UNIT 65. See somebody do and see somebody doing

Australia-28 grammar


Study this example situation:
Tom got into his car and drove away. You saw this.
You can say:
– I saw Tom get int his car and drive away.

In this structure we use get/drive/do, etc.
(not to get / to drive / to do).

Somebody did something + I saw this

I saw somebody do something


Study this example situation:
Yesterday you saw Kate. She was waiting for a bus.
You can say:
– I saw Kate waiting for a bus.

In this structure we use -ing (waiting/doing, etc.):

Somebody was doing something + I saw this

I saw somebody doing something



Study the difference in meaning between the two structures:
I saw him do something = he did something (simple past) and I saw this. I saw the complete action from beginning to end:
– He fell off the wall. I saw this. -> I saw him fall off the wall.
– The accident happened. Did you see it? -> Did you see the accident happen?

I saw him doing something = he was doing something (past continuous) and I saw this.
I saw him when he was in the middle of doing it. This does not mean that I saw the complete action:
– He was walking along the street.
I saw this when I drove past in my car.

-> I saw him walking along the street.

Sometimes the difference is not important and you can use either form:
– I’ve never seen her dance. or I’ve never seen her dancing.



We use these structures with see and hear, and a number of other verbs:
– I didn’t hear you come in. (you came in – I didn’t hear his)
– Liz suddenly felt somebody touch her on the shoulder.
– Did you notice anyone go out?
– I could hear it raining. (it was raining – I could hear it)
– The missing children were last seen playing near the river.
– Listen to the birds singing!
– Can you smell something burning?
– I found Sue in my room reading my letters.

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