Word Confusion: Sea versus See

Posted August 5, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Okay, the only possible explanation for this word confusion, sea versus see, has to be a reliance upon spellcheck. Otherwise I cannot possibly believe that a writer can become confused by sea or see.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Sea See
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com

“The Gulf of Tunis at Dusk” by Paul SKG (originally posted to Flickr as P1010746) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Looking out over the sea in Tunisia.

“Canterbury Cathedral Portal Nave Cross-spire” courtesy of Hans Musil and Wikimedia Commons

The west front, nave, and central tower of Canterbury Cathedral as seen from the south.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective; Noun
Plural: seas

Noun 1;
Verb, intransitive & transitive 2

Plural for the noun: ??
Third person present verb: sees
Past tense: saw
Past participle: seen
Gerund or present participle: seeing

Of, pertaining to, or adapted for use at sea

Frequently written as the sea

Expanse of salt water that covers most of the earth’s surface and surrounds its landmasses

  • [Often in place names] A roughly definable area of this
  • [In place names] a large lake
  • Used to refer to waves as opposed to calm sea
  • [Seas] Large waves
  • [Figurative] A vast expanse or quantity of something
Introductory signal an author uses to notify the reader that there are other places in the book, paper, report, etc., where more information can be found

The place in which a cathedral church stands, identified as the seat of authority of a bishop or archbishop

Verb, intransitive:
Perceive with the eyes; discern visually

[See to] Attend to; provide for the wants of


Verb, transitive:
Perceive with the eyes; discern visually

  • [With clause] Be or become aware of something from observation or from a written or other visual source
  • Be a spectator of a film, game, or other entertainment
  • Watch
  • Visit a place for the first time
  • [Imperative] Refer to a specified source for further information (used as a direction in a text)
  • Experience or witness an event or situation
  • Be the time or setting of something
  • Observe without being able to affect
  • [See something in] Find good or attractive qualities in someone

Discern or deduce mentally after reflection or from information; understand

  • [With clause] Ascertain after inquiring, considering, or discovering an outcome
  • Regard in a specified way
  • Foresee
    • View or predict as a possibility
  • Used to ascertain or express comprehension, agreement, or continued attention, or to emphasize that an earlier prediction was correct

Meet someone one knows socially or by chance

  • Meet regularly as a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Consult a specialist or professional
  • Give an interview or consultation to someone

Escort or conduct someone to a specified place

[In poker or brag] Equal the bet of an opponent
I do adore a sea view

We’re going on a sea voyage.

A ban on dumping radioactive wastes in the sea.

rocky bays lapped by vivid blue sea

the Black Sea

the Sea of Galilee

There was still some sea running.

The lifeboat met seas of thirty-five feet head-on.

She scanned the sea of faces for Stephen

“See” is used to indicate additional information.

The Holy See is the central government of the Roman Catholic Church.

Canterbury Cathedral is the see for the archbishop of Canterbury.

Verb, intransitive:
Andrew couldn’t see out of his left eye.

[Figurative] I can’t see into the future.

I’ll see to Dad’s tea.

Lucy saw to it that everyone got enough to eat and drink.

See that no harm comes to him.

Verb, transitive:
In the distance she could see the blue sea.

I see from your appraisal report that you have asked for training.

I went to see King Lear at the Old Vic.

See Alaska in style.

Elements are usually classified as metals or nonmetals (see chapter 11).

I shall not live to see it.

I can’t bear to see you so unhappy.

The 1970s saw the beginning of a technological revolution.

They see their rights being taken away.

I don’t know what I see in you.

I can’t see any other way to treat it.

I saw that perhaps he was right.

I’ll go along to the club and see if I can get a game.

He saw himself as a good teacher.

I can’t see him earning any more anywhere else.

It has to be the answer, don’t you see?

See, I told you I’d come.

I went to see Caroline.

I saw Colin last night.

Some guy she was seeing was messing her around.

You may need to see a solicitor.

The doctor will see you now.

Don’t bother seeing me out.

I’ll see your twenty and raise you another five.

Adjective: seaborne, seafaring, seagoing, seaworthy
Noun: seabed, seabird, seaboard, seacock, seafood, seagrass, seahorse, seaworthiness
Adjective: seeable, unseeable
Noun: seeableness, seafarer, seafront
Phrasal Verb
see about
see after
see off
see out
see through
see to
History of the Word:
Crystal’s Spell It Out notes that these two words were once pronounced differently
Old English , of Germanic origin

Related to Dutch zee and German See.

1 Middle English from the Anglo-Norman French sed, which is from he Latin sedes meaning seat, which is from sedere for sit.

2 Old English sēon is of Germanic origin

Related to Dutch zien and German sehen, perhaps from an Indo-European root shared by the Latin sequi meaning follow.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits

“A Sailor Stands Lookout” was photographed by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Aaron Chase/NPASE-E/U.S. Navy and is from the official U.S. Navy page in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.