3

This question is not about single words, it is about phrases.

Direct translation of voir is to see and regarder is to look or to watch.

Is there any difference at all between the actions of voir un film and regarder un film? If not, should both translations be valid?

3
  • 2
    All you need to know to answer your question is the difference in English between watch a film and see a film since a dictionary gives you the meaning of voir and regarder.
    – None
    Aug 21 at 22:06
  • 2
  • 3
    @None Firstly, The difference between voire and regarder does not have to be the same in English as well as their meaning in phrases. Since I am not a native French speaker, this is what I am trying to get. Secondly, even if I was a native English speaker it is still possible that I were using see and watch in wrong places.
    – Xfce4
    Aug 21 at 22:27
5

Although this is out of place on FL I am making two answers, one in French for French, one in English for English. You will see that every time I have used voir the corresponding English word is "see", and every time I have used regarder the English word is "watch".
Mixing French and English in the same answer made it far too difficult to read.


« Voir un film » et « regarder un film » sont des actions différentes et l'emploi de l'un ou de l'autre dépend de ce qu'on veut dire, et donc du contexte de la situation. « Voir un film » établit un lien cognitif entre la personne et le film. On n'emploie « voir » en liaison avec un film qu'au passé ou au futur pour exprimer une connaissance de l’œuvre dans sa totalité. Je n'arrive pas à imaginer une situation où quelqu'un dirait « je vois un film » dans un contexte où film aurait le sens d’œuvre cinématographique.
« Regarder un film » c'est porter son attention visuelle sur le film, ça implique une sensation qui passe par le nerf optique. On ne dira qu'on a vu un film qu'une fois qu'on a regardé ce film en entier1.

  • J'ai vu un bon film au cinéma/à la télé la semaine dernière.
    → J'indique que je connais ce film et je suis capable de porter un jugement sur l’œuvre, peu importe le support sur lequel je l'ai regardé. Le sujet principal de la phrase c'est le film.

  • — Que penses-tu de ce film ?
    — Je te le dirai quand je l'aurai vu. Justement il passe demain à la télé et j'avais l'intention de le regarder.
    « De le voir » est aussi possible dans cette dernière phrase mais ça implique que j'ai l'intention de le regarder jusqu'au bout et de ne pas m'endormir avant la fin.
    Autre réponse possible :
    — Je vais le voir demain soir au cinéma.
    → À noter qu'ici l'action c'est « aller voir » et pas « voir » tout seul, c'est le futur : j'ai l'intention d'en prendre connaissance (avec le but éventuel d'émettre un jugement).

  • — As-tu fini ton livre hier soir ?
    — Je n'ai pas lu hier soir, j'ai regardé un film.
    → Là je parle de la façon dont j'ai occupé mon temps, je suis le sujet principal de la phrase.

  • — Qu'est-ce que tu fais ?
    — Je suis devant la télé et je regarde un film.
    — Je suis au cinéma et je regarde un film.
    — Je suis dans un train et je regarde un film sur mon téléphone.
    → dans aucun de ces cas je n'emploie « voir », la phrase porte sur le fait que je suis occupé à quelque chose, peu importe si je regarde ou pas le film jusqu'au bout ou si je pourrai en parler.


1Je ne sais pas ce qu'implique « regarder un film » pour un non voyant, je suppose que c'est possible mais je n'ai pas l’expertise pour le dire (audio description ?).


"Seeing a movie" and "watching a movie" are different actions and using one or the other verb depends on what we want to say, it is context dependent.

When using "see" we establish a cognitive link between the person and the movie. That is why we use "see a movie" only in a past or future tense to express knowledge of the work. I can't imagine a situation where someone would say I see a movie (present tense). When we use "watch" we pay visual attention to the movie, there is a sensation that goes through the optical nerve. We can say we have seen a movie once we have watched it from beginning to end2.

  • I saw a good movie at the cinema/on telly last week.
    → I am saying that I know this movie and I am able to give my opinion on the work, whatever the medium I watched it on. The main subject of the sentence is the movie, not the way I occupied myself.

