Is it grammatically possible to use both, the continuous form and simple present in sentences that use the pattern as in the title?

Example sentences:

I want to watch you wash/washing the car.

I want to see you ask/asking him/her out.

I want to watch you get/getting your hair cut.

2 Answers 2


As mentioned, watch you doing is not the present continuous form but doing is a gerund and in the same way,watch you do is not the present simple form but do is a bare infinitive. Both choices are correct depending on what you want to say.

  1. "I want to watch you wash the car" means that I want to see the action (washing the car) completed.

2."I want to watch you washing the car" means that I want to see a part of the action not the whole of it.

  • Thank you! Ironically this is what I told my wife (she is American) and she wouldn't believe me. So a gerund can never be the continuous form? I thought a gerund is just the noun of the verb but it also has the continuous verb.
    – Chris
    Jan 4, 2017 at 7:05
  • This is from the dictionary: verb verb: wash; 3rd person present: washes; past tense: washed; past participle: washed; gerund or present participle: washing
    – Chris
    Jan 4, 2017 at 7:07

You have to be careful not to confuse the gerund form of verbs, which act like nouns and are not meant to describe ongoing action. "Washing the car" for example, is a gerund and not a present continuous verb:

On Saturdays, my favorite pastime is [washing the car][eating pizza][playing sports][watching television][etc.]

In the evening he likes drinking whiskey and smoking his pipe.

Otherwise there's nothing wrong with using the present and the present continuous in the same sentence, as two separate actions:

While he watches TV, she is washing her hair.

  • Thanks for answering! Does that mean I could say something like ' I want to watch you getting your hair cut' and if the verb is a noun as well it would be wrong? If the gerund is also a verb, why couldn't I use it then?
    – Chris
    Jan 4, 2017 at 6:54
  • Yes, the sentence is fine but again "you getting your hair cut" is a gerund phrase that acts as a noun, "I want to watch television", "I want to watch the baby", "I want to watch the President giving a speech", etc.
    – Andrew
    Jan 4, 2017 at 14:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .