture for an hour but still cannot find Wally').

'Have you SEEN that movie already?'-- here the speaker is referring to the objective event. The response would likely be 'yes, I saw it last week' or 'no, I haven't (seen it); 'Oh, there's Wally! I see him now'.

Many strange-seeming combinations are liable to occur, depending on the speaker's conception of or attitude toward the topic:

'I'm watching this movie on video, even though I saw it in the theatre last year; I recorded the video last week, but haven't been able to look at it until now.'
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well I think It's got something to do with the nature of the verb

some verbs like stative verbs [chiefly verbs of senses] function as a conclusion of something

For example "THINK"

The difference between "I am thinking" and "I think" is clear and the two "think"s are not substitutable.

A----- "Do you think 'B' did the right thing in that situation?

C------ " Wait, I am thinking about it."

C------ "ya, I think he did not do the right thing

similarly 'see' is more like a conclusion or achievement of some work while 'watch' is the actiion itself.

Let's see what califjim thinks about it, or how he sees it

I am sure he has been looking at it carefully.
Yes, I've been puzzled about this since I noticed the post. I'm inclined to agree that "see" can substitute for "watch" as a sort of idiom when the "watching" is presented in "perfective aspect", i.e., as a act regarded as a point in time rather than as an activity occurring over a period of time ("imperfective aspect"). There is also the flavor of "going out to attend an event" which is more clearly present in "see" than in "watch", as in "We went to the movies. We saw Silver City", but "We stayed home and watched a video tape of Silver City".

I'm going to list some sentences. The purpose for this is unclear, even to me! Maybe they will stimulate further discussion. Emotion: smile

I watch movies often.
I'm watching television.
I like to watch movies.
I was watching the movie.
I watched the movie.
I have watched that movie.
I have been watching movies since I was 5 years old.
I'll watch that movie with you.
That's a movie I won't be watching again!
Would you like to watch the play?
Would you like to watch a baseball game?

? I see movies often.
* I'm seeing television.
? I like to see movies.
* I was seeing the movie.
I saw the movie. = I watched the movie.
I have seen that movie. = I have watched that movie.
*I have been seeing movies since I was 5 years old.
*I'll see that movie with you.
That's a movie I won't be seeing again!
Would you like to see the play?
Would you like to see a baseball game?
Are they really equivalent to each other?
CalifJimI saw the movie. = I watched the movie.
I have seen that movie. = I have watched that movie.

I would say that in the present or future tense there is really not much difference between the two. However, in the past tenses, I think "I watched a movie" puts more emphasis on the process, while "I saw the movie" or "I've seen that movie" emphasizes the result - you know what happens in the movie, you can discuss it, you probably don't want to see it again. So 1] What did you do on the fight from Paris to New York? I ate dinner, watched a movie, took a nap, played solitaire, etc. [2] Have you seen "Million Dollar Baby"? Yes, I saw it on the flight from Paris to New York.

Hope this helps. -- khoff

Native speaker of American English (but not a grammar expert)

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