  • — What do you think of this movie ?
    — I'll tell you once I've seen it. It's on telly tomorrow and I intend to watch it.
    → "To see it" would be possible in this last sentence meaning that I intend to watch it to the end without falling asleep in the middle.
    Another possible answer to this question:
    — I'm going to the cinema to see it tomorrow. I'm "going to see" meaning that I intend to get to know the movie (by way of watching it of course) so that I can talk about it.

  • — Did you finish your book last night?
    — I didn't read last night, I watched a movie.
    → Here I'm talking about the way I spent my time, I am the subject of the sentence.

  • — What are you doing ?
    — I'm in front of the telly, I'm watching a film.
    — I'm at the cinema I'm watching a film.
    — I'm on a train and I'm watching a film on my phone.

I can't use "see" here, the sentence focuses on my action, it doesn't focus on the film, it doesn't matter if I watch the film to the end and can talk about it afterwards or not.


2 I don't know what "watching a movie" implies for someone who is visually impaired. Saying it might be possible but I have no expertise in that matter (visual description ?).

5
  • Thank you. You provided a sentence and explained it: "I saw a good movie at the cinema/on telly last week. I am saying that I know this movie and I am able to give my opinion on the work, whatever the medium I watched it on. The main subject of the sentence is the movie, not the way I occupied myself." The thing is if your brain was really persuaded that seeing a movie and watching a movie were different actions would you be using watched in the explanation?
    – Xfce4
    Aug 22 at 16:44
  • I am not sure I understand your question but I'll try to answer. Remember that grammatical tense is important in all those examples, in order to have seen a movie (i.e. to know it) you must have watched it, so yes I do mean watched in my sentence. I cannot say I have seen (j'ai vu) a movie if I have never watched it (je ne l'ai jamais regardé). Je regarde un film implies my vision, j'ai vu un film is not about my vision but about knowing what it is about.
    – None
    Aug 22 at 17:25
  • None, are you a native French speaker or a native English speaker? According to what language do you explain the difference? What is your opinion on this link?
    – Xfce4
    Aug 22 at 18:00
  • Native French with very long practice of English. My explanation is for French in French, in English for English. The only interesting thing I've found on that link on Quora is this one (by Mike Mendis). I have just found this link for French. Several common remarks.
    – None
    Aug 22 at 18:51
  • None, nice links. Thank you.
    – Xfce4
    Aug 22 at 20:54
1

You say voir un film when it happens at a movie theater (never regarder1) and regarder un film when you use a screen (TV, laptop, phone, tablet...) although voir is also possible in that case.

My understanding is that difference is similar between see and watch in English: Do you watch a movie or see a movie.

Here are a few sentences showing possible sentences:

Je regarde la télé (J'écoute la télé)
Je vois la télé (Possible, but the TV might be turned off)
Je regarde un film à la télé
J'ai vu un film à la télé
J'ai regardé un film à la télé
Je suis au cinéma, je regarde un/le film
Je suis devant ma télé, je regarde un film
J'ai vu un film au cinéma
J'ai regardé un film au cinéma

See also this page.

1See None's comment for a specific case where regarder would be used

9
  • 2
    « Chut ! tais-toi je suis en train de regarder le film, attends la fin de la séance pour me raconter tes histoires ». Je dirais pareil si j'étais devant ma télé. (idem en anglais: I'm watching).
    – None
    Aug 21 at 19:46
  • @None Oui, c'est vrai, dans ce cas on ne dirait pas je suis en train de voir le film. C'est plutôt une exception qui confirme la "règle" car je ne crois pas que quelqu'un dise vraiment, hier j'ai regardé un super film au Grand Rex.
    – jlliagre
    Aug 21 at 20:05
  • @None On dirait d'ailleurs aussi watch dans ce cas précis en anglais.
    – jlliagre
    Aug 21 at 20:08
  • It is not a specific case, it is not a question on screens either. It is a question of attitude/point of view. J'ai vu un film ("I've seen a film") means I know this film (i.e. I can talk about it now), the main subject of the sentence is the film. Je n'ai pas lu, j'ai regardé un film ("I didn't read, I watched a film"). The main subject of the sentence here is me, I'm talking about how I passed my time.The answers to this question are valid for the question asked here.
    – None
    Aug 21 at 21:58
  • Moreover the difference is exactly the same in English with see & watch so if the OP is fluent in English all they need is a dictionary.
    – None
    Aug 21 at 21:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.