oversee / overlook

thiago_peres

New Member
Portuguese - Brazil
Greetings!

I've faced two pretty confusing words.
- Oversee and overlook. For me, both would be the same, but this is not what I've discovered (no big news for you guys).
  1. He was hired to oversee design and construction of the new facility.
  2. The detective overlooked an important clue.
    (taken from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/overlook /oversee)
It practically infer the same thing, since "see" and "look" are practically the same, but that's not the case.

I got pretty confused because when I first heard the word oversee, I though the speaker was trying to say one forgot about a detail by distraction, but actually he meant the subject was going to be supervisioned.

Can anyone explain me the difference between "see" and "look" in English? Any clue?

Corrections in my thread are welcome.

Regards,

Thiago.
 
  • pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    The definitions of "see" and "look," while subtly different (I can look at [point my eyes toward] my desk but not see [notice] the black pen on the black surface), really have very little to do with the meanings of the words "overlook" and "oversee."

    Those words have taken on meanings apart from the parts that make them up, just as "skyscrapers" do not actually scrape anything.
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hello, Thiago

    The difference between "see" and "look" won't, I'm afraid, help you with the difference between "oversee" and overlook".

    "Oversee" and "overlook" have completely different meanings, and their meanings are only distantly related to the words "see" and "look".

    EDIT: As pob has just said!:D
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Forget about 'see' and 'look' here. They're closely related words you need to know the difference between, but neither of them will help you with 'oversee' and 'overlook'. You need to learn these two separately, and they are very different.

    'Overlook' means fail to see, not see, miss. The detective didn't see the important clue.

    'Overlook' also means "be in a position over, where you can see something", and we typically use it about houses. The house overlooks the beach. Its balcony overlooks the garden. (If you were on the balcony you could see the garden below.)

    'Oversee' means "watch other people at work, to make sure they do it right".

    Now for some bad news. The noun 'oversight' usually relates to 'overlook' (miss). The sentence was left out of the book because of an oversight (= because someone had overlooked it, failed to see it).
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Now for some bad news. The noun 'oversight' usually relates to 'overlook' (miss). The sentence was left out of the book because of an oversight (= because someone had overlooked it, failed to see it).
    That's what I love about English. Its complexity. It's fraught with interesting nuances like this! This begs the question. Since the noun "oversight" derives from the verb "oversee = supervise, scrutinize" does it have the second meaning apart from "omission, laxity"? For instance The oversight of government is necessary for this investment. or Had it not been for government's oversight, all the funds would've been splurged.
    Oversight meaning "supervision, scrutiny" here.
     
    Last edited:

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Well, yes. I said 'usually' - you do see 'oversight' sometimes used to mean "the act of overseeing", such as in politics, but because the "omission" meaning is so much commoner, it seems a bad choice to use it for "overseeing".
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    In other words, "oversight" means both "supervision" and "the failure of proper supervision." Hooray - it means both one thing and that thing's opposite!

    Isn't it amazing how people ever manage to understand each other by means of language?
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    In other words, "oversight" means both "supervision" and "the failure of proper supervision." Hooray - it means both one thing and that thing's opposite!
    Such words are well-known as contranyms or contronyms. (give it a read :)) The most outlandish language phenomenon I've ever found :)
     
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