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Is it Correct to Say “I Seen”?

You may have used the phrase “I see” to describe something you are looking at or as an affirmation that you agree with someone. But what about “I seen”? You may hear someone use this as, “I seen it” or “I have seen it,” but only one is grammatically correct. 

It is incorrect to use “I seen” without the helping verb “have” because “seen” is a past participle meaning that you have viewed something before. You may say, “Have I seen you before?” or “Never have I seen something like this.” You may also insert “have” between “I” and “seen,” as in “I have seen this already.

Read on to learn more about the meaning of “I seen” and how to use it correctly. 

What Does “I Seen” Mean? 

“See” means more than what you do with your eyes. You can also use “see” to mean you are aware of, acknowledging, or imagining a thing or scenario. “See” can also mean something you are discovering, watching, or taking care of.

For example, in “I see what you mean,” “see” means understand. But in this sentence, “I see it working out for the best,” you imagine a scenario.

When you use “see” in the singular third person, it becomes “sees,” as in, “She sees his potential.” In this sentence, “see” means to acknowledge. 

“Seen” is a past tense version of “see.” You can not use “seen” in all the ways you would use “see.” You will use “seen” to discuss something that occurred in the past but still holds true today (source).

Use “saw” instead for most past tense uses of “see.” “Saw” is the simple past tense, and you use it for things that happened in the past and have ended at a recognizable time or were a single occurrence. “I saw it,” acknowledges that it occurred once already, and it is no longer happening.

“I” is a pronoun. Use it when you are referring to yourself. This means that “I seen” refers to you and what you have experienced. You can replace the pronoun to change the meaning.

  • Have you seen
  • Have they seen
  • Has he seen
  • Has she seen  

When you put them together, “I seen” means something in the past that you have witnessed and does not have a simple end date. 

Use “I seen” as a statement with “I have seen,” like in the sentence “I have seen the Easter Bunny.”  You can also use it as a question or a statement with “have I seen.” When it is a question, You can say, Have I seen those pants before?” As a statement, you can say, “Never have I seen those pants before.”

How Do You Use “I Seen”?

“Seen” is the past participle of “see.” A past participle is a verb form that you use in the perfect tense or the passive tense. Past participles may also become adjectives. 

You can use “seen” in the perfect tense, as in I have seen the sunset.” You can also use “seen” in the passive tense, like in “It can be seen” or “Oliver was seen by Theo next to the candy bowl.” 

You can say, I have seen it earlier,” or “Never have I seen this before.” 

It is incorrect for you to say, “I seen it earlier,” or  “I never seen this.” “I seen” appears in some English dialects without a helping verb but never in Standard American English. To be grammatically correct, always use “seen” with a helping verb like “have or “to be.” 

When Can You Use “I Seen”?

You can use “I seen” in conjunction with a helping verb when discussing something at an unspecified time in the past or something that began in the past but is still true or still occurring today.

Image by Helena Lopes via Pexels

For instance, it is common to use “I haven’t seen” in greetings toward people you haven’t met in a long time.

  • Hey! How are you? I haven’t seen you in ages!
  • Wow, you are all grown up! I haven’t seen you since you were a baby.

If you and some old friends meet for coffee to catch up on life, you may talk about things you all have or have not seen.

  • Have you seen every State yet?” “Nope, but we are at 41 now; 9 to go!”
  • “Did you hear that Jack got married?” “Yes! But I haven’t seen him since graduation.”
  • “Have you heard from Dane?” “I haven’t seen or heard from him in years.”

When speaking of someone or something you have seen, it is acceptable to say, “I’ve seen.”

  • I’ve seen all of the Lord of the Rings movies.

Using “I Seen” in a Full Sentence

You can use “I have seen,” “have I seen,” and other forms of I + to be verbs + seen in various parts of a full sentence. These may serve as the main subject and verb of the sentence or a clause. However, “I seen” is not acceptable.

