How to use Vedere, Guardare, Osservare, Scrutare and fissare!

In today’s lesson we will see some apparently identical verbs which are often used as synonyms but that in reality have subtle differences in meaning: VEDERE (to see), GUARDARE (to look at, to watch), OSSERVARE (to observe), SCRUTARE (to scrutinize) and FISSARE (to stare)


VEDERE is the most superficial among the five and indicates the perception of something through the eyes, to catch something with the sight, but not in depth or unwillingly.

For example:

Ho visto per caso Sara sul treno (I saw Sara on the train by chance)

In this case, Sara was in front of me and I realized she was Sara, but there was minimal attention on my part!

GUARDARE means stopping the eyes on something or someone, so looking more carefully.

For example:

Guardate questa maglietta! E’ dello stesso colore del mio rossetto (Look at this shirt! it’s the same color as my lipstck


There is a little exception to what we’ve said: when we talk about movies we often use the VEDERE rather than GUARDARE. However, this doesn’t mean that we Italians are careless while watching movies!

OSSERVARE means laying eyes on something or someone for a certain period of time and carefully, in order to learn more, to realize something, to judge.

For example:

Per capire se un quadro è vero o falso, bisogna osservarlo attentamente (To figure out whether a portrait is real or fake, we need to observe it closely)

SCRUTARE, instead, is a little stronger than OSSERVARE: it means looking very carefully to catch details that are difficult to spot or trying to notice features that are not easily visible.

For example:

Ho dovuto scrutare a lungo l’orizzonte per individuare la scia di fumo, tanto era sottile (I had to scrutinize the horizon for a long time to notice the smoke trail, it was so thin!)

Finally, we have FISSARE which means looking at someone or something persistently, with no interruption, so much as to annoy the other person and make him/her uncomfortable.

For example:

Quando Marta ha alzato lo sguardo, si è resa conto che un uomo la fissava. Così ha cambiato posto (When Martha looked up, she noticed that a man was staring at her. So she changed seat)

We hope that from now on you can use all these verbs when needed instead of always using the generic VEDERE .

If  you have doubts on the verbs SAPERE, CONOSCERE, POTERE and RIUSCIREdon’t miss our video!

Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!

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