I had a request to do “saw” and “seen.” Most people tend to inherently know when to say “seen” or “saw.” For example, I’m sure several of you know enough not to say “I seen that movie.” The issue comes in when people try to explain WHY they don’t say that. This post is to help you better understand the difference and to help you explain it to others!

NOTE: The picture is of a see-saw! Get it? :-D

Saw

“Saw” is the simple past tense form of “see.” It is something that happened in the past and is over and done with. For example, “I saw the movie yesterday.” We know that you’re referring to the past–yesterday, to be exact–and that you’re referring to a particular moment in the past.

Seen

“Seen” is the past participle of “see.” Past participles cannot be used on their own in a sentence; they need what we call an auxiliary, or “helper,” verb. In this case, “seen” would be connected to the “has” words–”has,” “have,” or “had.” The participle verb form connects the past to the present. For example, saying “I have seen the movie yesterday” would be incorrect. The verb form is being used correctly (“have seen”), but the word “yesterday” refers to a specific moment in the past–it does not connect the past to the present, right? So let’s take out “yesterday” and replace it with something else: “I have seen the movie before.” This means that somewhere in the past up through the present, you saw the movie. It could be when you were one year old or yesterday, but you have seen the movie before. Also, please note that “has” follows the same structure, but is used with the third person point of view (he/she).

In conclusion

That’s the basic gist of “saw” and “seen.” If you want to use “seen,” you need to use a helper verb with it–”I seen” is incorrect. If you want to understand verb forms better, check out my grammar guide on Verb Tenses. Good luck!

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