Here are some examples of using “I seen” and “seen” with other pronouns: 

TenseHelping verb: HaveHelping verb: To Be
Present PerfectI have seen the show already.
Have I seen you there?
Never have I seen such foolishness. 
You’ve seen The Nutcracker before, right?
They have seen the movie before.
She has seen the play twice.
Has he seen her in her new dress?
Children should be seen and not heard. 
I might be seen as strict for my rules. 
Love is seen in everything. 
They are seen as manipulative.
Those lights might be seen in space!
He is seen for what he is.
Past PerfectI had seen him a year ago.
Had I seen that commercial before?
They weren’t mine, nor had I seen them before.
They had seen my painting on display.
He had not seen his friend all night. 
I was seen on the red carpet.
Was I seen at the store?
They were seen hiding by the tree.
Were we seen in our new outfits?
How were you seen over there?

When Not to Use “I Seen”

Do not use “I seen” without the helping verb, “have” or one of its conjugates: “has” and “had.” You may also use “was” and “were.”

You should avoid using “I seen” as it is grammatically incorrect. There are some dialects of American English where the term is prevalent, particularly in Southern mountain dialects. Regardless, even in those regions, “I seen” is not acceptable in writing.

What Can You Use Instead of “I Seen”?

When discussing something you have seen in the past tense, you can use “I saw.” 

For example, you can say, “I saw her at the store yesterday.” Use “saw” for simple past tense when an action or event occurred in the past and had a specific ending. You saw her at the story yesterday, and that was it. You aren’t commenting on whether you saw them outside the store or since, just at that moment (source).

  • I saw the sunset yesterday. 
  • I saw him hug her. 

When discussing something you have seen in the present or the future, use “I see.” For example, I see you hiding behind the tree” means you are seeing someone as you speak. A future example would be, “Will I see you later?” Here, you are asking about something that has not happened yet.  

  • I see how it is. 
  • Can I see that? 
  • How can you see that far away? 
  • I see you smiling at him.
  • How did I not see what was happening? 
  • Did you see what she is doing? 

To communicate “I seen” by using a different word altogether, opt for one of the following:

  • I viewed
  • I watched
  • I observed
  • I glimpsed
  • I spotted
  • I noticed
  • I caught sight of

Helping Verbs and Perfect Tenses

You need the helping verb “have” to use the phrase “I seen.” “I have seen” is the present perfect form, and “I had seen” is the past perfect form.

Image by Ketut Subiyanto via Pexels

Review the following sentences to see these tenses in action.

  • Have I seen those shoes on you before? 
  • I have seen better color palettes. 
  • I have seen the text messages. 
  • I had seen him sleeping before I left, but now he is awake. 
  • I had only seen them once before. 
  • I had seen right through his lie. 

“Was” and “were” are two conjugates of “to be” that you can also use as helping verbs with “seen.” When you use “to be” in this context, it becomes a helping verb, but this is not its only form. 

When speaking about yourself in the first person, you need to use “was.” For example, you could say, “I was seen at the town meeting.” You can also use “was” when speaking in the third person, like “She was seen pumping gas on Friday.”

Use “were” only if you are talking about multiple people. For example, “They were seen walking to school.” 

  • Was I seen at the event? 
  • I was seen with Jenny at the mall. 
  • Were they seen sneaking into the old building? 

You can use the perfect tense in the present or the past. Use the past perfect when discussing something that has been completed, typically an action. Use the present perfect when something began in the past but still holds true today (source).

For example, “She has seen all the Marvel movies already.” She has already seen them, which is a fact that does not change. 

  • Who has seen the new episode of The Bachelor? 
  • She has never seen that man. 
  • He has seen some things already. 

This article was written for

To learn more about past tense versus past participle, read our articles, Has Just Began or Has Just Begun: Past Tense vs. Past Participle and Had Already or Have Already: Which is Correct?

Final Thoughts

To use “I seen” correctly, you must use a helping verb like “have” in your sentence, either before or in the middle of the phrase. You can use “I have seen” or “Have I seen” to discuss something in the past that does not have a specific beginning or ending date.