Using the Spanish Verbs 'Ver' and 'Mirar'

Verbs' meanings similar but not identical

closeup of eye
El ojo is para ver. (The eye is for seeing.). Dan Foy/Creative Commons.

Although the Spanish verbs ver and mirar both can mean "to see," "to look" or "to watch," they usually aren't interchangeable. Their differences also don't always correspond directly to the differences among the English verbs that have similar meanings.

Using Ver

Ver is commonly used in the following situations:

  • To indicate the simple act of seeing something or someone. Vi el coche de tu madre. (I saw your mother's car.) No puedo ver las imágenes. (I can't see the pictures.)
  • To refer to the watching of television, a play or a movie. Queremos ver "Survivor" esta noche. (We want to watch "Survivor" tonight.) ¿Vas a ver la nueva película de Almodóvar? (Are you going to see the new Almodóvar film?)
  • To refer to the watching of a sporting event. Me gustó ver el segundo partido del torneo. (I enjoyed watching the second game of the tournament.)
  • To refer to the anticipation of an outcome. A very common example of this is the idiom "a ver," which typically is translated as "let's see" or "we'll see." A ver si podéis ayudarme. (Let's see if you can help me.) Voy a ver qué pasa. (I'm going to see what happens.)
  • To indicate understanding. No veo por que hay un doble estándar. (I don't see why there's a double standard.)
  • To refer to a visit with someone. Es la tercera vez que voy a verlo. (It's the third time I'm going to see him.)

Using Mirar

Mirar is commonly used in the following situations:

  • To indicate deliberate looking rather than mere seeing. Yo te miraba de afuera. (I gazed at you from afar.) Miraron a la derecha y a la izquierda. (They looked right and left.)
  • To indicate the orientation of something. El hotel mira al mar. (The hotel faces the sea.)

Note that ver is conjugated irregularly.

Sample Sentences Showing Uses of Ver and Mirar

El hotel mira todo el movimiento en la plaza. (The hotel looks over all the action in the plaza.)

Hay cosas que no quiero ver. (There are things I don't want to see.)

El niño había visto a uno de ellos golpear a otros compañeros de escuela y lo reportó a la policía. (The boy had seen one of them strike other classmates and reported it to the police.)

Cuando Galileo miraba directamente al cielo, veía al brillante Venus. (When Galileo looked directly at the sky, he saw the brilliant Venus.)

Se miraron uno a otro con admiración. (They admiringly looked at each other.)

Cuando se vieron uno a otro ella dijo, "Hola". (When they saw each other, she said, "Hello.")

No quiero ver cuando me miras. (I don't want to see when you're looking at me.)

Miraron hacia los cerros y vieron una zona verde iluminada por los rayos del Sol. (They looked toward the hills and saw a green area illuminated by the sun's rays.)

Other Verbs That Can Be Used for Looking or Watching

Buscar usually means to look for or to seek something. Note that it is not followed by a preposition meaning "for."

  • Se dice que Juan Ponce de León siempre buscaba la fuente de la juventud. (It is said that Juan Ponce de León was always looking for the fountain of youth.)
  • Busquemos la verdad y la hallaremos. (Let's look for the truth and we will find it.)

Revisar is often used to refer to examining or looking over something carefully.

  • Revisamos todos los historiales médicos. (We looked over all the medical histories.)
  • En cada una de las puertas, los miembros de seguridad revisaron los papeles requeridos para el ingreso de los estudiantes. (At each of the entry points, the members of the security team looked over the papers required for the students' admission.)

Observar can be used much like "observe."

  • No pude observar nada, dado que yo me quedé fuera en la calle. (I couldn't observe anything because I was left outside on the street.)
  • Quisieron observar la ciudad de noche. (They wanted to observe the city at night.)

Fijarse sometimes means to focus visually on something.

  • ¡Fíjate en el camino! (Keep your eyes on the road!)
  • Los viajeros se fijaron en los relojes y aretes de diamantes. (The travelers keep their eyes on their watches and diamond earrings.)