I 'watched' it on the boat [it=Statue of Liberty]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by cycloneviv, Apr 15, 2008.

  1. cycloneviv

    cycloneviv Senior Member

    Perth, Western Australia
    English - Australia
    Is it just me or is anyone else uncertain about the use of "watched"? When I think of watching something, it is something in motion; something that has some sort of action to it. We watch TV, watch a movie, watch someone doing something, but I don't think we tend to talk about watching things that are motionless, unless we think they might start doing something.

    I think I'd be most comfortable with "I viewed it from the boat". You could also say "I looked at it from the boat", but that doesn't seem quite so effective.

    EDIT: Wow, I just realised that 9.11 doesn't mean 11 minutes past nine! ;P

    <<Moderator's note: This discussion of 'watched' has been split off from a discussion of another part of the same sentence: get off on the island.>>
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 2, 2011
  2. icecreamsoldier

    icecreamsoldier Senior Member

    New Zealand English
    I completely agree with you cycloneviv. Viewed, observed, looked at or just saw would be much more suitable I think.

    => I went to see the Statue of Liberty, but I was not allowed to get off on the island because it was right after 9/11 so I viewed/observed/looked at/saw it from the boat.

    (its island sounds odd to me, I'd just say the island - the reference is clear given the context)
  3. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    No, it's not just you, Vivi:D ~ I agree entirely. I'd just say looked at.
    I'd also probably say on the island (without anything else) as it's fairly obvious which island you're referring to.

    EDIT: there's an echo in here ... and it's me.
  4. whynottail Senior Member

    Hong Kong
    As you are viewing the Statue from a moving boat, I am sure you will find it moving relative to you, i.e. one moment you are seeing its front, the other its back. Thus, "watch" may still be usable.
  5. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    That's not the way "watch" is typically used, in my experience, whynnottail. We don't watch a skyline as our plane comes in to land. We don't watch the view of the countryside as our car zooms by. "Watch" has an intention to it that is different from "look".

    We watch the road ahead for any dangerous situation that might appear. We watch the flaps on the wing of the plane to make sure that they are operating properly. We watch the house to see if anyone goes in or comes out.

    "Watch that beautiful sunset!" would sound very odd. My first thought would be, "Why? Is something unusual going to happen?" Nevertheless, the sun is moving from our viewpoint.
  6. whynottail Senior Member

    Hong Kong
    The following obtained from THE CORPUS OF CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN ENGLISH are for sharing, please-

    Apart from some Christmases during those first years following graduation and before he'd acquired his own circle of friends, he'd been back only a handful of times in twenty years. " Wellston, " Gregg said as they passed the sign marking the edge of town. " Population three hundred forty-nine. Why, that's practically a metropolis. " He leaned toward Burke. " I bet there's even a Wal-Mart. " Burke ignored him. He was watching the familiar landmarks of his youth appear outside the car window like the ghosts of school-yard bullies, each one greeting him with its own particular taunt.

    Abe stood on the station porch and squinted under his too-large hat; his beard caught the afternoon light and burnt a coppery red. He was watching the mountains: the swell of ancient hills, low-rolling, dull grey, and strewn about the horizon like kicked-off workers' boots.

    They went on through New Mexico and into Arizona, Walter driving and nipping now and then on his whiskey. He'd stashed more than one bottle up there in the carriers. And although Ladonna told stories and sang songs with the children, really she was watching the desert. How all of its colors were yellowed. Brownish-yellow sand. Greenish-yellow cacti. Reddish-yellow mesas. And Ladonna knew they were driving, still moving west along the road, but her eyes were playing tricks on her, telling her they were really standing still because the view never changed.

    In the summer I wore a white nightgown and the sun didn't quite set, the sky turning a faint purple that lingered late. We ate dinner out on the back porch. My father was watching the sky.
  7. jamesjiao

    jamesjiao Senior Member

    New Zealand English and Mandarin Chinese
    I don't have any problem with the use of 'watch' here. Here it means 'to look at with an intention to appreciate' which is different from JamesM's use of the word, which means 'to be wary of, to be on guard'. Both are acceptable uses.

    By the way, shouldn't this have its own thread? This is not what the original poster asked?.. 3 years ago?
  8. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    I think the problem is with using 'watch' to describe looking at a stationary object. We might watch the Statue of Liberty as the boat passes it, because it then would appear to be moving, and our view of it would be changing. We might watch the sky above the Statue of Liberty, because the sky often does change, or things appear in it such as birds or airplanes. I would also accept "watched the Statue of Liberty in the changing light."

    However, I would not ordinarily call looking at the Stature of Liberty from the deck of a stationary boat 'watching' the Statue of Liberty.

    As you point out, at this point we are not going to find out whether the boat in the original sentence was stationary or moving, unfortunately.

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