American English

Definition of observe verb from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    (formal)Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they observe
    he / she / it observes
    past simple observed
    -ing form observing
    jump to other results
  1. 1[transitive] (not used in the progressive tenses) to see or notice someone or something observe somebody/something Have you observed any changes lately? All the characters in the novel are closely observed (= seem like people in real life). I want you to observe all the details. observe somebody/something do something The police observed a man enter the bank. observe somebody/something doing something They observed him entering the bank. observe that… She observed that all the chairs were already occupied. be observed to do something He was observed to follow her closely. This pattern is only used in the passive. Thesauruscommentnote remark observeThese words all mean to say or write a fact or an opinion.comment to express an opinion or give facts about something:He refused to comment until after the trial.note (somewhat formal) to mention something because it is important or interesting:He noted in passing that the company's record on safety issues was not good.remark to say or write what you have noticed about a situation:He remarked that she had been looking tired lately.observe (formal) to say or write what you have noticed about a situation:She observed that it was getting late.comment, remark, or observe?If you comment on something, you say something about it; if you remark on something, or observe something, you say something about it that you have noticed: there is often not much difference between the three. However, while you can refuse to comment (without on), you cannot “refuse to remark” or “refuse to observe” (without on):He refused to remark/observe until after the trial.Patterns to comment/note/remark/observe that… to comment on/note/remark/observe how… to comment/remark on something to comment/remark/observe to somebody “It's long,” he commented/noted/remarked/observed. Thesaurusnoticenote detect observe witnessThese words all mean to see something, especially when you pay careful attention to it.notice to see, hear, or become aware of someone or something; to pay attention to someone or something:The first thing I noticed about the room was the smell.note (somewhat formal) to notice or pay careful attention to something:Please note (that) the office will be closed on Monday. This word is very common in business English:Note that the prices do not include sales tax.detect to discover or notice something, especially something that is not easy to see, hear, etc.:The tests are designed to detect the disease early.observe (formal) to see or notice someone or something:Let me know if you observe any changes in his behavior. The police observed a van leaving the parking lot.witness (somewhat formal) to see something happen:Police have asked anyone who witnessed the robbery to contact them.Patterns to notice/note/detect/observe that/how/what/where/who… to notice/observe/witness something happen/somebody do something
  2. 2[transitive, intransitive] to watch someone or something carefully, especially to learn more about them synonym monitor observe (somebody/something) I felt he was observing everything I did. The patients were observed over a period of several months. He observes keenly, but says little. observe how, what, etc… They observed how the parts of the machine fitted together. Thesauruslookwatch see view observeThese words all mean to turn your eyes in a particular direction.look to turn your eyes in a particular direction:If you look carefully, you can just see our house from here. She looked at me and to look at someone or something for a time, paying attention to what happens:to watch television Watch what I do, then you try.see to watch a game, television program, performance, etc:In the evening we went to see a movie.view (formal) to look at something, especially when you look carefully; to watch television, a movie, etc:People came from all over the world to view her, see, or view?You can see/view a movie/program/show but you cannot:see/view television. View is more formal than see and is used especially in business contexts.observe (formal) to watch someone or something carefully, especially to learn more about them or it:The patients were observed over a period of several months.Patterns to look/watch for somebody/something to watch/observe what/who/how… to look (at)/watch/view/observe (somebody/something) with amazement/surprise/disapproval, etc. to watch/see/view a movie/show/program to watch/see a game/fight/match to look (at somebody/something)/watch (somebody/something)/observe somebody/something carefully/closely
  3. 3[transitive] observe that… + speech (formal) to make a remark synonym comment She observed that it was getting late.
  4. 4[transitive] observe something to obey rules, laws, etc. Will the rebels observe the ceasefire? The crowd observed a minute's silence (= were silent for one minute) in memory of those who had died.
  5. 5[transitive] observe something (formal) to celebrate festivals, birthdays, etc. Do they observe Christmas?
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: observe