The word ‘see’ can mean many different things. As a verb, the meaning is to understand or identify with the eyes.

For example:

  • I can see your point. (understand)
  • I saw Katy with Benji. (identify with the eyes)


See is an irregular verb. The past tense is saw and the past participle is seen.

Check out the grammar section if you want to learn more about verbs.

idiomatic phrasal verbs

Did you know phrasal verbs are sometimes used in idioms? See if you can spot any. If you don’t know any phrasal verbs with ‘see’, click here to learn them.

idioms list with ‘see’

  • can’t see the wood for the trees – can’t see the whole situation as you are too preoccupied with minor details
    e.g. I hate the people who run this country, they can’t see the wood for the trees.
  • glad to see the back of – be pleased when someone leaves
    e.g. I’m glad to see the back of winter, it’s been very cold this year.
  • long time no see – a greeting you say to someone you haven’t seen in a long time
    e.g. Long time no see mate. Are you still with the missus or has she finally binned you?
  • monkey see, monkey do – stupid people copy the actions of other stupid people
    e.g. People play violent games then act them out in real life. Monkey see monkey do.
  • see a man about a dog – an excuse for leaving
    e.g. I’ll be back in a few minutes, I’ve got to see a man about a dog.
  • see eye to eye – fully agree with someone
    e.g. Me and my siblings see eye to eye about putting our great aunt into a home.
  • see pink elephants – hallucinations caused by drink or drugs
    e.g. Those pills we took were crazy. I saw pink elephants for days afterwards.
  • see red – become very angry
    e.g. Brett saw red when he caught some thugs robbing an old man.
  • see something through – persevere, continue with something until it’s finished
    e.g. I started the project so I’m going to see it through.
  • see the colour of one’s money – prove you can pay for something
    e.g. I’m not bluffing, I raise you £200. I’ll show you the colour of my money.
  • see which way the wind blows – wait until you have more information before making a decision
    e.g. The president will see which way the wind blows before he makes his mind up.
  • seen better days – in poor condition, old, shabby
    e.g. Toby’s car has seen better days, the exhaust fell off today.

Let’s see these idioms with pictures and meaning using real-life scenarios.

verb phrases - see
Idioms with verbs - SEE - can’t see the wood for the trees
verb phrase - glad to see the back of
see idioms - long time no see
Idioms with verbs - SEE - monkey see, monkey do
verb phrase - see a man about a dog
verb phrase - see eye to eye
see idioms - see pink elephants
Idioms with verbs - SEE - see red
verb phrase - see something through
see idioms - see the colour of one’s money
Idioms with verbs - SEE - see which way the wind blows
see idioms - seen better days


Hey, did you know the verb ‘see’ has many phrasal verbs. Since you like idioms and phrases, you obviously want to improve your fluency and speak like a native.

Am I right?


I thought you might like to learn the phrasal verbs with ‘see’ too. They are very common in informal English and great to know/be able to understand if you happen to be speaking to a native. We use them all the time, like literally ALL the time.