Go to the Doctor vs. See a Doctor – What’s the Difference?

When in need of medical attention, people seem to refer to doctors in different ways. Some say “Go to the Doctor”, while others say “See a Doctor”. Have you ever wondered which form is correct?

Let’s find out what’s appropriate and what we should avoid when talking about doctor’s visits.

Go to the Doctor vs. See a Doctor – What’s the Difference?

“Go to the Doctor” and “See a Doctor” are both correct forms to talk about seeking professional medical help. There are some slight differences in applicability to consider. “Go to the Doctor” usually indicates you have something planned, while “See a Doctor” indicates no set plans are in place.

go to the doctor vs see the doctor

Take a look at the examples below:

  • You should go to the doctor.
  • You should see a doctor.
  • I think you should see a doctor for this cough you have.
  • I’ll see the doctor tomorrow, about the cough I have.

The examples show different situations.

The first set of examples contains a simple sentence. In that scenario, you can notice that both forms, “See a Doctor” and “Go to the Doctor”’ work well. The meaning is clearly understood and, regardless of which form you chose, the proper message is conveyed.

The second set is a bit more elaborated – and that’s when the nuances in applicability kick in. In the first sentence, an individual advises another that they should “See a Doctor” about a cough. It’s a recommendation, and no plans are being made in terms of actually going to the doctor.

The second sentence, however, shows an individual sharing that they will “Go to the Doctor” the next day, to get a cough checked out. It doesn’t matter who the doctor is, or what time is the appointment. We don’t need the detail to infer from the use of “Go to the Doctor”, that the plans are set.

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Go to the Doctor

“Go to the Doctor” is a grammatically correct way to express that someone is planning on visiting a doctor about their health. Usually to say “Go to the Doctor” indicates that the person has made plans. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a particular doctor in mind.

Take a look at some examples:

  1. When will you go to the doctor?
  2. Anthony said he’ll go to the doctor before coming to work tomorrow morning.
  3. If you need to go to the doctor, I can drive you.
  4. Bea finally made an appointment to go to the doctor.
  5. What time can we go to the doctor’s?

In the English language, when we talk about some typical locations, commonly, we refer to them using a definite article. For example, we say “go to the hospital”, “go to the library”, and “go to the grocery store”, even if we don’t have a particular place in mind.

It’s a way of generally speaking. “Go to the Doctor” works the same way.

See a Doctor

“See a Doctor” is an alternate way to indicate an individual will visit the doctor’s office. Differently from “Go to the Doctor”, this phrase indicates an idea or suggestion, with no set plans.

Take a look at the examples below:

  1. Sir, do you need to see a doctor?
  2. Excuse me, could I please see a doctor?
  3. Is there any way he can see a doctor today?
  4. Let me know if you need to see a doctor.
  5. If you need to see a doctor, I can take you.

Go See a Doctor

“Go See a Doctor” is another alternate way to express an individual’s need to visit a doctor’s office. It works just like “Go to the Doctor”, in the sense that it’s more assertive and a little more specific than just “See a Doctor”.

Take a look at some helpful examples:

  1. Please, go see a doctor. You don’t seem well.
  2. I’m going to see a doctor today.
  3. They’re both going to see a doctor, since they have the same symptoms.
  4. Grant, when will you go see a doctor?
  5. He is going to see a doctor now.

Which Is Used the Most?

Which one of those forms is used more often, “Go to the Doctor”, “See a Doctor” or “Go See a Doctor”? Let’s take a look at the graph from Google Ngram Viewer below, and find out.

go to the doctor,see a doctor,go see a doctor usage

“See a Doctor” is the form used more frequently, by a considerable difference. It’s followed by “Go to a Doctor”, while “Go See a Doctor” is at the bottom of the graph, as the least used one.

In your daily communications, which form do you prefer to use?

Final Thoughts

“See a Doctor” and “Go to the Doctor” are correct forms to indicate someone needs to visit the doctor’s office. Use “Go to the Doctor” when you have set plans or wish to be assertive. Use “See a Doctor” when making a suggestion that doesn’t need to be too direct.