เห็น already got some treatment when we put it up against เจอ /jəə/ in a Thai language death match. Though there is never a clear winner, it’s interesting to see how subtleties we take for granted in English are quite often overlooked as we’re trying to learn Thai. Is it a failing of our language-learning? Perhaps. But I think it’s more of a lack of effective resources than anything else. That’s one of the reasons why I have these Grammar Wars posts and encourage discussion on the finer points of Thai. But I digress…

A recent conversation with my Thai teacher, and a comment on the aforementioned post, brought up some more interesting points and made me realize that it’s probably time to revisit this and introduce two more; yes, we get a triple threat match today…

ดู /duu/ is a verb that means “to watch.” This verb is used when we are actively watching something, such as TV:

ผมดูทีวี
/pǒm duu tii-wii/
(I [male speaker] “to watch” TV)
I am watching TV.

 

เห็น /hěn/ on the other hand, infers a more observational concept, such as:

ผมเห็นนกการกินไส้เดือน
/pǒm hěn nók gaan-gin sâi-dʉan/
(I [male speaker] “to see” bird eat earthworm)
I saw a bird eat a worm.

 

(Don’t get too caught up with การกิน if you aren’t familiar with the use of การ. For now, just realize that it means “eat” as a noun and not a verb.)

So, whereas in English we more or less use “watch” and “see” interchangeably, Thai doesn’t. I’m sure there are probably some exceptions that I’m not aware of yet – there always are – but if you keep the idea of watching vs. observing in mind you should be okay for the majority of situations.

There is also the word มอง /mɔɔng/ which, by all accounts, basically means to stare or look at something very closely.

เจอ /jəə/ also still has a place in the conversation, but since we discussed it in more detail previously I’m leaving it out for now. I felt the distinction between ดู and เห็น, however, was important enough to revisit its use.