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  1. #1
    Filip is offline Junior Member
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    Default Gerund or no gerund after verbs of perception

    Hello there,
    I was wondering wether you have to use a gerund after verbs such as
    'see', 'hear', 'watch', 'notice' etc...

    So which ones would be the better prhases:

    "I saw him run into that house"
    vs
    "I saw him running into that house"

    "Did you hear him talk about last night?"
    vs
    "Did you hear him talking about last night?"

    "Suzan watched her mother make breakfast"
    vs
    "Suzan watched her mother making breakfast"

    When I checked the internet, I found that it seems to be correct to use
    both these forms, but I would like to make entirely sure.

    Thanks in advance for your responses

  2. #2
    svartnik is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Gerund or no gerund after verbs of perception

    Verbs of perception- feel, hear, notice, observe, see, smell, watch- may be followed by gerunds, however, never infinitives. They may also be followed by the base form of the verb (bare infinitive without the infinitive marker "to").

    I saw him dancing. -- I saw him while he was dancing.
    I saw him dance. -- I saw the the entire course of dancing.

    In my opinion, the rest of the labove listed verbs of perception do not affect the meaning upon the speaker's choice of gerund or inf.

  3. #3
    Filip is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Gerund or no gerund after verbs of perception

    thanks svartnik, this has been helpful.

    And what if I were to say: "you don't hear me complain/complaining?"
    Would that follow the same rules of the gerund? So in other words, would both these forms of 'to complain' be correct in that sentence?

  4. #4
    svartnik is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Gerund or no gerund after verbs of perception

    Quote Originally Posted by Filip View Post
    thanks svartnik, this has been helpful.

    And what if I were to say: "you don't hear me complain/complaining?"
    Would that follow the same rules of the gerund? So in other words, would both these forms of 'to complain' be correct in that sentence?
    Both correct.

  5. #5
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: Gerund or no gerund after verbs of perception

    , but I detect a sense (not firm or unchanging) that the indicative refers to a specific event: so
    You've never heard me complain
    but
    You won't hear Alf complaining

    But as I said, this is not a firm rule; you could hear the first of these examples with a gerund and the second with an indicative.

    But just because these two are acceptable, it doesn't mean they're always interchangeable. In this -
    After a few weeks, they began to smell the body decomposing under the floorboards [sorry - too much CSI ] -
    only the gerund is acceptable; I've no idea what the rule is, if there is one.

    One exception to the rule about not using an infinitive applies after 'understand', but perhaps that word doesn't fall in the same category of 'perception ' verbs (although there is a sense of 'perceive' that can be synonymous with 'understand'): 'I understood you to say that you wanted him killed'.

    b

  6. #6
    Filip is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Gerund or no gerund after verbs of perception

    Great! Thanks.

  7. #7
    Filip is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Gerund or no gerund after verbs of perception

    So, it would be safest to use a gerund in most cases then?

    And maybe it'd easier to wheel around the tricky 'understand' by
    turning it into "I understood when you said you wanted him killed", wouldn't it?

  8. #8
    Filip is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Gerund or no gerund after verbs of perception

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    After a few weeks, they began to smell the body decomposing under the floorboards [sorry - too much CSI ] -
    only the gerund is acceptable; I've no idea what the rule is, if there is one.
    b
    I think I might have found an explanation for that, based on what Svartnik said earlier: as the gerund implies that you only experienced a part of the experience, it does make more sense to say "they smelled the body decomposing" and not "smelled the body decompose" as the latter would then suggest they were there ("sniffing" the body, if you will) from the moment the body began to decompose right up til the unearthing of the body. That's what I think, although it could be entirely wrong. It does seem rational to me, though.

  9. #9
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gerund or no gerund after verbs of perception

    Quote Originally Posted by Filip View Post
    So, it would be safest to use a gerund in most cases then?
    I think so; I can't think of a case where a gerund would be wrong.
    Quote Originally Posted by Filip View Post
    And maybe it'd easier to wheel around the tricky 'understand' by
    turning it into "I understood when you said you wanted him killed", wouldn't it?
    Good idea. There are possibly some forms of English where 'understand to ...' isn't acceptable, and when I hear it used it can sound rather academic/legalistic. So I usually prefer to use a periphrasis.

    But I think I haven't made clear what 'understand to...' means. When I thought of the 'wanted him killed' example I was thinking of the murder of Becket by soldiers who misinterpreted a command. The king said something like 'Will nobody rid me of this turbulent priest?' (there's no reliable contemporary transcript, but that's the most common version), and the murderers thought they were just following orders. (Read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Becket)

    So a clearer way of saying 'I understood you to have said you wanted him killed' would be something like 'I understood - from what you said - that you wanted him killed'. In short, your version implies that the king said 'I want him killed' - which he didn't. The meaning of 'understand to...' is about the listener's understanding.

    b
    Last edited by BobK; 16-Apr-2009 at 13:35. Reason: Added link

  10. #10
    Filip is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Gerund or no gerund after verbs of perception

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    So a clearer way of saying 'I understood you to have said you wanted him killed' would be something like 'I understood - from what you said - that you wanted him killed'. In short, your version implies that the king said 'I want him killed' - which he didn't. The meaning of 'understand to...' is about the listener's understanding.

    b
    Ah, I get it now. 'I understood you to have said you wanted him killed'
    means as much as 'I thought you said you wanted him killed'. I first thought it was about the listener being able to understand why the king
    wanted the priest dead. Now I see that it concerns the listener's interpretation of what the king said.

    (But I think we're now straying a bit from the actual point of the thread, though new knowledge is never a wasted gift)

    Thanks again for your explanation

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