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看 is a 多音字. With fourth tone it has many different and very common meanings. With first tone it is defined as "to look after", "to take care of", "to watch", and "to guard". I have always used it in the fourth tone to mean those things, however, and I am not sure if this is a generational thing or if I am just wrong. Any opinions would be appreciated!

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  • This reminds me of a recent conversation I had with a friend who is a native Chinese speaker from Shenyang. I mentioned the word “当时” (which has two readings due to 多音字) and my friend said that she always says it in one single way for both meanings - but I'm not sure now if she said she says it as dàngshí or as dāngshí! // For 当时 and for your question about 看, I guess it could well be a case of the difference between prescriptive language (as in dictionaries saying how you should speak) versus descriptive language (as in describing how people actually speak). Apr 19, 2022 at 9:10

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Yes, but 照看(kan4) is the only case that I can think of.

看(kan1) should be used in 看护, 看管, 看守, 看门, 看家, etc.

看 with these two tones are usually used in different words, so even with the wrong tone, people can still understand. But for example in 看好, they result in different meaning.

  • 看(kan1)好: To keep an eye on.
    • Example: 这名玩家曾经作弊。这场比赛我看好他。This player was a cheater. In this game I'll keep an eye on him (to make sure he doesn't cheat again).
  • 看(kan4)好: To think highly of.
    • Example: 这名玩家曾经夺冠。这场比赛我看好他。This player was a champion. In this game I think highly of him (I guess he'll win again).
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  • It is interesting that there are words in which 看 would be pronounced with first tone, and suggests that the existence of kan1 to mean "to look after" actually exists. But if I were to say: 他不工作,每天呆在家看(kan4)孩子, would it be incorrect? Would people not understand that I mean "look after" rather than "look at"? It is hard for me to imagine 看孩子 being pronounced kan1.
    – Buddy L
    Apr 20, 2022 at 17:23
  • @BuddyL 看(kan4) in this sentence sounds weird, but I can understand. I also asked another native speaker, and we have the same feeling -- "Why 看(kan4)? You mean 看(kan1)孩子, right?" Let me give another example: 离婚之后,她不愿让他来家里看(kan4)孩子。After the divorce, she doesn't want him to come home and see their kid. In this context, 看(kan4)孩子 is correct.
    – kyc
    Apr 21, 2022 at 2:15

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