The Senses

The Five Basic Senses:

These are: sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. For each one we use a basic verb, which can be followed by an adjective or noun in these constructions:

It looks terrible, (from what I could see) It looks like a wedding cake.
He sounds German, (from what I heard) It sounds like a good idea.
It tastes strange, (from tasting it) This tastes like bread.
It feels soft, (from touching it) It feels like a blanket.
It smells wonderful, (from smelling it) This smells like garlic.
We can also use the verbs as nouns. These are very common:
I didn’t like the look of the fish. 1 really like the sound of church bells.
I don’t like the taste of olives. I hate the smell of petrol.

See, look (at) and watch:

See is the ability to use your eyes (the verb is not normally used in the progressive);
look (at) often means to look carefully / pay attention to something that is not moving; and watch often means to pay attention to something that is moving:
I can’t see a thing without my glasses. (= I’m not able to see /1 am blind)
I can’t find my keys and I’ve looked (- searched / looked carefully) everywhere.
I want the doctor to look at (= look carefully and examine) my knee.
The police have been watching that man for weeks.
I watched the match and then went for a drink with friends.
Look (= look carefully) in the corner of my eye; you can see (= are able to see) the mark.
He ran into me because he wasn’t looking. (= paying attention; the speaker seems angry)
He ran into me because he didn’t see me. (= wasn’t able to see me; the speaker is not angry)
Sometimes two verbs are possible in one context; sometimes only one:
I saw a great film last night. (= at the cinema; we cannot use watch here)
I saw/watched a great programme last night. (= on TV; we can use either verb here)

Hear and listen (to):

Hear means able to hear; listen (to) means to pay attention to things you hear:
I couldn’t hear what she said. (= I was physically unable to hear)
I can sometimes hear the trains from my bedroom. (= I am able to hear without trying)
I don’t know what she said because I wasn’t listening. (= I wasn’t paying attention)
I often listen to the early evening news on the television. (= I make an effort to listen)
I was listening to the radio when I heard a strange noise outside.
Sometimes it is possible to use hear (but not in the progressive form) to mean ‘listen to’:
I know he’s dead – I heard it on the radio last night. (= I heard it when I was listening)


Don’t touch those wires – they’re dangerous.
You have to press that button to start the machine.
I don’t feel safe up here. Could you hold my hand?