I am looking at the following two sentences:

I heard him sing.

I heard him singing.

I think I understand the difference between these two sentences, but I want to make sure I understand.

"I heard him sing" means that you heard someone sing in the past and the action started and completed in the past. To me, this also sounds like you went to some type of performance and heard someone sing.

"I heard him singing" means that you heard someone singing (continuously) in the past. To me, this means it seems like you heard someone singing in passing.

Also, isn't "singing" a gerund here?

Is my description between these two sentences correct?


2 Answers 2


Both sentences essentially mean the same thing, that someone was singing and you heard they, and often them can be used interchangeably.

I heard him sing.

is more general, nonspecific, and "passive".

I heard him sing in La Traviata.

The more "active"

I heard him singing

can mean the same, but may leave the listener asking "Singing what? It is usually followed by a description of what he was singing

I heard him singing a happy song.
I heard him singing to the birds.

  • I heard him sing.

This implies that his singing is finished. "Sing" is a bare infinitive.

  • I heard him singing.

This denotes that his singing is ongoing, and has not come to an end. "Singing" is functioning as an adjective, qualifying the pronoun "him".

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