Easily Confused Words: Seen vs. Scene

Seen and scene are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary, but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted, or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Seen is a verb, it’s the past participle of see. It’s used with “have” to indicate something observed by one or more people. For example, “I have seen that movie before.” “She said she had seen his face before.”

Sometimes people will say “I seen where…” but this is not correct. It should be “I saw” or “I have seen.” Saw tends to indicate one scenario, seen indicates repeated instances.

Scene is a noun. It means a point at a specific time and place, both in fictional works and in reality. It can also mean a fashion, live music, or other cultural marketplace. The plural, scenes, can mean a series of events or moments.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Seely joined the Navy so she could leave Middletown. She wanted to come back and brag to everyone she had seen the world.

After 20 years in, she retired.She didn’t care about going home to brag anymore. Even though she had seen a lot of remarkable things, world wonders and such, she’d also witnessed heartbreaking scenes of poverty, devastation, and loss. 

She joined efforts to set up clean water systems for remote villages. She would rarely make it back to the US to visit. 


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