Ver vs Mirar: What’s the Difference in Spanish?
I’m sure that at some point in your Spanish education you learned that ver means “to see” and mirar means “to look.”
Then you came across sentences like these and felt slightly confused:
Mi hermana ve mucho Netflix.
My sister watches Netflix a lot.
Se te ve bien la falda.
The skirt looks good on you.
La mayoría de la gente no mira la guerra como algo bueno.
Most people don’t regard war as a good thing.
Yes, ver and mirar are both often translated as “to see,” but they also have other meanings.
There are important differences between the two verbs. Keep reading to learn the rules behind them. The good news is that it’s quite clear when to use ver vs mirar.
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Ver vs Mirar – The Basics
Before we get into the details, let’s review the general meaning of these two verbs.
Ver means “to see” in most cases and typically (but not always) refers to the act of perceiving something through your eyes.
Mirar translates into “to look” and “to watch” and implies paying close attention to something. However, it also transmits other meanings.
Let’s take a look at ver and how you translate it into English. I’ll also show you how to conjugate it in the most common tenses.
Meaning and Usage of Ver
There are six situations when you must choose ver instead of mirar.
1. To See, Perceive – People, Animals, and Things
You use the verb ver to express the act of seeing—simply perceiving something or someone. Remember to add the personal a when you talk about seeing people.
Muchas veces veo a mi prima los viernes por la tarde.
I often see my cousin on Friday afternoons.
Ayer vi a Juan en la tienda.
Yesterday, I saw Juan at the store.
¿Ves ese perro? Es del vecino.
See that dog? It’s the neighbor’s.
No veo mi cuaderno.
I don’t see my notebook.
2. To Watch – Entertainment
You use ver when you want to say “to watch television.” It also works with watching movies, sports activities, and events.
Esta película ya la ví.
I’ve already seen this movie.
¿Qué estás viendo? Las noticias.
What are you watching? The news.
Mañana veremos el juego de la tarde.
Tomorrow, we’ll watch the afternoon game.
¿Quieres ver la obra que ahora hay en el teatro?
Do you want to see the play that’s in the theater now?
3. To See and Visit
When you talk about seeing something in the sense of going there, visiting, or sightseeing, you use the verb ver.
Voy a ver a mi abuelo la semana que viene.
I’m going to see my grandfather next week.
¿Quieres ir a ver la exposición?
Do you want to go see the exhibition?
¿Sabes quién vino a ver me ayer?
Do you know who came to see me yesterday?
¡Nos vemos mañana!
See you tomorrow!
4. To Talk about Possible Future or Outcome
The verb ver also refers to something we expect to happen in the future.
We will see.
A ver qué piensas de esto.
Let’s see what you think about this.
Tu verás si lo quieres hacer o no.
You’ll see if you want to do it or not.
A ver si puede ayudarme.
Let’s see if you can help me.
5. To Express Understanding
Ver also refers to seeing something with your intelligence—meaning “to understand.”
Veo cómo son las cosas.
I understand the way things are.
No veo lo que dices.
I don’t really get what you’re saying.
No veo la diferencia.
I don’t see the difference.
6. To Talk About Appearance
Use ver to talk about how someone or something looks.
Te ves bien.
You look good.
Se te ve fenomenal este corte.
That haircut looks amazing on you.
Los maestros siempre se ven muy cansados los viernes.
Teachers always look so tired on Fridays.
El examen no se ve difícil.
The exam doesn’t look difficult.
For a detailed Spanish description of all the uses of ver and some useful expressions with this verb, check out the entry in Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy Dictionary).
Let’s take a look at the conjugation of the verb ver in present, past, and future tenses. It has many irregularities.
Present Tense Conjugation Chart: Ver
Ver is irregular in the first person of the present tense conjugation.
|yo veo||I see|
|tú ves||you see|
|él, ella, usted ve||he, she, it sees (formal you see)|
|nosotros vemos||we see|
|ustedes ven||you see|
|ellos, ellas ven||they see|
Veo que no me entiendes.
I see you don’t understand me.
Preterite Tense Conjugation Chart: Ver
The verb ver is irregular in all forms of the Spanish preterite tense.
|yo vi||I saw|
|tú viste||you saw|
|él, ella, usted vio||he, she, it saw (formal you saw)|
|nosotros vimos||we saw|
|ustedes vieron||you saw|
|ellos, ellas vieron||they saw|
Ayer vi una gran película.
Yesterday, I saw a great movie.
Future Tense Conjugation Chart: Ver
You’ll be happy to hear that ver is regular in all forms of the Spanish future simple tense.
|yo veré||I will see|
|tú verás||you will see|
|él, ella, verá||he, she, it will see (formal you will see)|
|nosotros veremos||we will see|
|ustedes verán||you will see|
|ellos, ellas veran||they will see|
Te veré mañana!
I’ll see you tomorrow.
Let’s have a look now at mirar and how you can translate it into English and conjugate in main tenses.
Meaning and Usage of Mirar
There are four situations when you will choose mirar vs ver.
1. To Deliberately Observe and Pay Attention
You’ll use mirar when you deliberately look at something or someone and focus your attention on them.
No me mires así, me da algo.
Don’t look at me like that, it freaks me out.
Mira cómo lo hace tu hermana mayor e inténtalo tú.
Watch how your big sister does it and try it yourself.
Antes de cruzar la calle mira a los dos lados.
Before crossing the street, look both ways.
2. To Ask for Attention
This is equivalent to “hey, listen” and although Spanish-speaking people also say oye to catch somebody’s attention, mira (hey, look) is a common alternative.
In Portugal, where I currently live, there’s a strong community of Venezuelans, who are called los miras by the locals because they seem to start every single sentence with the Spanish word, mira.
Mira, ayer te pedí algo y no lo hiciste.
Look, yesterday I asked you to do something and you didn’t do it.
Mira esto, ¿qué te parece?
Look at this, what do you think?
3. To Indicate Orientation
The verb mirar is also useful to show the orientation of something.
Las ventanas de la casa miran al sur.
The windows of the house face south.
El edificio mira al mar.
The building faces the sea.
4. To Regard
You use mirar to mean “to regard” or “to judge.”
Las personas van a mirarte por tus actos.
People are going to judge you by your actions.
For a detailed description of all the possible uses of mirar and useful expressions with this verb, check out the entry in Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy Dictionary).
Let’s take a look at the conjugation of the verb mirar in present, past, and future tenses. It’s a regular -ar verb.
Present Tense Conjugation Chart: Mirar
Mirar is regular in present tense conjugation.
|yo miro||I look|
|tú miras||you look|
|él, ella, usted mira||he, she, it looks (formal you look)|
|nosotros miramos||we look|
|ustedes miran||you look|
|ellos, ellas miran||they look|
Las noches de verano miro las estrellas.
On summer nights, I look at the stars.
Preterite Tense Conjugation Chart: Mirar
The verb mirar is also regular in all forms of the Spanish preterite tense.
|yo miré||I looked|
|tú miraste||you looked|
|él, ella, usted miró||he, she, it looked (formal you looked)|
|nosotros miramos||we looked|
|ustedes miraron||you looked|
|ellos, ellas miraron||they looked|
No miraron a la derecha y no vieron el coche venir.
They didn’t look to the right and did not see the car coming.
Future Tense Conjugation Chart: Mirar
Of course, mirar is also regular in the future simple tense.
|yo miraré||I will look|
|tú mirarás||you will look|
|él, ella, mirará||he, she, it will look (formal you will look)|
|nosotros miraremos||we will look|
|ustedes mirarán||you will look|
|ellos, ellas mirarán||they will look|
Lo miraré con cuidado.
I will look at it carefully.
Keep Practicing Ver vs Mirar
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