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What is the real difference between "Ver" and "Mirar". They are quite close in meaning but what are the differences between them? What are the rules to know whether we should choose one or the other?

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3 Answers 3

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"Mirar" emphasizes the act (to see, as "to look at")

"Ver" emphasizes the perception (to see, as "to perceive")

In some cases, only one of these is acceptable. In many cases, both can be used.

Examples:

"¿Me estás mirando?" (Are you looking at me? a-la Taxi driver)

"Con estos lentes no veo nada" (With these lens I don't see a thing)

"¿Qué película estás viendo/mirando?" (What movie are you watching?)

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The difference is related to your degree of concentration on the object.

"Ver" only implies your eyes are receiving light from the near objects, not a real attention to what you are seeing. If you start to look at something, that's "mirar". Anyway, the converse is not necessarily true, you could use "ver" if you are paying attention to something, but maybe not-too-much atention. However, in all cases it follows this order relationship for the degree of attention: Ver < Mirar

According to the RAE:

ver

  1. tr. Percibir por los ojos los objetos mediante la acción de la luz.

  2. tr. Percibir algo con cualquier sentido o con la inteligencia.

mirar

  1. tr. Dirigir la vista a un objeto. U. t. c. prnl.

  2. tr. Observar las acciones de alguien.

The difference degree of attention is also clear in the definitions.

For example, If you want to request another person's attention to some object, you would say "mira eso" no "ve eso". Actually, "ve eso" more usually is figurative to "take charge of that".

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I'm not sure if this is true in english, but I think is something like: see < look/watch < observe. Am I correct? –  Ricardo Jan 16 '12 at 18:12
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So when I'm "viendo la television", am I just receiving light from it? –  Javi Jan 16 '12 at 18:13
    
Actually, I was thinking exactly in that example. Both, "ver la televisión" and "mirar la televisión" are common. Sometimes TV is just a light and noise in the background, isn't it?. Anyway, I think is more important the order relationship. If you are lost in your thougts, people say to you "ey, mírame" no "ey, veme". "Mirar" requires a degree of atention "ver" doesn't. –  Ricardo Jan 16 '12 at 18:21
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"Ver" is short than "mirar", that's maybe the main reason to be used as interchangeble in some cases, but if you ask "¿estás viendo o mirando la TV?" and people is really watching a show, the aswer will be "estoy mirando". –  Ricardo Jan 16 '12 at 18:27
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At least in Spain, "ver la tele" is much more used than "mirar la tele" for watching a show (so in this case "ver" is used for a long activity which requires a lot of attention). Also it's really uncommon in Spain "mirar una película", "mirar un partido de fútbol". We use "ver" in that cases and a lot of attention is neccesary. –  Javi Jan 16 '12 at 18:43

The following translations are pretty accurate:

Ver: watch, see

  • Watch a film: ver una película
  • Let's see what happens: vamos a ver qué pasa
  • I didn't see him coming: no le vi venir

Mirar: look at

  • What are you looking at? Qué estás mirando
  • Look at that! ¡Mira eso!
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I agree with see=ver and look=mirar, but totaly disagree with watch=ver. I would translate "watch this" by "mira esto" or even "observa esto". In english you say always "watch a movie" not "look a movie" as possible in spanish, so TV and movies are not the best example. "Watch this fish seek refuge in the anus of a sea cucumber!" : "¡Mira este pez buscar refugio en el ano de un pepino de mar!", "Ve este pez buscar refugio...", no way. "Observa este pez..." could be even a good translation. –  Ricardo Jan 16 '12 at 23:42
    
In Mexico, people always ver movies and TV. Perhaps the use of mirar for these actions is regional? –  Flimzy Jan 17 '12 at 4:14
    
I agree Ricardo that this is not always true. Anyway it would be better to explain the difference without using a mapping with English so it could be useful for native students of other languages. –  Juanillo Jan 17 '12 at 15:53

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