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How do you say ‘see’ in Chinese?

看 (kàn) can mean ‘look at’

让我看看
Ràng wǒ kànkan
Let me have a look

人老了,眼睛看不清楚了
Rén lǎo le, yǎnjīng kàn bu qīngchu le
When people get old, they can longer see clearly

看 (kàn) also means ‘watch’ (sports games/TV/plays)

我喜欢看足球比赛
Wǒ xǐhuan kàn zúqiú bǐsài
I like watching soccer/football games.

你看过《星球大战》吗?
Nǐ kànguo xīngqiú dàzhàn ma?
Have you seen Star Wars?

看 (kàn) also means ‘read’ (books)

你喜欢看什么书?
Nǐ xǐhuan kàn shénme shū?
What books do you like to read?

你看过韩寒的书吗?
Nǐ kànguo Hánhán de shū ma?
Have you read any books by Han Han?

看 (kàn) can also means ‘visit’ (often friends/relatives)

我要去中国看一个好朋友。
Wǒ yào qù zhōngguó kàn yīgè hǎo péngyou.
I’m going to China to see/visit a good friend.

我奶奶病了,我今天去看她。
Wǒ nǎinai bìngle, wǒ jīntiān qù kàn tā.
My grandmother is ill. I’m going to see/visit her today.

见 (jiàn) normally means ‘see’

我不想见你。
Wǒ bùxiǎng jiàn nǐ.
I don’t want to see you.

你是在哪里见过这幅画?
Nǐ shì zài nǎlǐ jiànguo zhè fú huà?
Where have you seen this painting before?

见 (jiàn) can sometimes mean ‘see’ or ‘call on’

我们好像在哪里见过。
Wǒmen hǎoxiàng zài nǎlǐ jiànguo.
I think we’ve seen each other/met before.

老板要见你。
Lǎobǎn yào jiàn nǐ.
The boss wants to see you.

看见 (kànjiàn) is also a verb meaning ‘see’

一看见他,我就生气。
Yī kànjiàn tā, wǒ jiù shēngqì.
I get angry as soon as I see him.

我能看见他。
Wǒ néng kànjiàn tā.
I can see him.

见 (jiàn) ‘see’ is also the result of 看 (kàn) ‘look’

我看不见 (到)
Wǒ kàn bu jiàn (dào)
I can’t see (it).
Literally: I look not see.

我正在看,但是我看不见。(到)
Wǒ zhèngzài kàn, dànshì wǒ kàn bu jiàn. (dào)
I’m looking, but I can’t see (it).

When you mean ‘see’ in the sense of ‘understand’, use 明白 (míngbai)

我明白
Wǒ míngbai
I see

我明白你的意思
wǒ míngbai nǐ de yìsi
I see what you mean.

In summary, 看 (kàn) and 见 (jiàn) are both verbs
看 means ‘look at, watch, read or visit’
见 normally means ‘see’

见 can also be the result of 看
看 is the ‘looking at’, and 见 is the ‘seeing.’
看见 can also be a verb in its own right meaning ‘see’

This can be a bit confusing, but hopefully it makes more sense to you now! 🙂

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