Ask the wise old owl
Which word should follow the word “look”?
The answer to this question is not straightforward, because there are a number of words that can go after the word “look”. I notice a number of mistakes in relation to this, so let’s look at 10 of them in more detail.
1. Look at
If you are showing something to someone, you want them to look at it. You might want them to look at you, or at the papers for the next meeting. I sometimes here people talking about looking on the documents, but this isn’t correct.
<2. Look on
If I can’t find my notebook, I might look for it on my desk. The notebook should be on top of the desk.
3. Look in
If the thing that I’m trying to find is inside something, such as a cupboard or a drawer, I might look in the cupboard or drawer. I might also look in my diary to see whether I’m available for a meeting. Again, I can’t look on my diary.
4. Look for
If you’re trying to find something, you’re looking for it. I’ve spent the last 20 minutes looking for my keys because I can’t remember where I left them. Some of my German-speaking students use “look after” here, but that isn’t correct. If you want to find something, you are looking for it.
5. Look after
If you’re looking after something, you’re taking care of it. I’m looking after my neighbours’ dog while they are on holiday.
<6. Look up
You can look up words in a dictionary to find their meanings, or if you are busy working and someone comes into your office, you may look up from what you are doing to see who it is and what they want.
7. Look out
You can look out of a window to see what’s going on outside. “Look out” is also an exclamation that means someone should watch out or be careful, because something bad is about to happen.
8. Look out for
If you look out for something, you are waiting for something and actively looking for it – either because it’s a good thing, or because it’s something you want to avoid. Look out for our new product range that is coming soon. Look out for rabbit holes in the field, otherwise you’ll trip over and hurt yourself.
9. Look into
If you look into something, you want to find out more information about it. What exactly happened? How did this problem occur?
Look down on
If you look down on someone, you think that you are better than them. They always look down on us because we don’t make as much money as them. It’s not about physically looking down, but imagining yourself as bigger and better than the other person.
More articles in this series
If you want to read the rest of the articles in this series, go to the wise old owl’s main page.
More from English with Kirsty
If you would like more articles like this and other news from English with Kirsty to be delivered straight to your inbox, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter.