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Aa far as I know it's ungrammatical to use the verb form "seeing" when perception is involved, like so:

I'm seeing a plane in the sky!

However, I've noticed that it's still used in certain instances. For example:

I think that explains why recently I've been seeing a chicken in our yard.

Seeing the mistake, she corrected it immediately.

Under what circumstances it is grammatical or acceptable to use "seeing"?

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    As far as I know it's ungrammatical to use the verb form "seeing" when perception is involved - do you mean specifically the gerund seeing, or any use of to see? Either way, it sounds wrong to this US English speaker: we use "seeing" to mean "perceiving" all the time. – stangdon May 1 '17 at 18:36
  • @stangdon I mean the word "see" in all of its usages. – Oscar May 1 '17 at 18:42
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    learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/quick-grammar/stative-verbs. As this link says, "seeing" isn't usually used in its continuous form... but there are definitely circumstances where it can be used. Note that in the UK, if you use seeing about a person, it usually means that you are dating them\ – JavaLatte May 1 '17 at 18:49
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    It would definitely not be idiomatic to say "I'm seeing a plane in the sky", unless one were doing it for the purposes of emphasis. One would normally say "I can see a plane in the sky". If you saw a flying saucer you might say to the emergency services, on the phone, "I tell you, I am seeing a UFO as I speak". If someone was having regular hallucinations, their spouse might say "He is seeing little green men". The unusual syntax conveys to the listener that there is something odd going on. Generally "seeing" is governed by similar rules to any other present participle, I would have thought. – WS2 May 1 '17 at 21:13
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We use the word "seeing" when it's a gerund or verbal noun:

Seeing the mistake, she corrected it immediately.
I remember seeing her.
Fancy seeing you here.
Seeing is believing.

when you see something happening over and over:

I think that explains why recently I've been seeing a chicken in our yard.
I've been seeing things that aren't there.

or when it means something other than perceiving, like meeting or dating:

Are you seeing someone?
Jim started seeing Kate last month.
I'm seeing the same therapist for many months now.

But if you use it with the meaning of perceiving with your eyes and use it in the continuous tenses, it's usually considered wrong:

I'm seeing a plane in the sky!

Instead we use:

I see a plane in the sky.
or
I can see a plane in the sky.

There's one exception I can think of. If we modify my sixth example sentence, we get:

I'm seeing things that aren't there.

But even in this case one could argue that using present simple would be better.

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  • you completely nailed it! – Oscar May 1 '17 at 22:35
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    I nearly agree. But " if you use it with the meaning of perceiving with your eyes and use it in the continuous tenses", it is not "certainly wrong". It is unusual, and used only in special circumstances, where the speaker is drawing attention to the current, continuing, activity. For example, if you are watching somebody do a series of actions, and giving a commentary, you might well say "I'm seeing him open the door. Now I'm seeing him go down the stairs" and so on. – Colin Fine May 1 '17 at 23:10
  • @ColinFine "see" is a stative verb, we normally don't use those in the continuous form. But you're right that some could do that. I modified my "certainly wrong" to "usually considered wrong". – Korvin May 2 '17 at 5:34
  • I still don't accept that, @Korvin. It is only used in special circumstances, but there is nothing "wrong" about it. – Colin Fine May 2 '17 at 18:25
  • Hi @Korvin, your answer does help me, thank you. And I also have another question. Is it right to say 'I keep seeing the thing' when I want to say "I can always see the thing'? – Bruce May 16 '19 at 1:30

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